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Old 05-05-2016, 02:27 PM   #1
Jeremiah
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Default Shopping for First Pipes

I've heard a couple of peoples opinions of McCallum poly pipes. I'd like to hear you guys opinion of poly pipes. Do they play as well as a low end black wood set? Give me specifics about why you prefer one over the other.

Thanks in advance...
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Old 05-05-2016, 06:48 PM   #2
Jim Fogelman
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Default Re: Shopping for First Pipes

If a company makes both wood and poly pipes, they most likely have the same internal specs. I can't vouch for McCallum, but I know at Dunbar they use the same machine for boring all their pipes, both wood and poly. I've seen it myself.

That said, there are possibly some tonal differences between the two that most likely won't be able to find.

They require somewhat less maintenance and can take a little more of a beating than wood pipes can.

Starting with poly is not a problem, and if you decide you don't like playing you take a smaller hit in the wallet. If you find you do like playing (and let's be honest here - you will), you can upgrade to a nice wood set and keep the poly set as a backup, loaner, or inclement weather set.
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Old 05-05-2016, 07:04 PM   #3
Jeremiah
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Default Re: Shopping for First Pipes

Quote:
That said, there are possibly some tonal differences between the two that most likely won't be able to find.
If the tonal differences are so minimal, why the preference to wood?
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Old 05-05-2016, 09:31 PM   #4
Green Piper
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Default Shopping for First Pipes

Never played a set of Poly pipes. They're supposed to be heavier than wood pipes; take less maintenance; and can take a beating.

I take a little care with my wood McCallums; I don't throw them around; I swab them out after long gigs or practice sessions; they get oiled twice a year'ish. Based on my experience, I cannot see any overwhelming reason to buy poly pipes.

Plus, many pipers suggest getting a poly set first, then upgrading later. Why? - you'll just end up having paid for another set of pipes. Why not buy wood pipes, then later buy a set of poly pipes? To me, it doesn't make too much sense IMO.



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Last edited by Green Piper; 05-05-2016 at 09:34 PM.
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Old 05-05-2016, 10:02 PM   #5
PHXpiper
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Default Re: Shopping for First Pipes

McCallum poly pipes are lighter weight than ABW. My instructor thinks they sound fine. If you're worried about cracking/expect to deal with weather conditions that are bad for pipes, you should be ok with them.

That being said, there are purists who insist poly will never sound as good as wood, and if you ever want to sell and upgrade to a high-end set, wood pipes will probably have a better resale value.
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Old 05-06-2016, 04:18 AM   #6
oldsoldier
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Default Re: Shopping for First Pipes

I have a band mate that plays a set. They sound fine. Personally, I would like to get a set someday, for when I play pub crawls and the like. My band does a couple of those a year, and I always get nervous about alcohol, people, and confined spaces. That is, at least for me, the only reason I would get a set. As to tonal quality, they sound exactly like my McCallums.
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Old 05-06-2016, 04:30 AM   #7
John McCain
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Default Re: Shopping for First Pipes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeremiah View Post
Do they play as well as a low end black wood set?
[This is not intended to be a snarky comment] "They" play as well you are playing.

I have played abysmally on very nice blackwood sets and have won piper of the day on a set of Dunbar P3s. In both cases, it was me and not the pipes.

I would suggest you think about how well you take care and maintain other items in your life for your answer.

And not worry about what other folks think about what you're playing.
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Old 05-06-2016, 05:22 AM   #8
Green Piper
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Default Shopping for First Pipes

With regards to playing conditions, I have played in over 100F and 10% humidity while playing with Mesa Caledonian (Arizona). Also played in 40F and rainy with (Denver & District PB). My McCallum ABW survived perfectly intact with zero cracks. I did once drop the blowpipe and cracked a bit of imitation ivory, but a quick bit of superglue took care of that.

I have played in some raucous bars on St Pat's Day. It does make me nervous, but so far, so good.

I do take a few minutes after playing to swab them out.

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Old 05-06-2016, 07:39 AM   #9
tanks hobyman
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Default Re: Shopping for First Pipes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeremiah View Post
If the tonal differences are so minimal, why the preference to wood?
For those who prefer the tone of wood over plastic, it is a question of timbre. The difference in timbre between the two materials is slight but readily perceived. Plastic will be conceived as being on the shrill side of the tone being produced and wood on the more mellow side. Band and other ceol bheag players usually have little or no problem playing plastic pipes and sometimes even prefer them for a variety of reasons. Pibroch players are of another ilk and you will seldom if ever see a plastic pipe being played in a Grade I or Open Pibroch competition. Having said that, I do know that Gordon Walker frequently employs a plastic chanter in his competitive and professional efforts.

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Old 05-06-2016, 11:22 AM   #10
Dan Bell
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Default Re: Shopping for First Pipes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeremiah View Post
I've heard a couple of peoples opinions of McCallum poly pipes. I'd like to hear you guys opinion of poly pipes. Do they play as well as a low end black wood set? Give me specifics about why you prefer one over the other.
Until you can blow tone, material selection doesn't matter very much. Once you can, you may find that your first set of pipes (no matter what it is) produce a sound that you want to stick with, or perhaps not. Some players never change instruments over the course of their playing careers, but many do.

The timbre of a poly set is slightly different than that of wood, but blowing and reeding matter much more for a beginner. Poly stands up to rough handling better. It does NOT, however, absorb any moisture, which can be a problem under some conditions. Wet blowers may find that they have condensation problems with extended playing or outdoors when it's cold. That may not matter much in a parade, but it does if you're playing competitively.

I've personally never played a plastic instrument. I've had several sets of plastic McCallums and Dunbars pass through my band. When set up properly, poly sets can be perfectly acceptable band instruments, at least in the lower grades.
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