View Full Version : Request advice in choosing SSP
08-28-2002, 07:07 AM
I'm yet another GHB player looking to come in from the cold, and I'm currently interested in purchasing a SSP set. However, I know little about the various pipe makers and their reputations, and would welcome advice.
I'm not a professional musician, but I'm serious enough that I do want a high-quality instrument. Of course, price and delivery time are factors, but sound quality, reliability, and durability are my main concerns.
I've scanned many posts here and infer that Hamish Moore, Ray Sloan, Ian Kinnear, Richard & Anita Evans, and some others have good reputations. I find, though, that I'm having trouble taking the next step in narrowing the field to one.
If anyone has any experience with pipes made by these makers (or others) -- I'm especially interested in Sloan and Evans, because there seem to be comparatively few posts re their pipes on this forum -- please post a reply or email me.
I'd also be very interested on information on Julian Goodacre's smallpipes, if anyone knows anything. My instincts tell me to go with cane reeds, but I'm willing to keep an open mind.
Finally, is there any significance other than appearance in a fully-mounted set vs. a plain set? Unless there's a reason not to, my inclination is to go with a less decked-out and less expensive instrument.
(In case it's relevant, I probably going to buy a three-drone set in A -- I gather that's a good choice for GHB players who want to play in ensembles now and then.)
Thanks for any help you can give, and best regards,
08-28-2002, 08:41 AM
The list of makers you have narrowed your search down are all very good, from what I have heard. Really what you are left with in your choice is sound, price, and waiting period.
Sound: Probably the most important thing to choose. Because we are looking at a list of reputable makers, intonation, steadiness and such should be equal in all of them. What you want to look for is the sound that is pleasing to you. Hamish Moore have a bright percussive sound where Ian Kinnear pipes have that haunting soft sound. Listen to some recordings of smallpipes, many times they'll list the makers. Ian Kinnear has sound samples on his site and Jim McGillivray has some samples of other makers on his site. It's just like looking at an electric guitar, Stratocasters sound different than Telecasters but it doesn't make one guitar better than the other. One can give you a better blues sound where the other a better twangy country/western sound. (I'm using the guitar analogy as an example and is by no means a buyers guide for guitars :) )
Price: From research I have done when buying my set of smallpipes, most of the makers pipes you've selected are much the same price. It's all about features at this point. Engraved silver doesn't make your pipes sound better, but sure does look better than the plain nickel.
Waiting period: This shouldn't be a factor, but who are we kidding :) . Hamish Moore is up to a year wait and Kinnear is 6 months. If time is not a factor and it takes over a year to get your dream set&#8230; by all means wait for them. If you like the sound of both of them equally, getting a set sooner may appeal to you. Of course, you can always look for retailers who have what you're looking for in stock or go the used route.
I am by no means an expert, it all comes down to what YOU think is best in the end. But I hope this helps to get you going in the right direction.
08-28-2002, 10:18 AM
Originally posted by Edward Bradshaw:
What you want to look for is the sound that is pleasing to you. Hamish Moore have a bright percussive sound where Ian Kinnear pipes have that haunting soft sound.Care must be taken in making broad comments like this. Several variables affect sound quality, and all of these variables must be taken into consideration to insure that one is not comparing apples to oranges.
1. The D and C sets are going to have, regardless of maker, a "brighter" sound than sets pitched in Bb or A. As you listen to sound samples, or pipes in person, check the pitch of the chanter.
2. Cane reeds will have a different sound than synthetic reeds. Several makers offer a choice,
so take care to find out what kind of reeds are
3. Like any other instrument, quality and nature of sound can vary greatly, even though the pipes are made by the same person. Each of the top makers would be the first to admit that development is an ongoing process, and the sound produced by a particular maker in 1992 may be quite different than the sound produced by the same maker in 2002.
4. Check to see what wood is being used. African blackwood and boxwood, for example, have very different properties resulting in vary different sound quality.
5. Check the actual drone configuration of the pipes being played. The use, or absence, of a baritone drone, for example, can alter dramatically the perceived sound quality.
I am personally familiar with SSP made by I. Kinnear, H. Moore, R. Sloan, M. Dow, and Heriot & Alan (Robbie Greensitt) and all have good qualities. My personal favorites are the pipes made by Hamish Moore and Robbie Greensitt.
08-28-2002, 12:38 PM
I agree with the "broad comments" warning - all pipes are different, it just depends on how they are set up - my set of A Ian Kinnear SSPs play quite a bit louder than a Hamish Moore set I once tried. Go figure (though I've heard some pretty loud Hamish sets, too.)
A good maker who I was sad to see stop making the simple sets is Michael Dow, of Maine. I would kill to own a set of his, after trying a couple. They have to be my favorite smallpipe ever, and they are just as beautiful as they sound. Unfortunately, he's now only making the most extravagant, $4,000 smallpipes very few of us broke pipers can afford. :wink: If you could, by some miracle, come across a set of his, I would snatch it up while you can. His standard set, which is (I believe) antler mounts and made out of American Honey Mesquite, would run you about $2,000-$2,200. WELL worth it, in my humble opinion - they are the most comfortable I have ever played. :lol:
(I <img border="0" alt="[love]" title="" src="graemlins/love.gif" /> my Kinnears..... really.)
08-28-2002, 12:45 PM
Originally posted by Matt Buckley:
Care must be taken in making broad comments like this. Several variables affect sound quality, and all of these variables must be taken into consideration to insure that one is not comparing apples to oranges.I was trying to keep my explanation simple but you are correct.
Going back to my guitar analogy, you can find a music store in just about every town, where you can go and play the instrument before you buy it. With bagpipes, we don't have that luxury.... some do, but most do not. I have heard it said many times, "try as many pipes as you can before you buy". I live in a major metropolitan area, and I have yet to run into any smallpipe players or find a retailer that sells them locally. I'm stuck with listening to sound samples and recordings to make my decision. When it comes to details, forget it... I've seen "smallpipes by Hamish Moore" on CD liner notes.... but never "smallpipes by Hamish Moore in blackwood with bass, tenor, and baritone drone fitted with cane chanter reed and EZ drone drone reeds with crossing noises added for artistic purposes" to be able to differentiate the difference in sound between setups.
Though sound will very from setup to setup, heck, even the same two pipe configurations from the same maker can sound different, they still will share a similar quality that is unique to each maker. Isn't this why people choose one maker over the other?
Going back to Matt's point, yes, different setups of the same makers pipes will sound different. Listen to as many as you can, even if it is on a CD. Ask the maker if they know what said performers setup is, that you may like. There will always be uncertainty about the sound when you are ordering a set of pipes you can't try out first, but perhaps it gives you a set of pipes whose sound is uniquely your own.