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

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Old 10-31-2016, 09:46 AM   #1
Kevin
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Default Experience with keys on an SSP chanter?

Hi,

Does anyone on here have any experience playing with keys on an SSP chanter, or alternately an NSP chanter? I am considering options for my next SSP chanter and I might like to include keys for some of high B, high C#, low F# and low E but I have no experience playing with them. If you have played with keys, please let me know which finger(s) you activated the keys with and the style of key (e.g. long lever like on an UP or wrap around style like on a metal flute etc). I am interested in any ergonomic or musical challenges presented by each option. In particular, I am wondering whether crossing noises are an issue for high B and high C keys, which are activated by the top thumb, when coming from a note lower than high A.

Any comments on these or others key issues that you have encountered would be greatly appreciated.

Best regards,
Kevin
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Old 11-02-2016, 10:24 AM   #2
Kevin
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Default Re: Experience with keys on an SSP chanter?

Hello again,

No replies yet so maybe keys on SSP are far less common than I thought. Even if you don't have direct experience playing with keys on SSP, I would appreciate your comments on how useful or easy to use the different options are.

Best regards,
Kevin
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Old 11-02-2016, 10:38 AM   #3
zarb
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Default Re: Experience with keys on an SSP chanter?

Well, I have keys (actually one key, must be a high B, I don't use it much) on an SSP, and I have Northumbrian Smallpipes. The keys on both types are arranged to be played by the digits otherwise surplus to requirements. There can be crossing noises of the usual variety, caused by moving your hands and not compensating resulting in a leaky seal, but not notes caused by removing a digit from a hole to move to a key.

I had to think about this for a minute, with keys as I've always seen them, they are only for the surplus digits, which makes for some busy moments for those digits in some tunes.
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Old 11-02-2016, 10:39 AM   #4
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Default Re: Experience with keys on an SSP chanter?

You might want to read Liestmans book (its free) and can be found on the internet. There are descriptions of how keys are used.
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Old 11-02-2016, 12:09 PM   #5
Tjones79
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Default Re: Experience with keys on an SSP chanter?

Julian Goodacre and Callum Armstrong have been working with keys on a small pipe in A, mainly to extend the range with a speaker key and fill the gap when the chanter jumps the octave a 12th. This chanter that will play over two octaves with accidentals.

http://www.goodbagpipes.com/index.php/my-bagpipes/other-bagpipes/extended-scottish-smallpipes

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Old 11-03-2016, 09:49 AM   #6
Kevin
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Default Re: Experience with keys on an SSP chanter?

Thanks for these thoughts. I will look up Liestman's book.

I currently have a C-nat hole that I cover with my lower hand thumb so I only have one spare finger (top hand pinkie) available to operate keys for notes above high A. Goodacre's chanter looks interesting too. It seems to be similar in concept to Donald Lindsay's extended range chanter but different in implementation.

If anyone has any thoughts on how well keys might work for other fingers that already have a job, please let us know. I have been wondering about the possibility of keys for low F# and low E that are operated by the lower hand pinkie finger. Each of these keys would need to close a pad over each of the holes normally covered by the pinkie above the note (i.e. low A and low G to play low F# or low A, low G and low F# to play low E)

Best regards,
Kevin
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Old 11-03-2016, 05:56 PM   #7
Tjones79
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Default Re: Experience with keys on an SSP chanter?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin View Post
Thanks for these thoughts. I will look up Liestman's book.

I currently have a C-nat hole that I cover with my lower hand thumb so I only have one spare finger (top hand pinkie) available to operate keys for notes above high A. Goodacre's chanter looks interesting too. It seems to be similar in concept to Donald Lindsay's extended range chanter but different in implementation.

If anyone has any thoughts on how well keys might work for other fingers that already have a job, please let us know. I have been wondering about the possibility of keys for low F# and low E that are operated by the lower hand pinkie finger. Each of these keys would need to close a pad over each of the holes normally covered by the pinkie above the note (i.e. low A and low G to play low F# or low A, low G and low F# to play low E)

Best regards,
Kevin

So Kevin ~ what type of music do you want to play? Often the type of music played will dictate the features of the pipes.

If you play mostly the GHB repertoire then both Lindsay’s and Goodacre’s pipes will give you the sound of a traditional small pipe but extending the range. Callum demonstrated last year at the piper’s gathering that you could under blow his chanter to get lower notes without keys, as well as over blowing with the help of a speaker key to get the 2nd octave( I think he said he had a range of 22 notes). Lindsay’s pipe can achieve a expansive range without the use of keys, a very clever design idea, but I think at this time limited to 3D printed plastic pipes. Both have put a lot of work into their designs and I’m really unaware of others working to expand the range of the small pipes to the degree of these two. Keys add a degree of complexity that many pipe makers would rather not deal with. Keys can leak and need maintenance.

To extend the notes lower, the keys would look like the lower keys of a flute. Most Irish flute makers would rather not make these keys, and I would think that would be true of most pipe makers also.

I recently added two keys to my pastoral pipes in D; a G# (D#) and a Bb (F natural). The G# couldn’t be cross fingered and the Bb wasn’t strong enough cross fingered in the first octave and unplayable in the second. So by adding these two keys, it covers my needs for most of the music I play, Irish music, waltzes, etc.

I decide on the pastoral pipe because I didn’t care much for NP, didn’t what the learning curve of the uilleann pipe, but I wanted a pipe that could play mostly chromatic over two octaves, and at the time, there wasn’t small pipes with an extended range. Some differences between the extended small pipe and the pastoral pipe, is that the extended small pipe plays an octave lower, in the Key of A, and are mellower. The pastoral pipes are in D, with a leading note of middle C, extending over two octaves. It has a fingering similar to the highland pipes in the first octave and open in the second. It has a robust sound quite different than most other pipes, something I was looking for.

I feel you can add keys to compliment your chanter but if the music doesn’t call for it why bother? And if the music does call for an extended range then there are pipes that might be better suited. Border pipes, uilleann pipes, NP pipes, pastoral pipes, and now both Lindsey’s and Goodacre’s pipes.

Last edited by Tjones79; 11-03-2016 at 06:06 PM. Reason: added about fingering.
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Old 11-03-2016, 09:01 PM   #8
Ian Lawther
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Default Re: Experience with keys on an SSP chanter?

I play Nortumbrian pipes and also have a keyed border chanter by Nigel Richard of Garvie Bagpipes.

On Northumbrian pipes the keys are played with the right thumb or left pinky. I have a 17 keyed chanter which gives a fully chromatic range over two octaves. The left pinky plays 4 keys, the right thumb the other 13. For extending an SSP chanter I have seen a Northumbrian style key added to the left side of the chanter operated by the pinky to get a high B.

The Garvie border chanter is a very different beast. Nigel was an orchestral instrument repair man before getting into pipes and he has incorporated Boehm style keys on his chanter. There is description and pictures here
http://www.garviebagpipes.co.uk/info/pipes/keywork.html

For the notes above high A you actually have to use your upper thumb which means either placing it down on the key from a high A, or rolling your thumb onto it like a clarinet player does their upper index finger onto the higher notes.

I would say the Northumbrian style pinky operated high b is easier.

Ian
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Old 11-04-2016, 06:33 PM   #9
Kevin
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Default Re: Experience with keys on an SSP chanter?

Thanks for the info, lots to think about. I looked online for Liestman's tutor with no luck. Found a few links to Liestman.com but it doesn't seem to be active anymore. If anyone knows of a current source for it, please let me know.

I am interested in playing more Irish whistle and Cape Breton fiddle music on pipes. High B would allow me to play many many more tunes than the regular SSP scale. High C# and some downward extension notes would open up many more opportunities.

I was a beta tester of version 1 of Lindsay's extended range chanter and I'm looking forward to trying version 2, which should be ready soon. The range of notes available on the version 1 chanter is impressive (and perhaps more than I really need) but I found some of the ergonomics a bit awkward at times. My understanding is that Donald has improved the ergonomics significantly in the version 2 chanter. I am basically considering options at this point and trying to decide between a chanter with a few keys, Lindsay's version 2 chanter or perhaps a yet un-designed chanter that uses a combination of keys and a folded bore.

Ian, thanks for the info on your 17 keyed NSP chanter. Operating 13 keys with one thumb sounds intimidating but good to know its possible.

Thanks again,
Kevin
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Old 11-06-2016, 01:27 PM   #10
Richard Evans
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Default Re: Experience with keys on an SSP chanter?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin View Post
Thanks for the info, lots to think about. I looked online for Liestman's tutor with no luck. Found a few links to Liestman.com but it doesn't seem to be active anymore. If anyone knows of a current source for it, please let me know.
John Liestman's book is available as a download in exchange for a donation to charity.
Here's a cut-and-paste of the details:
"The Northumbrian Smallpipes Tutor by John Liestman is now available for download as a PDF, price 12 (or equivalent in other currencies).
The entire purchase cost of this book is being donated to Medecins Sans Frontiers. To make your donation (minimum 12), visit http://www.msf.org.uk/
Please do not allow the tutor to be copied or distributed without payment.

Let us know when you have made your donation and you will receive an email titled 'I shared "The-Northumbrian-Smallpipes-Tutor.pdf" with you in OneDrive' which includes a link for download."

You can get in touch with us via the email address on our website, www.evansbagpipes.co.uk
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