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Old 10-13-2009, 07:43 AM   #1
John F
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Default African Blackwood vs Ebony...?

I have two sets of pipes by different makers. One Ebony and one ABW. They of course sound different, but I wonder how much this is attributable to the wood itself?
Has anyone played one of each (ABW and Ebony) by the same maker?
If so how do they differ in sound?

Also, which do you prefer and why?
How would you describe the difference soundwise?

John
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Old 10-13-2009, 12:02 PM   #2
Shawn Husk
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Default Re: African Blackwood vs Ebony...?

John,

I've played a set of ABW and a set of ebony pipes by the same maker.

The ABW sets were great but the ebony set was absolute magic. I know, it may have been just that set, but I'm convinced it was the wood that made the difference. Why? Because I've played about 7 sets in ABW from this maker and they are all identical, very very good pipes, but the ebony set was just amazing. The way the drones locked in, the subtle harmonic differences, the overall tone and ring from the pipes....it was just an amazing pipe. The ebony was top notch wood, very old stock and absolutely no flaws. (So were all of the ABW sets btw)

I can't put my finger on a "specific" attribute, such as 'warmer', 'richer' etc....there was just something really wonderful about that set.

Wood or the pipe? I don't know for 100% certain but I'm going with wood.


Shawn


PS. I've also played vintage sets of Lawries in both ABW and ebony and I always liked the tone from the ebony sets better. BTW, good luck getting a good new made ebony set......... Ebony cracks quite easily too, and for no apparent reason, at least this is what I have heard (a lot).
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Last edited by Shawn Husk; 10-13-2009 at 12:04 PM.
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Old 10-13-2009, 01:59 PM   #3
John F
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Default Re: African Blackwood vs Ebony...?

OK.
Well the thing is that I seem to prefer the sound of my ABW pipes (Sinclair) to that of my Ebony pipes (Robertson). And I donīt know if thatīs due to the wood or not.

But there is of course also a difference between how they sound when you have them on your shoulder as opposed to standing at some distance listening to them...

Maybe the fact that my ABW pipes have a sheepskin bag could play a small part(?). My Ebony set has an L&M Elk-hide bag.
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Old 10-13-2009, 03:07 PM   #4
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Default Re: African Blackwood vs Ebony...?

The difference in bore is going to make much more of a difference than the difference in wood, as long as you are talking about woods in the same ballpark as far as density (i.e. tropical hardwoods).

So you are comparing apples to oranges. A set of drones made by Sinclair has completely different bores from a set of drones made by Robertson. You would need to get the same make of drones to do a comparison, as Shawn did.

I think most people would agree with Shawn, as I do. I believe that is why so many of those old vintage ebony sets sound so good. I know other instrument makers say the same thing. Blackwood is the best in terms of durability, but not necessarily the best tonally. It is all kind of subject though, and I'm sure there are those who disagree and prefer blackwood's tonal qualities.
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Old 10-14-2009, 03:06 AM   #5
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Default Re: African Blackwood vs Ebony...?

So you are comparing apples to oranges. A set of drones made by Sinclair has completely different bores from a set of drones made by Robertson. You would need to get the same make of drones to do a comparison, as Shawn did.




Well, that is, of course, why I asked if anyone had tried sets by the same maker but made from different woods...

I was trying to find out what the difference in sound was between the two woods.
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Old 10-14-2009, 03:33 AM   #6
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Default Re: African Blackwood vs Ebony...?

Given that the old ebony sets were designed to be played with cane reeds, any meaningful comparison between ABW and ebony would likely require cane reeds to be used. Of course, they probably will enhance the tonal qualities of drones of any composition, ABW or otherwise.
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Old 10-14-2009, 10:35 AM   #7
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Default Re: African Blackwood vs Ebony...?

Quote:
Originally Posted by John F View Post
Well, that is, of course, why I asked if anyone had tried sets by the same maker but made from different woods...

I was trying to find out what the difference in sound was between the two woods.
Yes, and then you came back and said you were comparing two different makes of drones and asked if the difference in tone was the wood or not. I answered your question by saying that more than likely the bores are going to give you more difference in tone than the wood.
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Old 10-14-2009, 10:38 AM   #8
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Default Re: African Blackwood vs Ebony...?

Quote:
Originally Posted by scotchboiler View Post
Given that the old ebony sets were designed to be played with cane reeds, any meaningful comparison between ABW and ebony would likely require cane reeds to be used. Of course, they probably will enhance the tonal qualities of drones of any composition, ABW or otherwise.
Old blackwood sets were designed to be played with cane reeds too. I don't think it matters what type of reeds you use in your comparison, so long as you used the same reeds with both sets.
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Old 10-14-2009, 12:37 PM   #9
Kevin F. Gilstrap
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Default Re: African Blackwood vs Ebony...?

Here's another thing to consider.

Imagine the very best example of an ABW set made by the best maker you can think of. Now imagine an absolutely identical set, but made of ebony, from that exact maker. Now imagine the best set of reeds you can find being tested in each set by whoever you think is the greatest bagpipe player in the world.

My guess is that if both sets are tuned to perfection, which sounds better is purely subjective. No doubt, they will both be excellent.
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Old 10-14-2009, 01:06 PM   #10
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Default Re: African Blackwood vs Ebony...?

I did a bit of research before buying a set of ebony pipes years ago and think I remember something about ebony being a denser wood so the sound coming out is a bit 'louder' than ABW. I could be completely wrong about this though so if someone with 'wood knowledge' knows differently I hope they would speak up.

I did buy a set of ebony pipes and I can honestly say that they have some volume to them! The harmonics that come out is also huge. There are so many levels of sound that come out of these pipes that it's incredible.

I am unable to compare this set of ebony pipes against the same brand ABW pipes but I do think a big part of the 'volume' these pipes produce is because they are large bore....really large bore.

Jenni
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