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Old 10-06-2019, 05:13 AM   #1
pancelticpiper
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Default Hole-spacing whistle vs. GHB

The topic of hole-spacing/finger-spacing has come up in threads discussing various models of GHB chanters. It amuses me that pipers get worked up over differences in 1/16 inch in hole-spacing between one GHB chanter and another.

Why amusing? Because I'm a whistle player, mainly Low Whistles, and when I switch from one whistle to another at a gig (sometimes in the same song) I have to immediately adapt to hole-spacing with exponentially greater differences than Highland pipers could ever encounter, even between practice chanters and pipe chanters.

To illustrate here are some the whistles I regularly use at gigs, with a McCallum pipe chanter stuck in the middle.

The top photo shows the instruments aligned using the F hole on the GHB chanter and the A whistle (showing upper-hand spacing).

The bottom photo shows the instruments aligned using the C hole of the GHB chanter and the A whistle (showing lower-hand spacing).

Note the relatively tiny High D whistle (far right) has hole-spacing not much different than the GHB chanter.





To put it into numbers, with the lower-hand spacing:

From the centre of the D hole to the centre of the B hole (the spread between your lower-hand index and ring fingers)
McCallum 2 1/8 inches
Low A whistle 3 5/8 inches

From the centre of the C hole to the centre of the B hole (the spread between your lower-hand middle and ring fingers)
McCallum 1 3/8 inches
Low A whistle 2 1/8 inches

Here I am playing all those whistles, and several more https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-fQhvleWq8&t=147s
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Last edited by pancelticpiper; 10-06-2019 at 05:27 AM.
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Old 10-06-2019, 06:43 AM   #2
Patrick McLaurin
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Default Re: hole-spacing whistle v GHB

I’m curious how often a whistle player would play the equivalent of a heavy strike on D, or even C? I do not know if such an embellishment is used for whistles.
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Old 10-07-2019, 06:33 PM   #3
bob864
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Default Re: Hole-spacing whistle vs. GHB

I play anything that works on whistles, and every whistle is different, which has led me to learn all sorts of fingerings. I probably don't play a heavy strike on whistle because it doesn't really sound different, but it wouldn't be a hard thing to do. If you know where the holes are then striking them isn't a big deal. If you don't know where the holes are then you're not going to play anything clean anyway, so strikes won't matter.

For me, the hardest trans-instrument fingering is trying to move GHB birls to AKAI EWI. Well, I suppose it would be even harder to try that on whistle since there's no pinky hole ;-)

But what Richard is saying is definitely true. If you can move tunes between a high D whistle and a low D whistle, then a 1/16 inch difference of hole spacing on a GHB chanter is something you won't even notice. To me, all my GHB chanters are completely interchangeable as far as fingering goes.
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Old 10-07-2019, 07:34 PM   #4
Patrick McLaurin
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Default Re: Hole-spacing whistle vs. GHB

Quote:
Originally Posted by bob864 View Post
To me, all my GHB chanters are completely interchangeable as far as fingering goes.
Yep, I can play any chanter you hand me. However, a few brands require extra thought to ensure the precision required to maintain a higher level of play. Itís easiest to stick to a particular style of chanter so as to not have to consciously make those micro adjustments, for example in a heavy strike on D where three fingers must be dead on to ensure proper execution and musical effect.

Of course, were we to desire to play a completely different musical instrument, like the whistle, thereís no use comparing fingering hole placement, it is what it is and you necessarily must adapt if you want to properly play the new instrument. That doesnít negate a bagpipe player from optimizing their playing ability on one particular style of chanter such that if theyíre handed one of another style, they might not like it because of a sudden drop in execution clarity because the holes arenít quite where thousands of hours of training have taught the fingers where to look for them.

Of course, if you havenít played for thousands of hours yet, you may not be able to tell a difference.
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Old 10-08-2019, 07:35 AM   #5
bob864
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Default Re: Hole-spacing whistle vs. GHB

I've probably played 3,000 hours on GHB (i.e., not counting PC). I suffer no drop in clarity of execution with any GHB chanter based on hole spacing. I never have. To me they're all equally difficult. I spend no time adjusting to a new chanter. I didn't even realize the hole spacing on my chanters varied until a previous thread of yours got me to compare them.

Since then I've gotten an old J&R Glen chanter that I've used at gigs because it tunes to Bb. Never occurred to me to compare the hole spacing until just now. The holes are about 1/4 inch wider than McCallum. Never noticed.

I don't see why you refuse to believe that your experience isn't universal.
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Old 10-08-2019, 08:20 AM   #6
Patrick McLaurin
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Default Re: Hole-spacing whistle vs. GHB

I never said it was universal. But, Iím not about to take advice on the finer points of the practice of highland bagpipe playing from a grade IV senior keyboard contrarian extraordinaire. I donít know why you, Bob Rogers, canít get it through your head that it is a consideration for some people.
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Old 10-09-2019, 06:39 AM   #7
CalumII
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Default Re: Hole-spacing whistle vs. GHB

When you've only ever played one chanter, any change is difficult to adapt to. When you have played lots of different chanters, adapting to them is part of your normal practice.
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Old 10-11-2019, 10:31 AM   #8
Dan Bell
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Default Re: Hole-spacing whistle vs. GHB

Exactly what Callum said. I can remember being a young piper and finding it stressful to switch between band and solo chanters, and worrying about being to produce exactly the execution that I wanted with each. With experience, and lots of chanters, this became a non-issue. I have a bunch of GHB chanters going, none of which feel like any of my smallpipe chanters, and that's just what passes for normal. I'm sure everyone has different experiences with this, and all I can add is that experience makes it easier.
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Old 10-16-2019, 08:52 PM   #9
bob864
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Default Re: Hole-spacing whistle vs. GHB

Quote:
Originally Posted by Patrick McLaurin View Post
I never said it was universal. But, Iím not about to take advice on the finer points of the practice of highland bagpipe playing from a grade IV senior keyboard contrarian extraordinaire. I donít know why you, Bob Rogers, canít get it through your head that it is a consideration for some people.
Perhaps your memory is shorter than mine.

I've never disputed your experience.

But if you review all the threads about the pro's and con's of all the chanters out there you'll see that few people aside from yourself rank hole spacing as important.

Yes, it's an issue for some people, but it's not a significant issue for many people, based on the evidence presented on these forums. Granted I'm a better researcher than piper. That's an occupational hazard. I do research for a living.
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