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Beer Tent The general discussion forum, and the place to start a new "beer-tent-like" Piping Related discussion...

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Old 11-13-2020, 01:35 PM   #1
MichaelR.S.
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Default Why is one PC supposedly better than another?

I'm curious why some say that a certain brand of Practice Center, made by a quality manufacturer, is better than others.

I understand that there might be reasons of quality back in the day when a lathe was operated by hand and the machinist had to be more of an artisan and said artisans would work for many years for one company producing over that time a known quality product.

But today and for some time now, most everybody pretty much uses CNC machines whether they are shaping African black wood or polypenco.

But let's make it even more simple and just stick to poly. Are the internal dimensions of a practice chanter that different from one company to the next so that such design affects the sound?
And if the "perfect" dimensions were already out there, wouldn't everybody already be using them on that rather simple tool that is the PC?

Which brings me back to the original question, why the supposed difference in PCs between a Dunbar vs. a Hardie vs. a Gibson vs. a McCullum and so on and so forth?
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Old 11-13-2020, 01:51 PM   #2
Pip01
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Default Re: Why is one PC supposedly better than another?





Hmm... I would suppose... that some think that
one... sounds better... than others... :)

This then being the specific case... of aural
"beauty"... residing in the ear of the beholder...
as with all else mortal... purely... sub-jective... :)





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Last edited by Pip01; 11-13-2020 at 01:54 PM.
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Old 11-13-2020, 02:19 PM   #3
el gaitero
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Default Re: Why is one PC supposedly better than another?

“ ...Which brings me back to the original question, why the supposed difference in PCs between a Dunbar vs. a Hardie vs. a Gibson vs. a McCullum and so on and so forth?..”

Zero to none imo and many / most other BDF’r’s. ...Granted a particular reed might give the user more joy than another.

Had you mentioned the proverbial ‘MIME’ practice chanter among the choices the huge majority here would agree there is indeed some noteworthy differences,....despite the choice of reeds.
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Old 11-13-2020, 02:51 PM   #4
johnsog
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Default Re: Why is one PC supposedly better than another?

After going through at least three different cheap wooden chanters ($25-$40 range), all of which sounds really crummy (poor intonation, notes not in tune with each other let alone anyone else in the room), I finally upgraded to a couple of poly chanters, each from a different maker. One is a Dunbar; I don't remember the maker of the other. Both sound infinitely better than the wooden ones and very different from each other. One has a quiet voice and was great for a brief practice in my office after lunch while the other is more out spoken, able to hold its own in group practice. I agree that, as long as one goes with a known maker, the only real difference is how it fits on individual's hands and how it sounds to them.
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Old 11-13-2020, 03:04 PM   #5
Kenton Adler
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Default Re: Why is one PC supposedly better than another?

Well, personal preference is one answer. Some things do sound different to different ears. That's why there are different brands. Another reason is fetish value. A particular brand may be the buzz right now, so everyone says it's better. Playability might also be a factor though. I have a number of practice chanters by different makers, and I prefer the way one plays over another because of hole spacing, or how the holes are drilled, and such. I prefer the sound of one in particular, and like the way it feels, so I tend to play that one at home when I'm working on stuff. I use a different one when I teach online, and yet another in my pipe case to take to band practice. All different brands, but they all work equally well, and sound good.
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Old 11-13-2020, 03:31 PM   #6
Pip01
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Default Re: Why is one PC supposedly better than another?





Ah... Kenton... and to All,

For those who remember... when practice
chanters... any pc... with those stamped-out-
by-the-scores... little vulcanite reeds... all
sounded... like a rather... un-happy... duck!!
(Straight from the U.K.? ... Didn't matter. :)

Since then... we are all quite fortunate... to
have increasingly... come to a time... when
our surrounding musicality... has been so
improved... with practice chanters... and
with all else... to which we put our hand. :)

No more... unhappy ducks... at the practice
table!! :)

Regards to All,

Pip01




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Old 11-13-2020, 04:56 PM   #7
super8mm
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Default Re: Why is one PC supposedly better than another?

A lot of it comes from personal preference. My BW looks nicer and the sound quality is a little bit better than my Poly one.

Another thing is the shape of the finger holes, my poly has holes that are counter sunk and my BW has holes finished with a Forstner bit which leaves a bit of a sharper square edge which makes it easier for me to feel the hole.

Something else is the poly has O rings and my BW is hemped and the finger hole on the poly is spread out more.
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Old 11-13-2020, 06:07 PM   #8
MichaelR.S.
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Default Re: Why is one PC supposedly better than another?

So, just sticking to the long polypencos and unless i'm missing something, it seems the several of a well-known, quality manufacturers of PCs all say that they are made with countersunk holes and finger spacing that is equivalent to a regular bagpipe chanter.

That being the case, is the bore on the lower half of a PC not a standard dimension?
Because my confusion comes from the fact that it seems that they are all making them the same way (quality pieces of poly milled on very precise CNN machines) with the same dimensions.

If that is so, and reed variables aside, why would one sound different or better than another from the way it was made?

And if it indeed has to do with some millimeter variable of finger spacing or bore diameter, you would think MacSmith would have long ago tweaked the way they made their PCs so they sounded as good as a MacJones
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Old 11-13-2020, 08:18 PM   #9
William McKenzie
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Default Re: Why is one PC supposedly better than another?

Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelR.S. View Post
So, just sticking to the long polypencos and unless i'm missing something, it seems the several of a well-known, quality manufacturers of PCs all say that they are made with countersunk holes and finger spacing that is equivalent to a regular bagpipe chanter.
Any of the PCs you mentioned previously will be great. However, there is enough difference between Highland chanter finger spacing for me to say that they they are not all the same. For example, I own an RG Hardie PC and its spacing is very close to RG Hardie's Peter Henderson chanter. It's equivalent to their own, but not to some other chanters. If you play your PC a lot and get used to a certain finger spread or visa-versa with a Highland chanter it can be hassle trying to adjust. I've been there.

The photo below may illustrate it better (these are all lined using a dowell across the D's).



You can see the difference in low A's for sure, but also in C and B. This can also be similar on the top hand. My Kyo is slightly more compact still than these.


Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelR.S. View Post
That being the case, is the bore on the lower half of a PC not a standard dimension?

Because my confusion comes from the fact that it seems that they are all making them the same way (quality pieces of poly milled on very precise CNN machines) with the same dimensions.

If that is so, and reed variables aside, why would one sound different or better than another from the way it was made?
They don't really sound that different to be honest. I've own each of the ones you've mentioned. These days there are so many quality options, most will be more than fine. PCs mostly just sound different from each other from the finger hole size and reed seat/throat. It's pretty minor. The reeds make a far bigger difference.

Truthfully I would not waste your money on a practice chanter. Purchase a smallpipes chanter and mouthpiece. These are nearly identical in size to a PC, they also have a straight bore, but are actually an instrument that you can play with others. They are not simply an ornamented tube with countersunk holes used for developing muscle memory.
A smallpipes chanter is is in tune to the Highland scale. Or to say it a different way, you can play it against a Braw or Peterson style tuner and it will be in tune the same as your Highland chanter. I have yet to hear, see, or analyze a practice chanter that is in tune and as I've said I have owned 4 different brands and tried 7 different makes of practice chanter reed now.

SP chanters are keyed such as A or Bb. I own a Gibson that is keyed to Bb and its spacing is near exact to my Shepherd Classic Highland chanter. A nice coincidence. I also have taped high G and D like a Highland chanter and it is bang on. I don't understand why we pipers fuss for hours over minutia on our pipes but then practice with a practice chanter that are not keyed. Sure, they play near Bb if you get a good full size PC and nice reed going, but it's not nearly the same thing as makers who produce smallpipes to specifications like they do with their Highland pipes.

The only downside to practicing with a smallpipes chanter that I have found is that it is more robust than a PC. This can be a bad thing or a good thing depending on your preference.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelR.S. View Post
And if it indeed has to do with some millimeter variable of finger spacing or bore diameter, you would think MacSmith would have long ago tweaked the way they made their PCs so they sounded as good as a MacJones
And there is my above point exactly. Practice chanters aren't really instruments and as such they are made to be durable, look okay, feel okay, and provide basic tones for learning or practicing. Makers don't really tweak them per se because there isn't much to be gained. Some do sound decent, but they can't compare to an actual instrument.
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Old 11-13-2020, 10:05 PM   #10
MichaelR.S.
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Default Re: Why is one PC supposedly better than another?

I thank you all for your thoughts and Insight. It's not a super big deal to me, but since this is the beer tent where we can come and shoot the sugar about this is that, this subject was something I was just curious about in passing.

I've had a Dunbar Millennium 2000 PC (now just called their long) for some time now and due to a perceived flaw (which quite frankly in all likelihood is operator error) Dunbar is sending me a new one on spec.
If the new one is noticeably better than the original, having been told there's no change in the manufacturing process, I simply send them the old one back. If it turns out it's the same and it's just me, well, I bought a PC that I really didn't need to buy.

But that's very fair. I think they have great customer service. But man, stuff coming from Canada is major delayed these days. They sent it out on Oct. 28th and U.S. customs released it to the US Postal Service on the 30th... then no movement or no report for 10 days as I guess it sat at the postal customs warehouse in Chicago.
Then on Nov. 10th it supposedly moved to another postal facility in Chicago and then on the 12th out from there. And so far that's the last I've heard of it. But I digress.

The whole experience got me thinking about PCs and looking around at the ones from the various manufacturers and their claims and people's recommendations and videos and so on and so forth and wondering how different could they really be coming from any given one of the known reputable makers versus another. So I asked the question.
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