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Pppiper 01-09-2020 11:16 AM

I LOVE my bagpipes
So there's been lots of activity on the "I hate my bagpipes" thread (here).. so it's gotten me to think, I'd love to hear about the other side of the coin.

So this isn't meant to be tongue-in-cheek or anything in regard to the other thread, I'm just thinking that we've been hearing a lot about how things may not have panned out for various folks with certain sets they struggled with.

So I'd now like to hear some stories and experience from folks who LOVE their bagpipes. Specifically:
  • What are they, and what's your setup?
  • WHY do you love them? If you don't love all aspects of it, then what about your set makes you happy?
  • How did you get to this point with your set? Did you try/own other sets, or did you hear other sets which steered you in the right direction?
  • What about your set up? Did it take you a long time to get things dialed in juuuuust right?

So yeah, I'd love to hear some success stories.

Personally, I'm in a good spot. I'm getting to the point where I love my pipes' sound just about all the time. Of course, a big part of it is my own improvements with tone/control/tuning, and myriad of other factors. But I've also had my hands one several sets recently, and whenever I got back to playing MY set, it just felt/sounded like a breath of fresh air.

I'll elaborate in another post, I'm trying to get better at being more concise per post (we'll see how that goes).

Cheers & Chunes,

piperswan 01-09-2020 03:26 PM

Re: I LOVE my bagpipes
Drones: Wallace Classic 5 Dot Knot
Drone Reeds: MG Cane
Bag: Ross Goat extended small
Chanter: McCallum McC2 ABW
Chanter Reed: MacPhee
Note* I use no moisture control system and no pressure regulators. I do take my drone reeds out after each play and store them with an 84% humidity regulating packet.

This is my second set of 3 sets I have owned. I first had D. Booth and then bought these Wallace because I loved how they looked. Truth is I didn't know any difference when it came to sound, my perception of tone and sound was at a lower level than it is now, however now knowing more, I am pleased with the sound I get. The tone has developed by trying out different reeds, bags, gear, and an increase in my playing ability.

My 3rd set was some McCallum AB2D pipes, I didn't play them long enough to have a valued opinion, they seemed just fine, but I bought them way cheap and flipped them to make some cash. So I guess I didn't like them enough to switch from my Wallace, but they don't look as good either, and as we know.....Looks Matter!

as for my setup to the sound that i'm really pleased with (current sound) it has taken me a few years to try out different gear combinations and develop a better understanding of tone.

McCracken140 01-09-2020 04:07 PM

Re: I LOVE my bagpipes
Piperswan, that seems like a good idea RE the cane reeds in a moisture controlled container. How much “Plug and play” factor does that give you, compared to synthetics etc?

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

EquusRacer 01-09-2020 05:38 PM

Re: I LOVE my bagpipes
1984 George Kilgour Silver and Ivory
Gannaway Bag
McCallum Mk2 Band Chanter
Colin Kyo ABW Chanter
Balance Tone Drone Reeds (will be changing out to Kinnaird Edge, however)

Love: Robust profile; Robertson style; Steady tone; Bold, Robertson-like sound.

Regrets: Ivory. I could change out, but is gorgeous; just will no longer take pipes out of the country (even though ivory used was pre-CITES).

OHCalman 01-09-2020 06:50 PM

Re: I LOVE my bagpipes
Dunbar Breadalbane Reproduction
Kinnaird Evolution Bass
Ezeedrone Tenors
Begg Sheepskin bag
McCallum MC2 Blackwood Chanter with Shepherd reed
No moisture control system, and using unwaxed natural hemp on all joints.

Very happy with this setup. Have had numerous good reviews on the drone sound, they’re dead easy to tune, and the hard moulded reed in the MC2 chanter sounds fantastic.
I used to play a set I absolutely hated - had to have the tuning chambers reamed out multiple times over a couple of years and I ended up ditching them. No regrets there!
Only regret with the current pipes is not getting them engraved!

Patrick McLaurin 01-09-2020 07:35 PM

Re: I LOVE my bagpipes
I have a whole blog dedicated to this very thing linked in my sig.

But I’ll tell you the story of my favorite set.

Someone posted about which pipes to buy on this very forum and I suggested they look at a few North American makers, most of which I had never tried. One of those little known makers reached out to me to thank me and sent me a chanter to try and buy if I liked it. I’ve been playing Colin Kyo chanters ever since.

I used to drool over the craftsmanship and elegance of Tim Gellaitry pipes (and I still do). I used to stare down a button mounted set on toneczar and wish grad students got paid a little bit more. Fast forward a few years and a used set came up for sale on the forum and I begged my better half and that was my 2nd favorite “yes” she’s given me.

When I got them I was a little disappointed tonally. They had Ezee in them which didn’t really suit me. I recall playing Crozier cane tenors for a while, they were real smooth; don’t remember the bass. This was back before I had a big reed collection. Anyways, the day I put Kinnairds in them I knew I was set. The tenors finally got the presence I wanted and the bass was solid. A few years later I swapped an X-treme bass and it just got better. Nothing but compliments. Fully mounted in boxwood of which Murray made me a Colin Kyo chanter with boxwood sole and bell to go with it. Every time I play it I can’t rationalize why I don’t play all day everyday.

Mac an t-Sealgair 01-10-2020 04:42 AM

Re: I LOVE my bagpipes

Originally Posted by EquusRacer (Post 1342403)
1984 George Kilgour Silver and Ivory
Gannaway Bag
McCallum Mk2 Band Chanter
Colin Kyo ABW Chanter
Balance Tone Drone Reeds (will be changing out to Kinnaird Edge, however)

Love: Robust profile; Robertson style; Steady tone; Bold, Robertson-like sound.

Regrets: Ivory. I could change out, but is gorgeous; just will no longer take pipes out of the country (even though ivory used was pre-CITES).

Don't change the ivory! I bet it is amazing, there is nothing like it. Ivory has become a tad toxic PC terms in recent times, but remembering how it came to be on your pipes I think it would be a travesty if all that was to be in vain should you change it out for something else.

Mac an t-Sealgair 01-10-2020 05:14 AM

Re: I LOVE my bagpipes
Well, I LOVE my bagpipes! :grin:

Drones: David Naill DN5 (victorian scroll engraving & cocobolo projecting mounts)
Drone Reeds: Xtreme
Chanter: Ancient Shepherd Mk3
Chanter Reed: Shepherd Moulded
Bag: WMC Bannatyne with trap-dri and bottle.

For 29 years I played the only set of bagpipes I had ever owned. I knew no different. To begin with I hated them, but I grew to love them as I got better as a piper. And although they were neither fancy of tonally special, I could make them sound half decent. And they were MINE.

My friend had a set of David Naill bagpipes and I just adored them every time I heard and saw them. Something about them, beautiful tenors. So after 2 years almost, of drooling over them on the internet I took the plunge.
All I can say is they are a dream to play, easily tuned and once in tune after a warm up will remain so for a considerable time. To me they look amazing, and I never tire of picking them up or opening the pipe box.

Experimented with the drone reeds I had (Selbie / Ezee / Xtreme), recording them to see if what I was experiencing while playing was translating.
Selbies, absolutely ringing tenors, but too strident with too much bite for me.
Ezees, I found the tenors bold and smooth, very refined. But a lacklustre bass left me wanting. They had the most surprising harmonics when I listened back to them though.
Experimenting with the Xtreme bass, I thought I had found 'the one'. The new design David Naill bass top and that reed really brought a more overall sound, complimenting the bold tenors. But the character of the Ezees and the Xtreme together didn't float me, like they were going against each others grain.
So after some advice on here as to how to get the Xtreme tenors going (Blu-tak to get the reed pitch up) I went all in Xtreme. I like it. The tenors whilst not maybe the best or most harmonic on their own (too my ear), blend very well with the bass. A complete sound of complimenting texture. But the bass is what led me to them. Fantastic.

Shepherd chanters, I've never played anything else. And I've never felt the need.

The only thing that would complete my set-up is a sheepskin bag. But due to a rotational job that takes me away from home for up to a month at a time, it's just not practical. So have settled with the maintenance free hybrid. But how I miss a sheepskin bag. Cane reeds not so much :grin:

Pppiper 01-10-2020 09:17 AM

Re: I LOVE my bagpipes
I'm glad folks are jumping onboard with this. I really enjoy hearing where things went "right." We're all trying to get better, so in a way, what could be better than hearing and learning from others' successes?

Ok, here's mine, which I love:

Drones: Henderson, Cocuswood (mostly), c. 1915
Drone Reeds: Henderson Harmonic Bass, carbon fiber tongue. Old Rocket tenors, glass tongues
*Chanter: Gandy model McCallum Blackwood
*Chanter Reed: G1 platinum ... heavily shaved down to my strength, looks moulded now
*Bag: Begg standard size sheepskin, with tube trap

* = At the present time, subject to change


The Hendersons are effectively my 4th set. I've got some others used for other things, and I recently sent one on them off to a new learner. "Fly away little bird ... "

About 3-4 years ago now, I finally decided to think about competing for a bit, and I felt ill-equipped with what I had (for a load of reasons, trying to keep my tangential details to a minimum).

Around November 2016, a friend was selling what he'd described as a 1940s set of Hendersons. He gave me a good deal, so I jumped at it. After a load of work and refurbishment with Ringo Bowen and Rick Pettigrew, it turns out they were WW1-era cocuswood Hendersons.

Spent all of 2017 experimenting with all sorts of combinations of stuff. Bags, reeds, chanters. Eventually I settled on the Gandy McCallum solo blackwood. Works well for my hands, though I may still seek others. We'll see.

Finally started competing in 2018 once the EUSPBA approved my starting out in Grade 3.

Comments on the pipes and tone were usually good, but inconsistent. At the end of 2018, one judge took me aside saying "the sound isn't bad, but it's more of a band sound. For solos, you're going to want to find a sound that's more 'refined.' The pipes are fine, keep messing with more reed types, and you'll get there." That was really helpful.

I was moved up to Grade 2 for 2019. In January that year, a rather determined workshop runner shoved a full set of Henderson Harmonic Deluxe reeds in my pipes, and also twisted my arm enough in getting me to try a sheepskin (he had a used one that he let me grab off him for cheap).

I liked the combo until one of my early competitions in April. I was given way more time to warm up for my piobaireachd than I'd expected. The result was that I found those Henderson (tenors at least) reeds would become unstable if I played for too long. Too bad this had to occur in the Crunluath variations of my performance, I'll never forget it. Pretty sure it was moisture collecting that did it. And lets face it, there's going to be moisture with the sheepskin setup.

I threw in a set of old Rocket tenors in a pinch, as the very next competition was only a week away. The Rockets seemed to work well at that day, so I left them alone.

Over summer and fall of 2019, things have really seemed to "click." Comments in 2018 were good on the sound/tone, but nothing compared to 2019. In time, it became clear to me that stumbling into the Rocket tenors and Henderson Deluxe bass with these pipes was something like an accidental cocktail that actually tastes pretty darned good.

And I dunno what it is really, but something has changed with me. As much as I'd always considered myself to be a good tuner and steady blower, all of a sudden, I'm tuning quicker and playing steadier than ever before. Even working on new tunes where I'm reading off of sheet music, I listen back to recordings and I'm shocked with how little I'm cringing at the sound. It's weird.

I think having found a really good reed combo for my pipes has likely contributed to my hearing things differently. I can definitely say that my bass has become much easier to tune. I could "tune it" before, but I could never quite make up my mind as to whether it was "just right" or not. Or maybe it's just that I'm getting better? Or both? (((shrug)))

Good timing for that I suppose—I've been upgraded to Grade 1 piobaireachd for 2020. My instructor suggested that I ask—frankly rather astounded that they "went for it." Honored as I feel though, there's lots and lots of work to be done, especially if I want to think about getting moved up in light music. I'm daunted, but excited.

For the foreseeable future, the current setup is here to stay. I may think about a synthetic bag again at some point, we'll see. The sheep bag will only last for so long. And I'm not 100% with chanter choice, but I'm not in the mood to keep buying all kinds of whatever-the-hell.

In any case, I LOVE these pipes. I wish I could always/only play these, but I'm not subjecting these old babies to harsh climates, harsher pub crowds, or my foolish stage antics.

Cheers & chunes all,

Pppiper 01-10-2020 09:28 AM

Re: I LOVE my bagpipes

Originally Posted by Patrick McLaurin (Post 1342406)
I have a whole blog dedicated to this very thing linked in my sig.

It's a damn-fine blog sir. The research you've put in is a tremendous service, and it was really helpful to me as I was stumbling along into finding the sound I'm currently enjoying.


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