Thread: Bb: a review
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Old 06-28-2011, 04:45 PM   #9
William McKenzie
Holy smoking keyboard!
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 1,046
Default Re: Bb: a review

I first learned about lower pitch from listening to The Last of The Mohicans performed by The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. Their sound resonated with me and I searched through our BDF and through Google until I found out they were using Shepherd Orchestral chanters to record their latest albums with. They choose to pipe at a lower pitch because they play with other instruments on their albums as well as the military bands during regular duty. Although I purchased a Shepherd Orchestral chanter to try and capture that sound, it's not the first chanter I'm going to review. But it did get me on a path to discovering 466 gems from other makers and I'll certainly review it soon.

First up is The Gael. This chanter is produced by Roddy MacLellan and was engineered by Jim McGillivray, it is designed to pitch around 470Hz with good projection for bands. You can read more about these here on Jim's site. I ordered mine directly with my new set of pipes from from Roddy in place of his stock chanter. I haven't seen them for sale on Roddy's site or anywhere else except for directly from McGillivray Piping.

I found this chanter felt good in the hands, had a thick neck which I enjoy, and took a variety of reeds. Being that it was designed for band use it also has great projection with nice, beveled holes. I also thought it looked really good with that rounded base and easy to grab upper bulb. Below is a comparison shot next to a McC².

You can see that for the most part the spacing and hole size is very comparable, especially in the top hand. The McC² has larger holes on B, low A and larger low G tone holes. The Gael's low A is slightly further down the chanter, but this is common among all lower pitched chanters I've found.

So this all seems great, why didn't I stop at this chanter and call it a day? Well, because of a couple of things. For one, it's only made in polypenco. I'm sure it wouldn't be hard at all to ask Roddy to turn one down in Cocobolo or ABW, but I wouldn't want to make that request unless I was absolutely sure it was what I wanted. And I wasn't sure... it was simply too close to what I already had in the McC². Although the Gael reeds up somewhat easily, it doesn't pitch down with the same amount of effort. I wanted bang on 470Hz, and the best I was ever able to do was 473Hz, or 3Hz difference from my McC² with a Shepherd or Troy reed. On many reeds it was more like 475-478Hz, which defeated my purpose. To be fair though, this chanter is designed to lower the pitch of bands, so 473Hz would be stellar compared to 483Hz. I ended up sending this back to Roddy and requesting a B466 chanter in it's place.

So how does The Gael sound? Well, I didn't get a chance to record myself so I've asked permission from Patrick to use a recording he made of himself playing The Gael a while back. I think it sounds pretty terrific actually, and you can really hear how it lands right in the middle of the 466-476Hz range. I'd love to hear some upper grade bands get going with a bunch of these.

My verdict: A well designed chanter. I really wanted this to be the one for me but it just isn't. It's got a lot going for it and I think it sounds smooth and not thin or tinny, but when you're getting too close to the McC² in most respects then the choice becomes obvious.

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