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PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2002 2:58 am 
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Joined: Wed Jun 27, 2001 6:00 pm
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Location: Germany
No doubt about it, the pipes are probably the most miraculous instrument on earth. Nevertheless, even in the context of Irish Trad music, in my opinion there are certain areas where they get on slippery ground:

1) Really fast playing. We all agree, that it takes a real master to do this. Nevertheless all beginners or less advanced players(me included) play way too fast in fear of running out of strength & air. I think most pipers, even capable ones, lose their phrasing when speeding away.

2) Miking. Fooling around with some recording equipment I found that the pipes unfold their beauty at best, when blending with the resonance of the room they are played in. Close miking (as necessary on stage) filters out the low frequencies and the resonances and makes the pipes sound hollow and nasal.

3)Ensemble playing. This is partially a result from 1) and 2). I heard the group Na Dorsa the other day and thougt "Well the piper's a good fellow, but when pipes, fiddle, flute and accordion play unison or throw tunes at each other, the pipes just don't get off the ground."

To conclude, I think the pipes work best when played solo or when they are focal point of the arrangements (as with Planxty). Well... don't know what the point of this post really is. Maybe you guys can give me a hint how to avoid the pitfalls which lurk in all these areas (so I can tell the fiddle & flute players in my band to shut up, hehe)...

Christian


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2002 6:57 am 
While I agree with your conclusion that the pipes are best off on their own, I don't completely agree with some of the points you make to get there, pipes will as fast or slow as any other instrument, if you run out of air or strength either your bagcontrol is failing or you need to get your reed set up re-organised.
I have no problem playing with other musicians, fiddles go well with the pipes and I have a very nice duet with a concertinaplayer going. In general though I think any combination over three instruments will make you loose out so I don't care for taking the pipes into big sessions.
Problems with fixed pitch instruments may be caused by the differences in tuning between the chanter and, say fretted instruments or the accordeon which are tuned in equal temperament. Ah ell, I can live without them:-)


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2002 7:29 am 
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Peter,
don't get me wrong: my bag and my reeds are working quite well. After 6 years of learning (sadly, most of the time on my own, apart from workshops once or twice a year), of course I still have a long way to go. But I don't refer to my own playing here. I do not doubt you can play fast tunes well. What I wanted to say is, that, compared to a fiddle or a well-played accordion, the pipes lack the ability to get into a relaxed "groove" in an uptempo-tune. The same tune, played at the same tempo by those instruments will always have the pipes appear "faster" and sometimes even hectical. I believe this is due to the act of cutting a continuous sound into a melody on the pipes, in contrary to the additive tone-shaping of all other melody instruments. This makes phrasing and expressiveness on the pipes much more difficult.

Christian


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2002 8:03 am 
I knew what you meant but don't agree with you, the pipes can do anything as well as other instruments. I don't play very fast by the way, nor do I have the inclination to do so. About bag and reeds, you started about lack of strength and air and I think they shouldn't be an issue, some pipemakers do insist on making their reeds much harder than necessary.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2002 1:50 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jan 06, 2002 6:00 pm
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Location: Markham, Ont. Canada
I just watched somebody play the pipes for me this afternoon - I'm a complete newcomer to uilleann pipes but I have a very sophisticated ear - and the expression and manipulation of the pipes was absolutely spectacular. If anything, they are more expressive and controllable than many other instruments. Amazing stuff!

The hectic nature, In my opinion, is characteristic of the music itself - not the instrument. Granted, the pipes can have a more abrupt sound, but in the hands of an experience player even the attack can be reasoned with.

Some pieces have the right to be played quicker, some slower. Keep your beat proper and playing with others should be a faite accompli.

There is much "colouring" of the notes and personalization of the actual melodies. Adding pops and rolls whenever you think is appropriate, and sliding into notes - infinitely maleable.


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