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Sheepskin hybrid versus synthetic hybrid bag

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  • Sheepskin hybrid versus synthetic hybrid bag

    It's time to replace my Bannatyne hybrid bag after 5 good years. The new buzz is sheepskin hybrid i.e. sheepskin wrapped in airtight suede outer liner. Anyone care to compare the two who has played both? Price of the sheepskin premier is now well over 400 CDN. Is the tonal quality really that much better than a Bannatyne hybrid with a drying system installed? I am playing in a Grade III band in sunny southern California with heat and low humidity. My drone reeds are Kinnaird Evolution. I play regularly.
    Tune it or die

  • #2
    Originally posted by Flameofwrath View Post
    It's time to replace my Bannatyne hybrid bag after 5 good years. The new buzz is sheepskin hybrid i.e. sheepskin wrapped in airtight suede outer liner. Anyone care to compare the two who has played both?
    Leagues apart. I've owned Bannatyne hybrids, Gannaways, a short stint with a Ross, Canmore hybrids, and now a L&S goatskin bag.

    For me the Bannatynes were tropical inside the bag, they didn't breathe. I found them wanting in the comfort dept. The L&S I have now is the Gandy cut and is similar to Canmores but even more ergonomic. The welt along the bottom of skin bags makes them teardrop shaped, the tie-in puckers the skin pulling the drones closer together and pulls the neck and blowpipe up toward your hands and angled toward your mouth. It becomes part of you while playing.

    Originally posted by Flameofwrath View Post
    Price of the sheepskin premier is now well over 400 CDN. Is the tonal quality really that much better than a Bannatyne hybrid with a drying system installed?
    Unless the MCS is only on the blowpipe (like a tube trap, TrapDri, Big Mac/Moose valve) and not in any of the reed stocks, they will always alter the tonal quality. I.E., anything in the reed stocks will absolutely change the sound adversely. Whether you like that alteration is up to you, it's not necessarily a bad thing. Especially if you need to play for several hours and just need the moisture consistency.

    However, it's been shown that the drone reeds in the bag can form an acoustic couple that amplifies their sound and can help with stabilizing if they resonate together. Therefore, the walls (bag) and stuff in the stocks (MCS) that the waves bounce off of, absorb, or otherwise block, matter. It affects things.

    I always felt the hybrid bags had the thickness that was plenty fine. Sheep players especially have always espoused how tonally superior the bags were, how the thick skin molds to your side after playing, and how moisture absorbing they are. I never really believed this tonal argument before. I chalked it up to confirmation bias due to the high price, much like I still do with certain old pipes that are claimed to be magical because of wood movement (which is a drop in an ocean compared to the type of reeds used, player playing it, type of room and the things in it that are reverberation off of).

    But owning a goatskin bag now which is very, very similar to sheep skin I can say that from my experience, being a skeptic, I was shocked how much my pipes came to life the first week I played it. It's not black or white but it's noticeable. And for me it's the same player, same room, and same reeds, the bag is the only variable change in that week. So yes, tonally it resonates.

    Originally posted by Flameofwrath View Post
    I am playing in a Grade III band in sunny southern California with heat and low humidity. My drone reeds are Kinnaird Evolution. I play regularly.
    The sheepskin hybrid bag that L&S offers is nice in that you can probably go without seasoning. Seasoning is.. well it's a necessary evil. I don't play regularly (1-2 week atm with life stuff happening) and my bag sometimes needs some water poured into the zipper and massaged around to reseal it fully. Sometimes it just needs more seasoning altogether, and even then every 6 months or so you're probably doing a full half-container seasoning session of Airtight and hanging to drip dry. I'm in PNW where there's decent temps but the humidity is around 50-60%. In SoCal you might get away with an initial full seasoning with the hybrid or maybe none at all based on my discussions with L&S.

    The trade off is that it cannot be tied in, it is grommets and house clamps only which means you don't get the ergonomics. And you also don't get the nice part of the seasoning, which is that I can play for an hour plus and have no appreciable moisture on my drone reeds. It's also not guaranteed that you won't need seasoning, so you may still be seasoning despite having paid more.

    I originally wanted the sheepskin hybrid but after speaking with L&S I went goatskin and I'm happy. I can understand the appeal of skin bags now, but I also could be happy with a good hybrid if the ergonomics were more there for me and the hide was much thicker. In my experience you will probably do better with any real hide bag, up to a skin bag, over a Bannatyne. And if you want a hybrid that handles moisture beautifully while still being more ergonomic then check out Canmore hybrids. Let us know what you choose.
    Happy Piping

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    • #3
      Did you end up purchasing a different bag FoW?
      Happy Piping

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      • #4
        Originally posted by William McKenzie View Post
        However, it's been shown that the drone reeds in the bag can form an acoustic couple that amplifies their sound and can help with stabilizing if they resonate together. Therefore, the walls (bag) and stuff in the stocks (MCS) that the waves bounce off of, absorb, or otherwise block, matter. It affects things.

        I always felt the hybrid bags had the thickness that was plenty fine. Sheep players especially have always espoused how tonally superior the bags were, how the thick skin molds to your side after playing, and how moisture absorbing they are. I never really believed this tonal argument before. I chalked it up to confirmation bias due to the high price, much like I still do with certain old pipes that are claimed to be magical because of wood movement (which is a drop in an ocean compared to the type of reeds used, player playing it, type of room and the things in it that are reverberation off of).

        But owning a goatskin bag now which is very, very similar to sheep skin I can say that from my experience, being a skeptic, I was shocked how much my pipes came to life the first week I played it. It's not black or white but it's noticeable. And for me it's the same player, same room, and same reeds, the bag is the only variable change in that week. So yes, tonally it resonates.
        I concur. I bought a cheap set of Kintails for St Pat's Day parade duty (since resold). It came with an old-school elkhide (cowhide) L&M bag on it. I played them for a bit and really did not like some of the higher harmonics coming off them. They sounded shrill and almost screechy. I prefer hide bags (I have sheepskin on my other sets), but because I wanted these to be absolutely low maintenance, I put on a Bannatyne hybrid. That's all I changed -- same reeds, same everything but for the bag. The screechiness totally disappeared. Not to say they sounded all that good, but that one aspect of the drone sound changed. This is an instance where not using hide improved the sound (IMO) but generally I think the reverse is true. As far as sheepskin goes, I've had certain setups where the bag literally buzzed under my arm. That had to have been amplifying certain frequencies in the drones.

        I'm not entirely sure how this applies to the original post except to say, yes, the bag definitely affects the sound of the instrument. It's not an old wives' (or PM's) tale....

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        • #5
          I have just put an L&S goatskin bag on my old ebony pipes and agree with William. I have done an initial treatment with seasoning to ensure air tightness and get a wee bit of moisture control. The drone sound is markedly enhanced, and the drones come in and out easily. I use a moose valve with a corrugated tube on the blowstick stock to get the air to the back of the bag and so far have had no moisture problems. For years I used hybrid bags on both my sets of pipes and was happy with them, but the L&S goat is a decided step up. The chanter does vibrate on the low G and A, though most likely there is some dampening because of the rubber drone collars, but I really do not want to cope again with direct-to-skin tie-ins.

          I went to this because I was issued a similar bag for my band pipes and was impressed by the difference in comfort, sound, ease of striking in, and decrease in moisture. The real test for the latter will come when the band goes back to parades and concerts and we get a couple of hours of on and off playing. The PM has been playing a goatskin for several years and swears by it, and so the whole pipe corps are moving to them.

          As a final comment, I must say that it is stunning in the improvements there have been over 40 + years in drone and chanter reeds, chanters, bags, and tuners. The old boys in the old days could produce wonderful music, but it is sure much easier for the the average player to get it all going today.

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