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 Post subject: Ebony Vs Blackwood
PostPosted: Tue Sep 07, 2004 5:11 pm 
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I'm going to order a basic set of Upipes however I'm trying to decide between Ebony or Blackwood. There is no difference in price.
Can anyone offer any advice as to which they think is better or which they prefer and why.
Thanks,
Teflon


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 07, 2004 6:56 pm 
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I had a practise set in blackwood that shrank and cracked terribly. If you are in a generally humid climate you should be okay (people in Ireland seem to like blackwood and don't report problems with it). I have had minimal shrinkage with ebony in a dry climate.

djm

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 Post subject: Ebony V Blackwood
PostPosted: Tue Sep 07, 2004 8:02 pm 
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Thanks Djm,
I'm in Sydney so we do have a relatively human climate so ebony might be the way to go.
What about tone? Volume etc. Is there much of a difference?


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 07, 2004 9:43 pm 
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None that I could discern had anything to do with the type of wood. That would be more to do with the design, the maker's intensions, and especially the reed. IMHO of course.

djm

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 08, 2004 1:47 am 
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Teflon,

I live in Brisbane and play a half set in Blackwood. Chanter was made here and drones were made in Ireland. Over the past decade they have displayed the barest amount, in fact probably no shrinkage or warpage at all. Brisbane goes from the the extremes of humidity in summer to very unhumid in winter.

I have taken them to Indonesia where the humidity is equal to if not slightly less than Brisbane and still mo troubles. So if you have doubts about Ebony, go for Blackwood.

I do find the tone changes slightly in the summer, but nothing major - and that's more to do with reeds rather than chanter design.

Of course, much also depends on how long the maker stored the wood during the boring and turning process to allow the timber to settle prior to finishing. Sets made in Australia or Florida or Southern California perhaps may be the way to go if you're unsure.

You can see my set at -


http://home.iprimus.com.au/ausdag

Cheers,

DavidG


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 08, 2004 2:19 am 
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Dude, man, it's all about the reed.

The wood itself, though it does have some effect on tonal character and perhaps a very small impact on volume really doesn't play into matters much in comparison to the reed itself.

Case in point: I play a boxwood set and the first reed I had on it was so loud, it caused local accordion players to shudder in fear. The one I've got now is much, much mellower sounding. Which is more to my liking anyway...blends in sessions very nicely.

As for wood, I think in your case either blackwood or ebony would be absolutely fine. I happened to be in both Brisbane and Sydney for a bit back in late April/early May...I'm sure other times of the year are not quite so kind, but it certainly seemed like perfect piping weather then...perfect weather in general, in fact.

Several makers seem to believe that ebony just has a certain je ne sais quois/nil fhios agam about it that you just don't get from blackwood. I've never heard a proper explanation as to why...Just go with what you like the best and try not to worry about it so much. Your pipes will eventually get f**ked up no matter what they made of or where they are...

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 08, 2004 2:50 pm 
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Hello teflon, Blackwood is for Highland pipes, ebony or Rosewood is for Uilleann Pipes, blackwood gives a more strident sound, infact I think Uilleann pipes made of blackwood sound shight, :really: don't like it at all, ebony and rosewood is much sweeter sounding, but highland pipes sound great made of blackwood, its a case of the right wood for the right job, the reed is more important in different climate's, as for the pipes them selfs all you can do is try and keep them in a case in a steady cool controlled temperature of around 17-22 Celsius, 8) etc. the coolist room or cupboard in your home, and no not the fridge freezer, :D go for Ebony my Friend, its the best, and all the best.

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 Post subject: Ebony V Blackwood
PostPosted: Wed Sep 08, 2004 4:18 pm 
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Thanks for the comments everyone. Its helpful to hear your opinions.

Teflon


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 08, 2004 11:43 pm 
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djm wrote:
I had a practise set in blackwood that shrank and cracked terribly. If you are in a generally humid climate you should be okay (people in Ireland seem to like blackwood and don't report problems with it). I have had minimal shrinkage with ebony in a dry climate.

djm
where was the set made?

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 09, 2004 1:33 am 
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Location: An fear mosánach seeketh and ye will find.
Ebony V Blackwood? or put another way Blackwood V Ebony? ye can talk forever.Some bizzare notions around.. :roll: I have heard both and both types are fine ,as for blackwood only being used for Heelans?? :-?
Its simply a matter of choice,that is aesthetic choice,as the tone will depend on the bore and the reed and the skill of whoever is responsible for making same...
So....Ebony or blackwood ,backwood or ebony.ebony or blackwood...decisiond decisions...Now then if the choice were Gold or Silver!!!!
Slan Go Foill
Uilliam


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 09, 2004 2:03 am 
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Uilliam wrote:
Ebony V Blackwood? or put another way Blackwood V Ebony? ye can talk forever.Some bizzare notions around.. :roll: I have heard both and both types are fine ,as for blackwood only being used for Heelans?? :-?


There's far too much similarity between the dialect pronunciation of Heelan and Uilleann for my liking, given that they were a product of Pastoral pipes as well.

Alan :wink:


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 09, 2004 5:25 am 
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Uilliam wrote:
...snip...the tone will depend on the bore and the reed and the skill of whoever is responsible for making same...
...snip


Not to mention thickness of the chanter wall. There's some awful tinny sounding chanters out there made of various types of wood. I once had a concert chanter made for me by a maker of very famous lineage from Ireland. I thought that since his decendant's pipes were well sought after that his would be good as well. It was ****. Poorly finished, file marks all up and down, chanter top poorly made and the tone was tinny as heck. When I couldn't get it to work to my satisfaction, I snapped it in half with my bare hands over my knee, and I'm a skinny bugger with not much muscle to my name. His prices were also cheaper than others, so as the saying goes - ya get what ya pay for :x .


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 09, 2004 5:27 am 
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Other contributors to this thread have pointed out that the reed has a great deal to do with the tone of a chanter, perhaps more than any other factor. Others yet have also very rightly pointed out that the bore, the tone holes and what is done with them by the maker (or anyone thereafter, for that matter) have a great deal to do with the tone of a chanter. Some, and not just in this thread, have gone so far as to say that the material of the chanter has very little to do with its tone, although there doesn't seem to be universal agreement on this last point.

What conditions would need to be met in order to make an objective comparison of the effect of materials on tone quality?

Has this ever been done and reported upon?


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 09, 2004 6:24 am 
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For this kind of investigation where you want to investigate tis very subtle differences between stimuli, it would be suitable to perform a listening test of the type A-B-X where the participants where to answere which af sound A and B is the same instrument as sound X. Of course one would get good results much easily if the only variability was the material of the chanter, but I think that as close to identical chanters except for the reed, both played with the same reed would make it. The chanters sohould be played by the same player as similar as possible while recorded. Then you only need about 25 persosns performing the test, to be able to come to a conclusion (with about 5% risk of making the wrong conclusion) if there is a difference, or not

best wishes, Anders, PhD-Student in Psychoacoustics

PS. I don't think one can find a difference


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 09, 2004 8:27 am 
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DMQuinn wrote:
Some, and not just in this thread, have gone so far as to say that the material of the chanter has very little to do with its tone, although there doesn't seem to be universal agreement on this last point.

What conditions would need to be met in order to make an objective comparison of the effect of materials on tone quality?

Has this ever been done and reported upon?


Something like this has been done for flutes. John Coltman, a physicist whose papers are archived at Stanford

http://ccrma.stanford.edu/marl/Coltman/

did some comparisons between a flute made of cherry wood and one made of concrete; listeners (including experienced flute players) could not hear a difference.

I'm agnostic on this subject myself; I suspect the material might make a difference, but mainly in terms of how smooth it can be finished in the bore. A hard wood like blackwood or ebony finishes more smoothly than boxwood, for example, and I suspect the ever-so-slightly more rough surface of boxwood might set up some turbulence that affects the tone. But I think it would be well-nigh impossible to test, given the challenge of trying to produce two perfectly identical instruments to test.

Coltman sent me the following transcript of a talk he gave in 1997. Sorry for the weird line breaks:

Wind Instrument Materials and Tone Quality

I want to discuss briefly a subject that illustrates well the opposing
beliefs of musicians and scientists. Most musicians, and most listeners,
believe without question that the material of which a wind instrument is
made has a profound effect on its tone quality. A flute made of silver is a
requirement for any serious flutist, one made of gold is considered to
enhance further the lush tones of the artist who can afford it. On the
other hand, the metal clarinet is despised and consigned to the junk heap, while plastic ones are considered fit only for the student who cannot afford one made from the wood of the scarce mpingo tree.

Scientists, on the other hand, have long been skeptical of this view.
Examination of the physics of the situation reveals no evidence that the
walls of the wind instrument partake of an appreciable vibration. Quite a
number of experiments attempting to elucidate the effects been conducted over many years. Almost all of these have shown the effects to be non-existent. Let me give you a demonstration.

[DEMO -- two flutes, cherry wood and concrete]

Let me quote now from a 1916 work by Victor Mahillon, describing an early experience:

“Who does not know the brilliant sound of the cavalry trumpet? It would seem that if this same brilliance were produced in the same instrument totally constructed of wood, the error would disappear forever. Nothing of the sort. Over the years we have had the occasion to make heard almost every day, before a considerable number of instrumentalists, a trumpet of acacia wood constructed by Charles Mahillon to demonstrate the absurdity of an idea of which he was one of the leading adversaries. This instrument, constructed with the exact proportions of the cavalry trumpet, gives exactly the same brilliance as its equal in brass, to the degree that it is impossible to distinguish one from the other. Is this believed? We have astounded almost everybody, but have convinced
nobody! ”

Why is it, that 100 years later, the scientists have still convinced
nobody? Let me give you some thoughts.

First, it is certainly true that materials affect greatly the sound of
those instruments in which they are part of the acoustic mechanism, chiefly the string instruments. It is easy to assume that this is a general property of wall materials.

Second, there is the common mistake of confusing a correlation with cause -and - effect. I do not claim that a wooden flute sounds like a silver flute. This would be true only if the important acoustic dimensions, the smoothness of the interior surface, and the impermeability of the walls were identical. This is very difficult to achieve when the mechanical properties are so different. Naïve listeners often remark on the distinctive tone color of the baroque flute, and usually attribute it to the fact that it is made of wood.

If these were the only factors at work, it might not be difficult to get
general acceptance of the idea. But there is a third influence coming into
play -- the powerful psychological effect of association. Note that the
preferred materials are often expensive or rare ones, and have qualities of visual or tactual beauty that are in themselves appealing. My concrete flute is not likely to have a large market, whatever its tonal qualities might be.

We often prize things for their association, rather that for their intrinsic merit. Unknowingly, forged copies or imitations of Rembrandt
paintings have drawn appreciative critical comment - it is evident their
intrinsic merit is comparable, perhaps even superior, but once the forgery is discovered, their market value drops to an insignificant fraction of that of the real thing.

There is also the association with surrounding circumstances. A meal served on fine china, with silver place-settings, snowy table cloths, and floral centerpieces may be in fact be no more palatable or nourishing than one dished out with a thud on an aluminum plate in an Army mess – but somehow it really doesn’t taste the same!

Finally, there are the practical and traditional aspects of manufacture.
Student flutes are made of brass or nickel alloys because that is less
expensive. They are also mass-produced, with attendant lowering of quality.

A professional flute is carefully hand-crafted with attention to precision
fit and leak-free padding. Naturally, silver is selected as a base for such
work not only because it is easily worked by hand, but because it is
accepted as the standard for professional instruments. A fine wine is to be had only in bottles with corks - screw tops are instantly associated with cheap table wines, even though it could be argued that a screw top makes an inherently better seal.

While as a scientist, I am annoyed that few people believe me when I tell
them the tone quality of a wind instrument is not due to the material of
which it is made, I have come to realize that there is little harm done by
allowing the musicians to persist in their illusion. It was said of Dr.
Dayton C. Miller, one of the few scientists who was convinced of the
relationship, that when he played on his silver flute he was a fine flutist,
when he played on his gold flute, he was in inspired flutist. Perhaps it is
best that way.



John W. Coltman October, 1997


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