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

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Old 08-16-2014, 05:56 PM   #1
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Default GHB piper looking for a new challenge

I've been playing the GHB for nearly 20 years. I am now looking to learn the smallpipes and bellows. I'd like to be able to play with other intsruments down at the pub, at homes etc..But I have a few questions.
Firstly is it worth considering border pipes over scottish smallpipes? What are pros and cons of both pipes?
I've played a few smallpipes here and there. Walsh pipes, firesides etc. But I feel pretty determined to have bellows and a good instrument. Not looking for a toy. That being said. It would be a another set of pipes... So to keep the wife from leaving me I'd like to keep within the $800 to 1000 cnd budget! Is this doable?? I'd still want it to be a quality instrument. Is there anywhere to find used sets of decent pipes? Either Scottish small pipes or border pipes?

Thanks a bunch.
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Old 08-16-2014, 06:10 PM   #2
Klondike Waldo
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Default Re: GHB piper looking for a new challenge

OK, I'll start...

Border (AKA Lowland< Reel- Various other names)Pipes:
Advantages: conical bore so nearly chromatic scale, timbre similar to GHB- can play anything you can on GHB and then some; ( Some extended notes possible, depending on make and reeds. Not as loud as GHB. Various drone configurations possible
Disadvantages: Louder than SSP, a bit crankier tuning and pressure-wise. Reeds can be expensive/ hard to find, vary greaty from one make of border pipes to another; Not likely to find a decent set at the price points quoted above.

Scottish Smallpipes:
Advantages: Cylindrical bore: Quieter than GHB or Lowland/Border pipes, relatively easy to reed in comparison to Lowland/Border pipes, sweet "round" tone. Come in a wider variety of Keys- A, B flat, C, D
Disadvantages: Only 9 notes- no extended range or accidentals without adding keys. Can be overwhelmed is sessions, depending on what other instruments and how many are playing. ( I find D SSP more useful in the Irish sessions around here at least.)

Keep an eye on the trading post for some bargains which occasionally show up.

I you could make it to the Pipers'Gathering next week, you could try out verious sets and see which one "Calls your name"

( and if not, at least you could listen to examples of several on the website)
Slainte Leibh/ Slan Leat, Bob Cameron
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Old 08-16-2014, 06:19 PM   #3
John McCain
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Default Re: GHB piper looking for a new challenge

This recent thread may help:


And I'd suggest looking at John Rutzen's SSPs in A. I don't know of a better value for the money.
"What we play is life." - Louis Armstrong
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Old 08-16-2014, 06:50 PM   #4
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Default Re: GHB piper looking for a new challenge

Thanks for the info.. So SSP's in A is the way I'll go I think. Those John Rutzen pipes look lovely. Curious though. Is there any decent affordable makers in North America that anyone knows of by chance?
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Old 08-20-2014, 07:01 AM   #5
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Default Re: GHB piper looking for a new challenge

What Waldo says.

BTW there's a very fine "border pipe" chanter up on Ebay right now going very cheap. Stick that chanter in an old "3/4" set and you're good to go, for far less money than a new 'border' set.

For me there's always the issue of volume.

Scottish Smallpipes (SSPs) have a fine volume for smaller groups. I play one in a trio with fiddle and guitar and it's perfect.

SSPs are very forgiving of fingering and for a GHB player are a pure joy to play.

In a big noisy pub SSPs probably won't have enough volume.

Then there are the so-called 'border' pipes.

In a small group they're usually too loud, but in a noisy pub they'd probably be just right.

These are very finicky about fingering; it's their very instability which allows them to play a chromatic scale. If you want a 'new challenge' there it is! Fingering that sounds perfectly clean on a GHB chanter might sound sloppy on a 'border' chanter. I found it challenging, too, going from High A to Low A without the chanter squealing (a problem I've never had on any GHB or SSP chanter) so I had to learn to insert a very quick High G gracenote in between High A and Low A. (In other words close the thumbhole a split-second before the other holes. The GHB players who have no problems when they switch to 'border' pipes were probably unconsciously doing this all along.)

By the way both of these types of instruments suffer from modern makers using a strange variety of names:

1) Scottish Smallpipes/fireside pipes/chamber pipes/parlour pipes/shuttle pipes/studio pipes/ etc etc

2) Border pipes/Lowland pipes/session pipes/reel pipes/ etc etc.

I, at the same time, owned 'border' chanters from three major makers (Nigel Richard, Hamish Moore, and Jon Swayne), all being the same thing (key of A=440, chromatic, etc etc) but each maker called them a different thing. Don't be thrown off by the crazy names.
proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; Son of the Revolution and Civil War; first European settlers on the Guyandotte
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