How to leard to blow the bag

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Glenarley
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Re: How to leard to blow the bag

Post by Glenarley »

Black Arts and Bags – The Gullibility of some GHB Pipers.

Sometimes it is just so hard to be moderate in the presents of the plain dumb, especially when the answers are in clear view to all but the willfully blind and deaf.

I have just had a client contact me to have a new GHB bag fitted to his stocks and this chap asked me if I could acquire a “goatskin bag” to replace the cowhide bag he was currently using. As you do, I asked him what was wrong with his cowhide bag to which he replied “nothing”. So, I asked him why change bag? He told me that “goatskin bags” produce a fuller, louder, richer, more robust sound and he wanted to have this “fuller, louder, richer, more robust” sound when he played.

I told him of the bag testing I had previously undertaken where over a couple of days, I fitted the same set of stocks, drones, chanter and reeds to several different bag types to see if a sound difference could be detected. The results showed that no tone, sound, or volume difference was detected either by the human ear or the software apart from the slight variations caused by the piper and temperature. The piper was once a grade 1 piper and is still pretty steady.

My client got onto his smart phone and showed me a link on one of the bagpipe forums as evidence to support his assertions on goatskin bags.
To quote: “The joy about the bag (goatskin) is the incredible drone sound: bigger, richer, more robust. Most of us in the band have goatskin bags, and it sounds as though we had added 3 or 4 pipers.”

My previous dumbest Black Arts claims were about the Stirling silver reed staples producing a purer sound and the dry climate chanters, I now have a new item to add to the list.

The bag does not produce sound, it is an air reservoir. The bag is jammed under the piper’s arm so there is little prospect of the bag material resonating sound through vibration, like putting your finger on a drum skin only instead of a finger, the whole arm. So how could a band sound increase as though it had an extra 3 or 4 pipers as is claimed? It can’t! If it did, every competition band in the world would be only using Goatskin bags.

The piper that makes the claim, I believe is away frolicking with the unicorns in an obscure corner of his mind, and while living with fantasies is an individual life choice, it is the negative impact such Black Arts fantasies have on the uninformed that is the real issue.

Keeping in mind, all the claims can actually be tested so the subjective fanciful views could actually be replaced with objective data. This would be the death null for the marketing and Black Arts proponents but it would save the genuine piper a lot of time, effort and money.

After viewing a couple of my videos and considering the physics, my client chose to keep his current hide bag. This makes me the biggest looser ($$$) from the process but I will live with it.

Cheers

-G
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pancelticpiper
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Re: How to leard to blow the bag

Post by pancelticpiper »

Glenarley wrote: Wed Nov 17, 2021 11:10 pm I fitted the same set of stocks, drones, chanter and reeds to several different bag types to see if a sound difference could be detected. The results showed that no tone, sound, or volume difference was detected either by the human ear or the software apart from the slight variations caused by the piper and temperature.
That's very cool that you took the trouble to do that.

Did you put the results up online? Recordings of each bag, that pipers the world over could listen to? It might help dispel the theory about bags impacting tone, which is fairly common among pipers.
Glenarley wrote: Wed Nov 17, 2021 11:10 pm The bag does not produce sound...
We all know that there are parts of instruments that don't produce sound, but do have an effect on the sound.

For example a guitar string stretched between two points produces sound, but when the string's vibrations are transmitted to the hollow wooden guitar body it creates a quite different sound. The guitar's body resonates though it's sitting on the leg of the player, with the player's arm resting on top.

Parts of an instrument which we wouldn't think are vibrating actually do, for example the little electronic tuners that clip onto the head of a guitar. It doesn't hear the strings, doesn't hear anything. It only picks up the vibrations of the head, from which it knows the exact pitches the guitar is playing.

I should do an experiment and clip one of these tuners onto the end of my bag while I'm playing the pipes, and see if it can read which notes the chanter is playing.

I will say that I was out piping at some event and a woman came up with her son. The mother asked me "Is it OK if my son puts his hand on your bagpipe while you're playing? He can feel the music."

So I struck up and played for a while with him having his palm and outstretched fingers across part of the bag. He indeed seemed to be able to perceive something, exactly what we can't know.
Richard Cook
c1980 Quinn uilleann pipes
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Mr.Gumby
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Re: How to leard to blow the bag

Post by Mr.Gumby »

I will say that I was out piping at some event and a woman came up with her son. The mother asked me "Is it OK if my son puts his hand on your bagpipe while you're playing? He can feel the music."
It is fairly well established the reed sends back a wave into the bag. Several Uilleann pipers, and some of the finest too, maintain they get a better tone off their chanters with the chanter tied into the bag, rather than having a narrow-ish tube feed the air. For some reason chanters made by Matt Kiernan send back a very strong wave into the bag, I have played several where you could feel a distinct vibration in the bag. What does this mean for the overall sound? I couldn't tell you but I wouldn't out of hand rule out the bag's size, shape, material, connections etc, having some sort of influence in the production of tone.
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Glenarley
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Re: How to leard to blow the bag

Post by Glenarley »

The Bag Sound Issues

With regards to the testing of different bags, as there was no clear or consistent difference with the different bag’s audio profiles, and I do have the files, to post them would not allow for an objective conclusion. I will leave it up to those that claim there is to produce any evidence. One of the over riding factors was that the sound from the drones would have made it all but impossible to hear any secondary sound from the actual bag.

One of the tests was done in the lab with an air pump attached to the blow pipe with a long silicone tube and the bag suspended from the base stock with a rubber bungie cord. The sound from the bag was recorded at various proximities and the data saved. Even the oscilloscope was unable to detect anything other than the sound from the drones.

Because the bag was being inflated with an air pump, we were able to set the reeds to a fairly high pressure and this kept the bag very firm. The vibration transponder could pick up vibrations on the bag surface but this did not allow us to detect sound as the drones were too loud and their sound could not be isolated from the bag. As soon as we clasped our hands around the bag, the vibration was irrelevant. It was like putting your hand on a tenor drum and hitting it, still made a sound but not a drum sound. Having the bag clasped under the arm when playing would have the same result.

We did this test to see if it was worth the cost and effort for the band to change from a Gortex lined hide bag to a sheepskin or goatskin bag, and if the difference was going to be worth the cost and effort. It was decided, based on the test results, the bag material was not a sound factor. The shape and size of the bag was therefore considered to be a more important factor as the more comfortable the bag, the easier it would be for the piper to control.

One surprising factor that came from a test I did with moisture control canister systems and the bag sound had some unexpected results.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRus00FaD2o

Using the air pump, it was found that when the drones phase locked with canister moisture control system tubes connected to the drone stocks, the sound measured at the drones was less and thinner than it was without the tubes connected. This sound difference was measure with both the software, Vocvista Video Pro and on the oscilloscope. What was also interesting about this testing was that the piper claimed there was a vibration detected on the ribs at the time the drones were phase locking without the tubes connected, that was not felt when the tubes were connected. I was not able to measure this vibration/pulse feeling but I can assert that because this was claimed to be the case with more than one piper, and they were blind tested, that is, they were not told if the tubes were on or not when they were tested, I believe this vibration/pulse feeling did exist.

The audio tech was able to confirm that the actual sound emitting from the drones at phase lock was more pronounced when the tubes were not connected. I was told this was a function of decibels but I cannot claim to fully understand the physics. It does however prove that the sound wave does travel out past the end of the stock, (end correction) inside the bag as without the tubes, clearly the sound wave pulses are able to increase the vibration through sympathetically joining, which was not possible when the vibrations were isolated from each other by the tubes.

This joining of vibrations is very destructive on twin engine boats and planes to the point where the engines are intentionally put out of phase with each other to avoid this attenuation of vibrations however, it would seem that if the piper is steady enough and can get the reeds to tune correctly, an increase in sound will be the result.

Uilleann pipe makers have two schools of thought with regards to hollowing out the drone stocks or not. After doing the testing of the GHB bag and drones I now believe, anecdotally, the increased sound some uilleann pipers claim is plausible, and because of the lower output volume of the uilleann pipes, quite possibly detectable with the naked human ear.

This now brings me to one of my pet hates. Many pipers claim that a particular make or model can produce a finer sound and while there may be some conditional merits to such claims, the piper still needs to have the skills to take advantage of a well-made instrument. A fine instrument will not make an average piper sound anything but average. I believe it degrades the skill of a great piper when the fine sound they produce is attributed to the instrument and not the piper’s skill.

I think that too many pipers are looking for a silver bullet through equipment options, (bag materials) and wasting a lot of money on something that will never produce anything but The Emperor’s New Clothes. My advice, spend the money on a good tutor and do the appropriate amount of wood shedding.

Cheers

-G
Glenarley
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Re: How to leard to blow the bag

Post by Glenarley »

Wet Blowing - A common Misconception used as an excuse for poor skills.

I have just had an interesting email from a piper in the USA who wants to challenge my views in my videos regarding “Wet Blowing” with the GHB. He/she has clearly spent a good while trolling through forum posts and product marketing blerp and has listed no fewer than 32 accomplished GHB pipers that conform to the wet blowing concept. While I do acknowledge the piping skills of the names on the long list, I cannot say is any of them have a clue about basic physics and physiology because their support of the wet blowing concept would suggest they do not.

When you expel the air from your lungs, (blow) the expelled air, if you are healthy and human, is saturated with moisture, it cannot absorb any more moisture and, on a meter, this will display as 100% RH. Because of the word Relative, we know this is relative to temperature and this can be seen in cold climates by the amount of visible water vapour in your expelled air. Dew point.
The human cannot blow any wetter than saturation so you cannot have a piper blowing wetter than another so the term “Wet Blower” is just another of those dumb things we say when we know not what is going on in reality.

A piper can have a saliva problem and this can result in the piper sending copious amount of spit down the blowpipe resulting in a wetter bag than other pipers but this is not “Wet Blowing”.
When I started out, we had a pipe major that would take note of the amount of spit in piper’s bags by looking at the wet pattern in the hide as we did not have zipper bags back then. If your bag had a larger wet pattern than what he saw as reasonable he worked on the piper’s equipment and technique.

He preferred all pipers to have their blowpipe in the middle of the mouth and he paid attention to how much blowpipe extended back past the teeth and the angle of the piper’s head relative to the horizon. If the blowpipe was not back in the moth far enough, the spit that accumulated behind the teeth was easily sent down the blowpipe and into the bag. He would lengthen the blowpipe so it was further back in the mouth and this help with the spit blown into the bag.

He also tried to have pipers lift their heads to at least horizontal as if the head was leaning forward, the spit would accumulate at the lowest point, the front of the mouth making it easier to blow the spit down the blowpipe. The last detail was the length of the blowpipe mouth extension to tailor the blowpipe length to ensure all his other criteria were achievable. As a last resort to those that had special issues, he would have them play with the blowpipe in the corner of their mouth as this would have the blowpipe further into the mouth and help avoid accumulated spit being sent down the blowpipe.

Technique and attention to detail was the real answer to too much moisture in the bag. If a good setup is complimented with sound technique, the wet blowing misconception will become a moot point.

Wet bags through condensation are a problem often encountered but it is nothing to do with wet blowing. When you breath onto a glass window you will see how your warm breath condensates on the glass and at varying degrees based on the temperature of the glass. In cold weather, your breath can turn into moisture droplets and run down the glass. No different in a GHB drone and chanter and if you are playing in very cold conditions, your warm breath going up the drones will condensate very quickly and the result is droplets of moisture running down the drones and getting into your drone reeds. This is not wet blowing; it is physics and no amount of black arts codswollop will prevent it. You just have to manage it as best you can on the day. Current synthetic drone reeds are far more tolerant to moisture droplets than traditional cane. To protect the bag from a buildup of spit, a simple spit tube attached to the blowpipe and inserted into the bag will aid in the collection of the spit so it can be poured out before is runs into the bag.

Another statement that tends to grind my gears is when GHB pipers complain to uilleann pipers about moisture issues and how lucky the uilleann pipers are that they don't have moisture issues. This is another one of those dumb misconceptions used by GHB pipers as an excuse for poor instrument setup and poor playing skills and a total lack of common physics knowledge.

The GHB piper is using mouth blown air and as it all comes from the human lung and is saturated, it is very consistent. After a few minutes of blowing this saturated air through cane reeds, they become normalised at the point when they will not take on any more moisture, around the 24% - 30% on average. This consistency of supplied moisture should give the GHB piper consistency.

The uilleann piper does not have the luxury of constant moisture content in the supply air and, has up to seven reeds being supplied with air at atmospheric conditions, humidity. As the humidity varies, so does the moisture content in the supply air and this can play merry hell on the seven reeds the uilleann piper is trying to control. Just think about it for a minute.

The idea of wet and dry blowing on the GHB is a poorly thought-out excuse for poor instrument setup and poor piping skills. I believe this misconception was also created as a marketing tool for those that create and supply moisture control systems. The concept flies in the face of physics and if those names on the list had the physics explained to them, would they still want to be on that list? I think not.

Cheers

-G
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pancelticpiper
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Re: How to leard to blow the bag

Post by pancelticpiper »

Glenarley wrote: Fri Nov 26, 2021 4:27 am We did this test to see if it was worth the cost and effort for the band to change from a Gortex lined hide bag to a sheepskin or goatskin bag, and if the difference was going to be worth the cost and effort.

...it was found that when the drones phase locked with canister moisture control system tubes connected to the drone stocks, the sound measured at the drones was less and thinner than it was without the tubes connected.
Our band went through a similar thing years ago. Except without the testing part!

The Pipe Major, an ex-FMM guy and a prominent reedmaker, would get enthusiastic about a new setup and we all had to do it.

He had us all get Ross Gore-Tex bags with the full Ross canister system, all those hoses and kitty litter, but he cut pieces of sea-sponge to shape which we all put in the chanter chamber. At contests when the humidity was decent we didn't do anything. At contests when the humidity was low he would tell us how much water to add to the piece of sea-sponge. In Las Vegas with sub-10% humidity we gave out sponges a good soaking. Thus we could maintain, more or less, a good moisture-level to our chanter reeds.

After a season of that he changed his mind entirely and had us go with Gannaway bags with no MCS.

We all felt that there was a noticeable increase in chanter volume when the hoses were discontinued. Probably the drones too, but in the circle what we noticed was the improvement in chanter tone.
Richard Cook
c1980 Quinn uilleann pipes
1945 Starck Highland pipes
Goldie Low D whistle
Glenarley
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Re: How to leard to blow the bag

Post by Glenarley »

He had us all get Ross Gore-Tex bags with the full Ross canister system, all those hoses and kitty litter, but he cut pieces of sea-sponge to shape which we all put in the chanter chamber. At contests when the humidity was decent we didn't do anything. At contests when the humidity was low he would tell us how much water to add to the piece of sea-sponge. In Las Vegas with sub-10% humidity we gave out sponges a good soaking. Thus we could maintain, more or less, a good moisture-level to our chanter reeds.
This has never made much sense to me as all aspects of this process are able to be measured to quite a small increment. I demonstrate in one of my videos that even with a MCS (clay and silica medium types), the air measured going into the bag from the lung is saturated (100% RH), after about 5-10 breaths, the air exiting from the drones is also measured as saturated (100% RH) even with a MCS fitted. The bagpipe is a positive pressure instrument that receives no air or influence from the atmosphere apart from temperature and altitude so, it is not possible for the external humidity to have an influence on the moisture content within a positively pressurised container (bag and reeds).
We all felt that there was a noticeable increase in chanter volume when the hoses were discontinued. Probably the drones too, but in the circle what we noticed was the improvement in chanter tone.
This statement I must support and it demonstrates that your PM was of an open mind and was clearly results driven. It is a pitty you did not measure the sound levels with each system so you had some objective numbers to reference but as we did, I can confirm what your ears picked up on. If your pipers are/were a bit steady, the drone difference would have been clearly audible based on all our data based results.
After a season of that he changed his mind entirely and had us go with Gannaway bags with no MCS.
I also find this comment to be a demonstration of the skill and open mindedness of your PM. During the testing we did, the Gannaway bag was by far and away the most preferred bag by the pipers that took part. We had all the bags covered so the pipers could not see the bag make/type so we concluded the results were objective. The bag types included 2 different sheepskin, 2 Lee hide bags, 2 Bannatyne bags (hide and Rip-Stop), 1 Ross hide bag and a Gannaway hide bag.

The Gannaway was preferred because of the shape (smaller directly under the stocks) and the feel (very soft and flexible making it easy to feel the amount of air at strike-in). The shape of the Willie McCallum was also liked but it was a lined bag and was seen as a bit too stiff. Of course, this is all subjective taste and preference but I thought I would mention it.

Interestingly enough, Don Gannaway (the original bag maker) is one of NZ’s premiere tutors still. The person that now owns and operates the Gannaway business was a top grade piper with more than 2 decades experience as the manager of a leather tannery and, his son that also works at the business is a current grade 1 NZ piper. Clearly with all this material knowledge and piping pedigree, it should come as no surprise they turn out an exceptional product as is evident from our blind testing.

Yes, I am an ex-pat Kiwi and Don is currently my son’s tutor but I do not have shares or kick-backs from Gannaway and I will stand by my blind testing results as they were the personal views of the different pipers. I also paid full retail for the Gannaway bag my son plays in his competition solo pipes.

Cheers

-G
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pancelticpiper
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Re: How to leard to blow the bag

Post by pancelticpiper »

Glenarley wrote: Sat Nov 27, 2021 6:33 pm During the testing we did, the Gannaway bag was by far and away the most preferred bag by the pipers that took part. We had all the bags covered so the pipers could not see the bag make/type so we concluded the results were objective. The bag types included 2 different sheepskin, 2 Lee hide bags, 2 Bannatyne bags (hide and Rip-Stop), 1 Ross hide bag and a Gannaway hide bag.

The Gannaway was preferred because of the shape (smaller directly under the stocks) and the feel (very soft and flexible making it easy to feel the amount of air at strike-in).
Agree 100%.

It's the most ergonomic bag. The bag shape, which seems unique, is perfectly fitted to the player and the playing position.

It's the most trouble-free bag. Even in our rather dry California weather I only need to season it around once every two years. I follow the directions to the letter: when the bag is showing slight air loss don't season it, just add a tiny bit of water. That keeps it air-tight for a year or so.

I do however love my sheepskin bag! I maintain two sets, one with a Begg sheepskin, one with a Gannaway. They're both excellent in every way, and I would have no complaints sticking only with one or the other. The PM of the band I currently play in requires sheepskin, but I have Gannaway on my solo set.
Richard Cook
c1980 Quinn uilleann pipes
1945 Starck Highland pipes
Goldie Low D whistle
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pancelticpiper
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Re: How to leard to blow the bag

Post by pancelticpiper »

Glenarley wrote: Sat Nov 27, 2021 6:33 pm I also find this comment to be a demonstration of the skill and open mindedness of your PM.
He does know how to play, a bit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppy7ITAS_fY&t=38s

(Dale, on bongos, is an excellent side drummer. He used to be our Lead Tip.)
Richard Cook
c1980 Quinn uilleann pipes
1945 Starck Highland pipes
Goldie Low D whistle
Glenarley
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Re: How to leard to blow the bag

Post by Glenarley »

Pancelticpiper is making real comments from a piper's perspective.

Ergonomics, maintenance, feel, these are the factors that are important. These are also the points that new and developing pipers need to know and have explained.

The marketing and Black Arts stuff needs to be identified for what it is. A money gathering process.

Your PM does blow a good pipe, must be good to have him around.

Cheers

-G
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