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Old 05-19-2020, 07:04 PM   #1
Michael Kazmierski Dunn
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Default Impossible birls on Peter Henderson plastic chanter

Hey crew,
So, here's the thing. So the reed in my 2013 Naill chanter was just about done, so I trashed it and found a new reed. Only to still not get the ability for the unique chromatic notes (i.e., C-natural and F-natural) like I've never been able to do since 2013 when I purchased my first set of Naill pipes. Natural notes are absolutely vital to me as a musician. So then I thought, 'what the heck, wy not try the original plastic Peter Henderson chanter that came with my 2018 Peter Henderson (Alastair Dunn) pipes'.
So I tried the Henderson chanter which was virtually unused, and unfortunately, playing birls on low A is IMPOSSIBLE! on this chanter. However, the tradeoff is that it can do the minor notes pretty accurately! I'm used to doing birls on a 2013 Naill poly solo chanter with relatively smaller holes, but unfortunately my Naill chanter doesn't even have the ability for natural notes which bothers the heck out of me. But, my Henderson chanter can do the naturals with the exact same reed, but I just can't ever play a birl, it just never happens.
I tried sanding the low A hole just to stop my pinkie finger from hitting the edge of the hole, and yet the birls are still impossible on this chanter. Note that this one is whatever plastic chanter that comes with the pipes, not the Blackwood solo chanter. Also be aware that I'm afraid as h*** to try Blackwood, because I'm absolutely terrible at hemping, oiling etc (my dad does that for me). In fact, again the only reason why I play Blackwood is just because people tell me to. Honestly I don't like it, but I don't have a choice. I mean, my pipes are sounding far too tenor dominant to enjoy playing them anymore, and unfortunately that's what happens when Blackwood pipes get older.
Does anybody who own the latest iteration of the Henderson plastic chanter have trouble doing birls? Ultimately I would like a chanter that has small holes like my Naill chanter, but most importantly has the ability for natural notes. Again, with the same reed, my Naill chanter doesn't do that, but my Henderson does (only problem is, I can't even birl on that one though). You'll hear how disgusting my birls are in this clip here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tv3DCqi8bts
How is the Infinity chanter? How does it compare to a Naill chanter as far as the size of the low A hole? Does it do the natural notes quite accurately? Again, natural notes are my most important factor because I play other instruments, but then again I need to be comfortable when playing birls.
Those of you who aren't familiar with the Naill chanter will be more equivalent to the G1 Platinum chanter's low A hole size. They are the chanters I played in my college pipe band and they were almost as comfortable to birl as my Naill chanter, and yet they could play the natural notes, albeit pretty grossly off tune. Again, same reed was swapped between them when I had that G1 chanter.
Should I sell the chanter to someone else because I can't birl with it? I haven't carved it don't worry, only tried sanding the pinkie hole to no avail. Plus, the pitch is far too high for my liking, I prefer a pitch somewhere 480 Hz or below that is comfortable to birl with, and most importantly can play accurate natural notes. Anyone have any experience with Poly / plastic chanters like I'm trying to obtain here?
Thanks

Michael

PS. Oh, and I LOVE the new Drone Dry stocks I bought from MacTaorluath a few weeks ago!
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Old 05-20-2020, 12:56 AM   #2
Mac an t-Sealgair
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Default Re: Impossible birls on Peter Henderson plastic chanter

Your Naill will play accidentals when properly set up. The only thing wrong with your birls is lack of practice with that the PH chanter.

If you want to buy and play poly pipes then do so. If you want to buy more chanters, do so.

You can't buy your way out of issues. You need to practice and learn to set up your instrument.
There is nothing wrong with your pipes, and there are a lot of people out there that would love to have your pipe set up.
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Old 05-20-2020, 05:52 AM   #3
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Default Re: Impossible birls on Peter Henderson plastic chanter

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mac an t-Sealgair View Post


There is nothing wrong with your pipes, and there are a lot of people out there that would love to have your pipe set up.
Aye... ‘...’tis a poor craftsman wot blames his tools’.....
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Old 05-20-2020, 06:18 AM   #4
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Default Re: Impossible birls on Peter Henderson plastic chanter

The problem you're having with the cross-fingered notes might be that the reed which worked well one chanter doesn't quite work with the other. I have experienced that with some reeds which won't tune in one of my chanters without tape will play quite well in others. I find easier reeds play the accidentals more readily, but YMMV.
As for the birl problem- it will probably clear up with practice as your fingers become used to the new chanter, unless it is actually a problem with the hole size ( remotely possible) or if it is still a reed problem. If you're hitting the hole clean but the birls are croaky or squeaky, the reed may be too weak.

If your problem with the birl is a matter of how your finger touches the hole, you might consider an alternate birl method: some use a "7-stroke" one down, one across; some a double tap; some use a "Tap, Drag" tap down, then pull across. The last one workls best for me, but find the one that works for you.
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Old 05-20-2020, 10:21 AM   #5
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Default Re: Impossible birls on Peter Henderson plastic chanter

My Naill chanter plays accidentals just fine. Not sure what the problem is there though. What reeds are you using?
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Old 05-20-2020, 10:45 AM   #6
Michael Kazmierski Dunn
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Default Re: Impossible birls on Peter Henderson plastic chanter

Hate to keep sounding persistent and braggy, but to be honest, every single reed I've tried in my Naill chanter, with the exception of maybe one MacPhee reed, just can't play the accidentals, unless the reed is stuck super far out of the chanter. However, I wouldn't like the adverse effect because I honestly hate flat high A's myself, and in fact this high A was so flat with the reed far out enough to produce accidentals, that the high A literally comes in at high G-sharp! I think I remember one of my better piping friends carving on my B and C holes, maybe that was enough to ruin the accidentals (since I'm a stickler for precise tuning).
Maybe it's just my small hands myself. Like I said, my birls are fine on the Naill chanter, but I guess it might be time to get the John Walsh A smallpipes out and do several birl drills maybe? They almost sound as whimpy and Damrau as my birls on my Henderson chanter. However, I do feel a bit foolish to have to completely relearn the birl technique because I'm already in grade 2. I fear that judges demand the fastest yet most accurate birls, but I might be totally off with the speed thing. If competition is more about accuracy than speed, I guess I'll just have to live the next decade or so relearning the birl and possibly have to worry about going down several grades back to grade 4!
Quick story, ever since I was 10 years old, I always played a birl consisting of sweep-down, sweep-up, as per my first and sadly deceased instructor Dave O'Neil. But, in college, my then-instructor, Drew Duncan, somewhat molded me into playing the tap-curl or tap-drag birl whatever you call it (for future reference, I'm not a print reader, so "7" means nothing equatable to me), my instructor somewhat molded me into playing the tap drag, but even after daily practice for a full year, it just never came, and I mean, never. So, I tried picking competition tunes with no birls in them because I knew my birls were going to just plain suck (my first competition in solos was at the end of my first year of college, in fact this coming weekend five years ago). I could never get it up to speed in time. Then a friend of mine, who was already competing in grade 2, suggested the birl movement I use now, where you sweep downwards, then you flick it to the right, relative to the direction of the chanter. My blind brain reckons this may be what a "7" refers to? Or is a "7" different? Like I said, I don't read print (just Braille), and so I don't actually know the shape of a print 7. In Braille, a 7 is the same as a G but with a numbersign before it, and a G in Braille is simply a square.
At the same time though, my new BFF, Hailey (learning to be an opera singer by ear, with some guided assistance) is diligently practicing her trills and runs ("roulades). Hailey thought that while she's learning this technique it could well be a good idea for me to keep birling on the Henderson chanter so that we're both developing a difficult technique at the same time. I don't know if fast birls are key to a good piper, but Hailey learned online from voice scientist J. DiDonato that the only way to get a properly healthy singing voice / vocal vibrato, is to learn the trill technique for 5 minutes a day with hard and fast daily practice. Unfortunately this is rarely the case, given the several opera singers with awfully slow vibratos (wobbles). Just thought I'd mention this while we're on the subject of difficult things to learn. Maybe the best pipers could create this practice regimen of 5 minutes a day with just birls on the pipes, and see how far pipers will go in a month, two months, three months etc. But, like I said, I did this same practice regimen with the tap drag and even then it just never came. At least I can do a foolishly slow birl using the same movements I do on my Naill chanter, but it could just be that I really have to stretch out my right hand' fingers for days on end so that the spacing of the low hand feels more comfortable to me. I don't know of any devices that you can wear which spread out your fingers as far as they will spread out so that the more you wear it the easier to get crisper birls.
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Old 05-20-2020, 02:06 PM   #7
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Default Re: Impossible birls on Peter Henderson plastic chanter

With regards to your birl issue, I also am only really able to to a 7 slide birl on the Naill chanter (slide down then curl as you go up).


On my Ceol chanter with larger holes I just do a slide birl, where my pinky is straight, and I just slide it over the G hole.
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Last edited by WBpiper; 05-20-2020 at 02:17 PM.
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Old 05-20-2020, 02:44 PM   #8
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Default Re: Impossible birls on Peter Henderson plastic chanter

I had a quick listen to your 18 minute you-tube and heard you trying to play a birl on a mouth blown chanter.

I don't know if anyone else experiences this, but for me, my birls are a LOT better when I play my pipes versus my practice chanter or a mouth blown pipe chanter. Have you tried playing the Henderson chanter in the pipes?

As mentioned earlier, one needs to get used to new chanters and the spacing so maybe a little more time is needed on the Henderson? I know when I pull out a different chanter it takes a bit of time to get used to it before my embellishments are 'happy'.

I gave the RJM chanter 3 months before giving up on it as the hole spacing just didn't work for me but I did give the RJM an honest effort ....it's a nice chanter and I wish it would have worked for me. There are chanters out there that just might not work for you.

Jenni
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Old 05-20-2020, 03:17 PM   #9
Michael Kazmierski Dunn
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Default Re: Impossible birls on Peter Henderson plastic chanter

Well, I discovered something pretty cool here.
So I played the Henderson chanter pretty much all day, and I didn't remember the fact that I have some hand cream that i thought I was originally going to use for my electronic bagpipes. However, it turns out, if I put a heck a lot of it on my pinkie finger, somehow just by luck I am finally able to birl with this chanter!!!!!
Now the problem is, I ran out of it and have no idea what to buy. What do you pipers use? Later tonight I'll upload a clip for you to hear.
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Old 05-20-2020, 04:11 PM   #10
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Default Re: Impossible birls on Peter Henderson plastic chanter

I’d use oil on my face.



Cream could build up at the hole I think
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