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

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Old 11-25-2017, 04:18 PM   #1
erracht
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Default Were Border Pipe chanters tuned differently in Northumberland and Scotland?

Here is an article from the Journal of the Alternative Pipers of North America issue of June 1992, which claims that Border Pipes ("Northumbrian Half-Long Pipes" in some people's nomenclature) in a sample of those preserved over the border in Northumberland usually differ from Scottish specimens in having a sharpened seventh, I.E. playing a major scale as opposed to the mixolydian scale of the Scottish pipes: http://theotherpipers.org/index/?page_id=1559 - see pp. 50-52

Has this generalization been corroborated and should it be considered as normative?
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Last edited by erracht; 11-25-2017 at 05:02 PM.
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Old 12-02-2017, 04:22 AM   #2
Rob_Say
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Default Re: Were Border Pipe chanters tuned differently in Northumberland and Scotland?

Quote:
Originally Posted by erracht View Post
Here is an article from the Journal of the Alternative Pipers of North America issue of June 1992, which claims that Border Pipes ("Northumbrian Half-Long Pipes" in some people's nomenclature) in a sample of those preserved over the border in Northumberland usually differ from Scottish specimens in having a sharpened seventh, I.E. playing a major scale as opposed to the mixolydian scale of the Scottish pipes: http://theotherpipers.org/index/?page_id=1559 - see pp. 50-52

Has this generalization been corroborated and should it be considered as normative?
An interesting question and the lack of immediate reply (or even furore!) indicates that the answer is no it hasn't been corrobated - but then neither has it been contradicted. There is an exceptionally small sample size and allocating type on a purely geographical basis is problematic. The specific locality in which a maker or a player operated can really only be inferred or implied. Muckle Jock lived in the North Tyne valley and his set was given to him by a chap at Chipchase Castle (just down the river from MJ) - it's reasonable to infer that this set would be patterned on whatever was standard in Northumberland at that time - but there are limited sources to corroborate this. The same problem applies to sets from further north.

Further exacerbating this problem is that a lot of these old sets are either not playing at all or have been re-reeded / retuned following fallow periods; there's no continuous line of makers to say 'this is how a 17th C pipe should be reeded & tuned'. Any number of makers & restorers applied their best intepretation to make each set playable either in the original or in reproduction *in their time* - this is essentially what Robertson did (in extreme form).

In producing a modern musical instrument from these old sets there is *always* an adjustment. I play a set of Border Pipes made by Colin Ross and modeled after the Mucke Jock set. Colin had direct access to the original and made this set as a reproduction. The chanter plays with a definite sharpened 7th and can be cross fingered to produce an approximate flattened 7th. Whilst it is correctly described as a repro of the original, it was reeded and tuned to play in a modern scale - we simply can't guarantee that the original produced the same (delightfully in tune) scale and tone. We certainly can't state that any number of unknown non-extant sets from the same period had the same characteristics.

From a personal perspective I lean towards to the indeterminate 7th interpretation - that the hard distinction between natural OR sharp 7th is a more recent development* tied in with the standardisation of GHB tuning and the wildly successful promulgation of that instrument. Viewed as part of that story, bellows blown, conically bored, common stock pipes are an evolutionary backwater and it is not at all surprising that the BP memepool will have been influenced by the more successful branch over time.

I will submit a minority report alongside this leaning; everything we have in the NSP world (dating from ~1800 onwards) is sharpened 7th - and there is a *lot* of it. Those who first took up the NSP were part of the BP tradition and they took much of the music with them and the documented sources (manuscripts) suggest they changed the music to fit the new instrument which initially had only a fully sharpened 7th. The flattened 7th key was only subsequently added and whilst very useful, it is somewhat problematic playing the old tunes in old style with this key - it's often easier to transpose up a tone to play the Mixolydian scale.

* recent development = in the last 200 years

Last edited by Rob_Say; 12-02-2017 at 04:49 AM.
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Old 12-02-2017, 01:24 PM   #3
TwitchyFingers
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Default Re: Were Border Pipe chanters tuned differently in Northumberland and Scotland?

An idea I support, but I may be a crackpot, is based on the chanters I've designed and built.
With no tape on high G, it plays G#. If I use the piobaireachd G fingering of
xOXO XXX O it produces a very in tune high G natural.
My thought is there may have been a time where GHB and Border chanters were built to have a sharped 7th and an alternate fingering used to produce the G natural.
Entirely willing to be wrong, but the thought sticks with me.
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Old 12-02-2017, 02:03 PM   #4
CalumII
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Default Re: Were Border Pipe chanters tuned differently in Northumberland and Scotland?

There are also fingerings that produce a pretty reasonable G# on modern GHB chanters, and it's not a far stretch to imagine a Border chanter designed to play both with a suitable, sensible fingering.
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Old 12-02-2017, 06:32 PM   #5
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Default Re: Were Border Pipe chanters tuned differently in Northumberland and Scotland?

My modern Lowland chanter plays G and G# depending on the fingering, but then, so does my GHB.
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