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Old 09-05-2019, 10:40 PM   #1
thePhotopiper
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Default Why can some pipes play 2 octaves?

Hey folks.


Hope this is the correct place to ask. Recently I've taken up learning the Uilleann pipes after 12 years of playing GHBs. We all know that Scottish pipes can only play one octave, and the Uilleann pipes can play two full octaves. And some may even be away of the Donald Lindsay smallpipes that can play two (full?) octaves.


Well, recently someone asked me why the scottish pipes can't play two octaves like the uilleann pipes can... and I was unable to give an answer. It's honestly not something I've ever thought about until I picked up the uilleann pipes last month. So I'm wondering if anyone can explain to me, in reasonably simple terms, why some reeds/chanters can play multiple octaves, while others can only play one?

Last edited by thePhotopiper; 09-05-2019 at 10:43 PM.
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Old 09-06-2019, 06:49 AM   #2
Kevin
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Default Re: Why can some pipes play 2 octaves?

Interesting question. I am sure others can provide better answers than I can but it has to do with the stability of the fundamental oscillating wave in the chanter. On some pipes it isnt that stable and can be destabilized with a little overblowing or by opening a small hole near an anti-node point in the wave.

Once destabilised, you hear the next higher frequency in the overtone series. I think in theory all pipes should be able to do this but the GHB chanter in particular has a robust reed and a wide conical bore, which seem to make it very stable. Notwithstanding that, some 2nd octave notes (high B, high C#) can be played on some chanter and reed combinations, particularly with an easy read. Pipes that readily play more than an octave seem to have narrower conical bores, which I assume contributes to less stable fundamental waves.

Another consideration is that overblowing a conical bore chanter causes it to jump exactly an octave (eighth degree of the scale) while parallel bores jump to the 12th degree of the scale. The latter property is what allows Lindsay's chanter to play two octaves. For example, you finger low E (on the back of the folded bore) then open a small flea hole at the top of the chanter and it jumps to high B (the second octave).

I hope this helps. I also hope someone else can correct or fill in the gaps in my knowledge as I would love to know more about this too.

Best regards,
Kevin
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Old 09-06-2019, 09:30 AM   #3
Klondike Waldo
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Default Re: Why can some pipes play 2 octaves?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin View Post
Interesting question. I am sure others can provide better answers than I can but it has to do with the stability of the fundamental oscillating wave in the chanter. SNIP

Another consideration is that overblowing a conical bore chanter causes it to jump exactly an octave (eighth degree of the scale) while parallel bores jump to the 12th degree of the scale. The latter property is what allows Lindsay's chanter to play two octaves. For example, you finger low E (on the back of the folded bore) then open a small flea hole at the top of the chanter and it jumps to high B (the second octave).

I hope this helps. I also hope someone else can correct or fill in the gaps in my knowledge as I would love to know more about this too.

Best regards,
Kevin
Regarding the bold section above- this explains why oboes and saxophones overblow an at octave, but clarinets (cylindrical bore) overblow at the 12th.
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Old 09-06-2019, 09:51 AM   #4
CalumII
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Default Re: Why can some pipes play 2 octaves?

Probably a better way of phrasing it is why *can't* GHB chanters jump the octave.



The answer to that is they are deliberately designed to be resistant to it.



In general, a musical instrument makes something vibrate - a stretched string, a membrane, a solid bar, or in our case a constrained column of air. Like a guitar string, that vibration must be zero at the ends of the vibrating column, but there are several different patterns of vibration that "fit".



Some instruments are very easy to find those different patterns on - a guitar is a particularly good example, where there are quite a few audible harmonics to be found. Flutes also can fairly easily play a first, second, third and beyond harmonic with a bit of skill.


In order for a reeded instrument to support an upper harmonic, the reed must be able to vibrate at that rate. Our reeds are stiff and massive and don't like vibrating at such high frequencies (which is why it's usually weaker reeds that "squeal"). In addition, the very conical chanter doesn't easily support a second octave, whereas similar instruments - the French/English conical pipes, or the original Union chanters, all can, as they have narrower flares in the chanter bores.
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Old 09-06-2019, 11:13 AM   #5
thePhotopiper
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Default Re: Why can some pipes play 2 octaves?

Thanks for the replies folks! This is all sort of what I imagined to be the answer.


Quote:
Originally Posted by CalumII View Post
Probably a better way of phrasing it is why *can't* GHB chanters jump the octave.

The answer to that is they are deliberately designed to be resistant to it.

This is very interesting, along with the rest of the answers. I had assumed the design of the GHB reed played a large role given that all other reeds (that I know of) are designed quite differently.


Now I have a better way to answer the question when it comes up!
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