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View Full Version : Pipe chanter vs. recorder fingering?


Andrew Lenz
01-04-2004, 10:47 PM
It's been pointed out to me that the fingering on a recorder is very similar (if not the same) as the fingering on a bagpipe chanter.

Is anyone aware of any connection between these two instruments back in the mists of time?

Thanks,
Andrew

Iain Sherwood
01-04-2004, 10:53 PM
not really; a recorder is partially open fingered, and it has two registers, similar to a tin whistle, to which it IS closely related.

Alasdair McAndrew
01-04-2004, 11:07 PM
The recorder uses lots of different cross fingerings to obtain a fully chromatic scale. And although its range is usually given as two octaves, there are virtuoso pieces (by Telemann for example) which require notes in the lower fifth of a third octave.

Also, the lowest note on a recorder (thumb and 7 fingers down) is generally c (descant, tenor), or f (sopranino, treble, bass). There used to be recorders for which the bottom note was g, but they are never played now.

There is a vague similarity with chanter and recorder fingering in that low notes in the lowest register generally mean more fingers down.

Having played recorder a lot as a child and young adult, I had to put all its fingerings out of my mind when learning the pipes. And now, on the rare occasions I play recorder, I have to change mental gears (and even then I still try to put birls in!)

cheers,
Alasdair

Randy J. Homer
01-04-2004, 11:39 PM
Yes! Both are correct. I have a full set of concert quality pearwood recorders and used to play frequently. I still get invited to sit in with a local orchestra from time to time when they need the unique sound. Chromatics are played sometimes with cross-fingerings, sometimes by covering half of a hole, sometimes you have your choice of either option. The bottom of their scale has every hole covered (as opposed to our "A" with the little finger up.) The chart below shows fingerings for the major scale across a simple range. The notes on top apply for the tenor and soprano (in C Major), the notes below apply for the bass, alto and sopranino (in F Major, the funny mark means Bflat). Unless you can transpose on the fly, you'll need to learn both sets of fingerings. The "X" is where a hole is covered, the "O" is open, and the "H" is where a hole is half-covered. The top row is the hole in the back for the thumb. Alasdair is right - keeping track of this while piping is a challenge!


C D E F G A B C D E F
F G A BČ C D E F G A BČ

X X X X X X X X O H H

X X X X X X X O O X X
X X X X X X O X X X X
X X X X X O O O O X X
X X X X O O O O O X X
X X X O O O O O O X O
X X O X O O O O O O O
X O O H O O O O O O O

Roger Huth
01-05-2004, 01:33 AM
I can always tell if a pupil also plays the recorder, as their top hand finger positions tend to give this away.
The index finger bends down from the top while the other two are straightish. The tip of the thumb seems to be used which I think causes this.
A difficult habit to try to break I've noticed.
'A pity they didn't learn the practice chanter first' is thought going through my mind when teaching.
I think the recorder is valuable for understanding more about music, as it is not restricted to one octave.
Cheers

Alasdair McAndrew
01-05-2004, 06:12 AM
Recorder technique requires playing with the tips of the fingers, rather than with the fingers flat. One of the reasons for this is to allow not only half-holing (as Randy has said), but slight alterations to the pitch of a note to obtain perfect intonation. Perfection of recorder technique - with perfect tuning - is extremely difficult. In spite of the millions of school kids who learn a few simple tunes, there are probably far less really top-class recorder players than there are pipers. (Then, there's less call for them.)

In my recorder playing days, better players than me used to comment on how flat my fingers were - so maybe I was slated to play the pipes from much earlier than I realised!

cheers,
Alasdair

OPD Piper
01-05-2004, 07:13 AM
I never got much past "Three Blind Mice" on the recorder, myself.

Unfortunately, the same goes for the PC.

minipiper
01-05-2004, 03:37 PM
"There used to be recorders for which the bottom note was g, but they are never played now."

Yes, they are, in d and g.
Recorder professionals I know have the following in a set;
garkleins in c and d
sopraninos in f and g
descants in c and d
trables in f and g
tenors in c and d
basses in f and g
great basses in c and d
contra basses in f and g.

they also use full sets of modern instruments with keys, Baroque, Rennaissance and Medieval instruments, which all have very different types of sounds. If you ever get the chance to hear the Loeki Stardust Recorder Quartet from Amsterdam, don't miss it. They are amazing. The effect of their playing is like a wonderful church organ, but much better. It will open your eyes to what amazing and versatile instruments, recorders can be.

I used to play, but gave up shortly after taking up the bagpipes. Unfortunately my teacher did not correct my hand position, saying I looked quite comfortable with the one I had. It has really messed up my progress and dexterity and has held me back, which was very frustrating as my fingers were getting quite quick on the recorder.

The holding postion is different. The notes are different. The fingerings are different. You can get louder and softer on a recorder, using a combination of breath and shading of the finger holes to keep the tuning. Also you can play in harmony and hum along with yourself while you play. This is probably possible on the pipes, but you probably would not hear yourself.

The quietness of the recorder is no problem with amplification, but as an outdoor instrument on its own, it is no good unless you are surrounded by hills of mountains which reflect the sound. Fantastic in Cathedrals.

However even though I'm still struggling away at Novice level with my pipes, there is nothing to beat the thrilling sound of the Great Highland Bagpipe, so I have not been tempted back to the recorder again.

eric s.
01-06-2004, 07:34 AM
Hello and thank you for the wonderful and detailed info concerning my daughter's recorder situation. Now I am a bit worried. I very much want her to learn the pipes. Her school music teacher assigns all students to learn recorder. Although I agree with the posted reply saying that learning recorder is a nice intro to music, I am worried that this could interfere with her learning the pipes. I know that I got my knuckles and fingers repositioned a few times with the comment that I must have played the fife (which I do) before taking to the pipes.
Any thoughts would be appreciated. Maybe I am making a mountain out of a molehill, but the pipes are really important to me and her learning them seems important to her.
-eric

Alasdair McAndrew
01-06-2004, 04:14 PM
I don't think there's any cause for alarm. As long as it's understood that the pipes and the recorder have completely different techniques, and really, experience on the recorder will not provide any help with learning the pipes. No matter the brilliance of one's recorder technique, the pipes will have to be started from the very beginning.

That being said, I think the recorder is an excellent instrument on which to start. It's very easy to play simple tunes - a child can learn to play a few tunes in an afternoon. This means it is a good introduction to music in general, and to music making in groups. And then of course, the sky's the limit, with an extraordinarily rich and varied repertoire, with a history stretching back a thousand years.

I would recommend though, if switching from recorder to pipes, not even to pick up a recorder until one's pipe technique is stable.

cheers,
Alasdair

Yuri
12-17-2005, 02:19 PM
This whole discussion assumes that bagpipes equal GHP. Well, they don't. There are a whole lot ( about 100) living traditions of bagpiping out there, from very vigorous and well-known, like the north Spanish types and Bulgarian to the nearly extinct like some tribal styles in Russia in the Ural mountains. They all have different techniques, sounds, etc etc . Some fingerings come amazingly close to the recorder one. There are some French types that are nearly identical (to the recorder), and there are some Spanish chanters playable the same way. It's not so much the limitations of the particular chanter type as the needs of the music played.You don't need the problems of cross-fingering when all the music you play is diatonic, fitting into 9 notes. It's all a matter of placing the fingerholes, and adjusting their size.

Trailing Drones
12-17-2005, 04:06 PM
Dear Eric S.,

Don't worry about your daughter learning the recorder and it's affect on the GHB. I learned soprano recorder as a child, clarinet in high school and college, after college I learned F recorder fingerings, then took up the bagpipes at 39. Therefor, I have many different fingering systems and techniques in my head, and have no trouble switching back and forth. As soon as I pick up any of my instruments, my brain automatically makes the adjustments for me.

Learning the recorder at an early age allowed my brain to make those all-important connections necessary for fingering dexterity. Although I started pipes late, I have an advantage over total beginners because of that early training. It's never a mistake to take up ANY musical instrument at an early age, and in my opinion will only enhance future experiences with other instruments.

Ron Abbott
12-17-2005, 09:42 PM
Originally posted by Roger Huth:
I can always tell if a pupil also plays the recorder, as their top hand finger positions tend to give this away.
The index finger bends down from the top while the other two are straightish. The tip of the thumb seems to be used which I think causes this.
A difficult habit to try to break I've noticed.
'A pity they didn't learn the practice chanter first' is thought going through my mind when teaching.
I think the recorder is valuable for understanding more about music, as it is not restricted to one octave.
Cheers Roger, my own experience is similar. The school my son goes to, teaches the recorder as part of the normal class curriculum.

I'm trying to teach my son the practice chanter. I say 'try', because I teach him one day and then he goes off to school the next morning with his recorder, only to come home in "recorder mode" with his fingers bent and wanting to use his finger tips.

At a school parents evening, a teacher mentioned to me that my son had told him he was learning the chanter. The teachers thought it was quaint, inferring that neither it nor the GHB, was a proper musical instrument. More a sort of uncivilised, native, noise maker.

If my wife hadn't been with me, I'd have told them quite bluntly where to stick their recorder, octaves and all !

I started off on the recorder myself and hated both it and the music teachers. It took my father months to get my fingers and blowing "corrected" !

By the way Roger, please pass regards to Di Reeves, I met her when she was out in HK recently.

Paul Gretton
12-18-2005, 09:09 AM
Originally posted by Andrew T. Lenz, Jr.:
[QB] It's been pointed out to me that the fingering on a recorder is very similar ]How many beers had your informant had?

Paul Gretton
12-18-2005, 09:10 AM
Originally posted by Andrew T. Lenz, Jr.:


Is anyone aware of any connection between these two instruments back in the mists of time?

They are both operated by blowing into them and opening/closing various combinations of holes. I guess that's a connection! ;-)

Andrew Lenz
12-18-2005, 10:53 AM
In case no one noticed, I originally asked this question almost two years ago . . . Addressing "eric s." probably won't do a lot of good as he hasn't posted since January 2004!

"Yuri" dug up an old one!

Andrew

vegasgeorge
12-18-2005, 06:57 PM
An old one, eh? I wondered how come so many replies got posted before I saw the thread. :D

I've been a recorder player since high school. I still have a complete consort of Yamaha's and an individual Moeck olive wood soprano which is the nicest soprano I've ever seen.

Yes, it is confusing to play both the recorder and the GHB. In fact, I don't try anymore. Since I've taken up the pipes again, I've set the recorders aside. There are simply too many similarities between the fingerings and the feel of the instruments. I suppose that if I had enough time to practice both equally, my poor brain could sort things out. But, I can't play the pipes for days, then pick up the recorder and expect to perform correctly on it, and visa versa.

CWRoberson
12-18-2005, 08:45 PM
I use a recorder to practice D-throws and such late a night. Why? Because the recorder can be played quietly. I use the same fingerings as on the chanter and I keep my fingers straight.

Also, the recorder can be a useful practice instrument when your cheeks give out. Thus, allowing you to continue fingering practice.

Yuri
12-19-2005, 12:30 AM
As a matter of fact, right now I am in the process of making a couple of practice chanters for a couple of people. To my complete astonishment I found out that they do NOT use the same fingering. They both played highland pipes since childhood, and yet neither uses the standard pattern. It surprised me as much as it would anyone in the piping fraternity. By the way, tey use different fingering from each other, too. Which made my job all the more tricky, as I had to retune some of the holes. And Yuri is my real name, no need for the ""-s.
On another note, in Eastern Europe, where I come from, pipers learn not on the practice chanter, which there doesn't exist(more is the pity), but on the equivalent of the pennywhistle, as most Eastern European pipes have six working fingerholes, and it's easy to get used to the thumb-hole instead of overblowing.( they usually DO have a 7th fingerhole, but just as usually it has a different function from the GHP's one.

pancelticpiper
12-29-2005, 07:45 AM
Yuri, what sort of Eastern European pipe were you discussing? I only have experience with the Bulgarian Gaida, which has the same number of holes and positions of fingers as the GHB (but the fingering is quite different). The top fingerhole on the Gaida is called the "mormorka" (fleahole)and it raises the pitch of most notes below it a semitone, making the gaidanitsa partly chromatic. The Gaida doesn't break the octave, but good gaidari can squeeze extra hard whilst playing the thumbnote and raise it up a semitone.

Yuri
12-29-2005, 10:58 PM
There is a group of very similar pipes centered on Hungary, including ones from Slovakia, Rumania, And Serbia/Croatia. They differ in small details, but all share the principal design of a double (sort of) chanter. It has 6 (sometimes 5) fingerholes and a thumbhole.(very rarely missing)on the left bore, and a single fingerhole for the right-hand little finger. The latter acts as a variable drone, the closed/open fingerhole producing tonic/dominant, just as in the French cabrette of Gascogne. The Eastern European pipes, however all do have a large drone as well.
With most of these pipes the 6 fingerholes produce nearly or exactly the same sequence as the local 6-hole pipes.And the pipers are nearly always whistlers, too; the two instruments share a lot of the repertoire.Some of these bagpipes have a similar feature to the Bulgarian pipes in that they have a "fleahole", it is the top index finger's hole, but unlike the Bulgarian ones, instead of lining the fingerhole with a quill leading into the thumbhole opposite, these ones have a thick ridge of wood left on the otherwise carved-away chanter, into which the fleahole is drilled.The pipes with fleahole are in minority, though, and a lot of players, even when owning a pipe with a fleahole, prefer to block it off.