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Uilleann, Northumbrian, Smallpipes + For all types of (non GH) Bagpiping discussions.

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Old 03-06-2019, 12:18 PM   #1
MichiganGaidar
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Default "Fuss Factor" of cold-wind pipes?

Greetings all,

I've spent a lot of the last few weeks "under the weather", such that my practice has been very sporadic - the majority of days were missed. I'm way out of practice, my pipes are all screwy, and my technique was set back significantly - I'm back to where I was about a year ago. The frustration and feeling of futility is real, but I thankfully have an instructor who keeps me motivated and looking forward (reason #1,000,001 for seeking quality instruction).

I really don't want this to happen in the future. To that effect, I am tentatively considering a set of cold-wind pipes, either SSP or border pipes, to prevent loss of practice due to garden-variety illnesses. Before I even work out details, I'd like to know what the maintenance burden is for cold-wind pipes. Is it the same day-to-day inspection and adjustment as with GHB? Are the joints and reeds subject to the same sort of vagaries as GHB? Are there any true peculiarities in the care of cold-wind pipes?
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Old 03-06-2019, 01:08 PM   #2
replicant
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Default Re: "Fuss Factor" of cold-wind pipes?

Border pipes are more fussy than smallpipes but still do not require as much tweaking as the GHB. My smallpipes I can put down one day, pick back up, and not even have to re-tune the drones if they haven't moved. I haven't touched the chanter reed in years and only occasionally have to re-tape a single note or two. Now these are bellows driven, as any pipe that is mouth blown is gonna be a bit more "fussy". I always recommend bellows over mouth blown anyway ..
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Old 03-06-2019, 01:35 PM   #3
el gaitero
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Default Re: "Fuss Factor" of cold-wind pipes?

....Before I even work out details, I'd like to know what the maintenance burden is for cold-wind pipes. Is it the same day-to-day inspection and adjustment as with GHB? Are the joints and reeds subject to the same sort of vagaries as GHB?

..appears as if lining up the excuse ducks to dodge practice...before getting started. IMHO.
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Old 03-06-2019, 02:35 PM   #4
MichiganGaidar
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Default Re: "Fuss Factor" of cold-wind pipes?

Quote:
Originally Posted by el gaitero View Post
...appears as if lining up the excuse ducks to dodge practice...before getting started. IMHO.
I shoot for an hour every day on the big pipes, so no practice dodging here. I simply don't want to wind up with a maintenance burden similar to two sets of GHB. That would not be conducive to the goal of increasing practice time/allowing me to practice on days where blowing reeds would be ill-advised (no pun intended).

It sounds like SSP would be my best choice, from the contributor above. Is there any point to the A/D combination sets that a number of makers offer? If I wind up going through with this, I want to get maximum utilization. I'm thinking the D drone might at least be useful for tunes which resolve on D.
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Old 03-06-2019, 03:16 PM   #5
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Default Re: "Fuss Factor" of cold-wind pipes?

So if you just don't feel up to playing the big pipes, are you really going to be up for sitting down and strapping into a set of bellows to play for a while? True, you don't have to deal with the issues of not being able to breath in enough oxygen through the sinus and/or chest congestion, but I tend to find when I'm sick most physical activities are unappealing. Not that a set of bellows is a ton of effort to run, but neither is a practice chanter with a rubber band on the reed. And if you still don't have enough wind to run a rubber banded PC, why not consider an electronic version such as the Technopipes or the new Blair model?

As for the fussiness of a set of smallpipes, I would say they are pretty much fuss free if well maintained, played fairly regularly, and stored in a method suitable for your environment, but they are still a musical instrument, and if you don't play them for a while and just leave them sit, you will likely find that they need a bit of tweaking to get them back to their full function. Personally I don't find my two sets of GHB to be very fussy either, so may be I'm not a good one to comment on this issue?

As for the A/D combo sets, if you are just planning to play them as a substitute for the GHB, there is no point in the D set (and the D chanter is so small you probably won't find it will help with any sort of fingering practice), but if you are going to go down the smallpipe path, and understand that its not just a miniature GHB but rather a unique instrument in and of itself with its own history, tradition, and music styles, then you might want to get a combo set at the beginning to save a bit of money down the road. But I don't think you will be kicking yourself any time soon if you decide not to get them.
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Old 03-06-2019, 03:19 PM   #6
Kevin
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Default Re: "Fuss Factor" of cold-wind pipes?

I have a set of SSP with chanters and drones for A, C and D. All of them sound different and pleasing but I use the A chanter probably 96% of the time. For the use you describe, you would probably be happy with an A set but beware, SSP are addictive and if you venture into playing with other instruments, you might wish you had additional chanters.

To answer your first question, bellows blown SSP require some routine maintenance but it is nothing compared to GHB. By not blowing moist breath through everything, the wood, hemp, cane, leather etc, all seems to be more stable. In my experience, I only ever have to touch my reeds twice a year, when the central heating comes on in the autumn and goes off in the spring. The rest of the time, I just tune up and go. As others have noted, I often don't need to re-tune my drones if I have the patience to wait a minute until things settle. They are definitely a low maintenance instrument if they are bellows blown.

I hope this helps,
Kevin
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Old 03-06-2019, 04:43 PM   #7
tenthpiper
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Default Re: "Fuss Factor" of cold-wind pipes?

Mouth blown ssp in A with plastic reeds , once it’s set up right .... it’s plug and play

a practice chanter ?
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Last edited by tenthpiper; 03-06-2019 at 04:46 PM.
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Old 03-06-2019, 04:51 PM   #8
MichiganGaidar
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Default Re: "Fuss Factor" of cold-wind pipes?

Regarding being sick and physical exertion: If I have the flu or a major illness, I'll be sitting it out regardless. If I'm hit with a minor illness, and would like to practice, but just can't muster the puff for 33in/H2O, a set of cold-wind pipes could be just the ticket. They could also be used to extend practice time beyond what I can do on the big pipes (after an hour, the moisture becomes too much for the reeds to maintain durability of tuning).

Regarding the smallpipe addiction: I don't doubt it'll happen to me. I'd like to be able to perform more, and SSP are much "friendlier" than GHB in a number of ways. Performance skills must be honed, as well!

Having just spoken with my instructor, he agreed a set of SSP may be a good idea both for practice time, and for general enjoyment. He had a few recommendations, so I'll mull over the decision. It looks like the maintenance burden will not be a concern, so it'll be a matter of cost at this point.
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Old 03-06-2019, 05:55 PM   #9
el gaitero
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Default Re: "Fuss Factor" of cold-wind pipes?

Quote:
Originally Posted by MichiganGaidar View Post

.....33in/H2O,
IMHO you've now idd the major problem.

Get a 26-27 reed in your GHB and youll have little issue to thwart your keeping up.
Its hard to play a hard reed. ( 30+ )

Its also hard to play an easy reed....well;
but its much less physically demanding,...just requires more sophistication.
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Old 03-07-2019, 06:07 AM   #10
Pppiper
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Default Re: "Fuss Factor" of cold-wind pipes?

Few things.

First, your question on maintenance of cauld-wind pipes. Tends to be far-less than mouth-blown, wood instruments, but there are considerations to be taken into account.

Namely, relative humidity. The reeds (assuming they are cane, particularly the chanter) can be very cranky with extreme levels of humidity, though often better to have extremely humid rather than extremely dry.

And when it comes to joints, take care not to over-hemp them. The pipes are thin, and even more susceptible to cracking when the wood swells from humidity shifts.

Nate Banton's site has a great page on maintenance concerns here for bellows pipes: http://bantonwoodson.com/maintenance

Additionally, though I certainly agree that it's good to keep your fingers going if/when you're forced to keep the highland pipes in the case for a while, I think you'll find that playing on small/border pipes does not effectively replace time on the highland pipes, and vice versa.

Hole sizes and finger spreads are extremely different, the chanter bores make embellishments result in different ways, positioning/posture, and blowing/arm consistency for pressure ... I find they;re like opposite sides of the moon from each other. There are aspects of each that will help reinforce the other, but they don't serve as effective replacements.

Just my 2.

Cheers,
~Nate
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