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Problem arising from different sized holes on practice and pipe chanters

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  • Problem arising from different sized holes on practice and pipe chanters

    So, the current technique item that I’m trying to improve is my birl. I’m using the 7 birl, as that seems to be the one I can do most consistently—on the practice chanter. The issue is that the holes (specifically low-A) are considerably larger on my actual pipe chanter, and this has resulted in me not being able to translate the birl from practice to pipe chanter. I’ve looked around online and cannot find any practice chanters with a larger low A. I do see some pipe chanters with smaller holes. Are there practice chanters with bigger holes? Can I just drill a larger low-A into my practice chanter without mangling the sound? Do pipe chanters with smaller holes still sound the same?

    What is the best solution here? I can’t very well sit around with my actual pipes for half an hour at a time just playing birls. My neighbors (not to mention family) would kill me.

  • #2
    Some pipers with small hands/fingers put tape over the bottom of the low A hole on their pipe chanter. This does does not affect the pitch of the note, but makes the hole a bit smaller. Ultimately, more practice of the birl on the pipes is the best solution. After all, generations of pipers have successfully made this transition, including thousands who learned their birl on older chanters with much smaller holes than those on most contemporary ones.
    Ian
    http://www.thepipersden.net

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    • #3
      Originally posted by acadianpiper View Post
      Ultimately, more practice of the birl on the pipes is the best solution. After all, generations of pipers have successfully made this transition, including thousands who learned their birl......
      You read my mind as I was reading the initial post.
      Last edited by Andrew Lenz; 06-24-2021, 03:46 PM. Reason: Fixed block quote syntax

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      • #4
        Yeah I'm not sure there's much you can do other than to keep practicing until you can't get it wrong. Don't be discouraged though! Bagpipes are hard to play.

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        • #5
          "I’ve looked around online and cannot find any practice chanters with a larger low A. I do see some pipe chanters with smaller holes. Are there practice chanters with bigger holes? Can I just drill a larger low-A into my practice chanter without mangling the sound? Do pipe chanters with smaller holes still sound the same?

          1. Some long PCs have counter-sunk holes to give your fingers the feeling of the larger holes on the "real"chanter.
          2. you could save he money you'd spend on such a chanter and just put more time into practicing silently on the real chanter: If you insert a straw( or something like that) into the reed seat of your pipe chanter and blow gently. you will hear a soft "Breeze" sound . By changing your fingering, that breeze will change pitch, just as if you were playing,(but very quietly). I often "stealth practice on my PC that way so only I can hear it.
          Last edited by Andrew Lenz; 06-25-2021, 11:25 AM. Reason: Typo fix.
          Slainte Leibh/ Slan Leat, Bob Cameron

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          • #6
            I encountered this issue years ago when trying to learn a different style of birl, the lower holes of my Practice Chanters were different sizes and spaced differently than my Pipe Chanter.

            What I did was to take my "beater" Practice Chanter, a plain Polypenco one, and use a Dremel to scoop out indentations/excavations around the lower-hand finger-holes so that their size and spacing were exactly the same as my Pipe Chanter.

            Due to the Pipe Chanter holes being so much bigger than the Practice Chanter holes you have quite a bit of leeway as to where the "hole" is placed.

            It only took a few minutes to do.
            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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            • #7
              Thanks for the responses. Practicing something like that on the big pipes is tough since I’m in an apartment. I think I’ll do something liken pancelticpiper suggests and drill a larger hole in the practice chanter, then have it serve as my “experimenting” chanter. That means I’ll need a second practice chanter, but so be it.

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              • #8
                On another note, I’m experimenting with a birl that doesn’t involve a tap or sweep, but just uncurls the pinky and then immediately curls again, so there is only lateral movement across the hole. Does anyone else do this?

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                • #9
                  Mmmm...the point of the birl is that you are combining two dissimilar movements in order to gain speed in the movement. A technique that uses a reversing movement seems to me to be counter-productive - though that said the up-down style of birl works well for some, though it seems to be waning these days.
                  http://www.callingthetune.co.uk
                  -- Formerly known as CalumII

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                  • #10
                    Davidck, and to All,

                    Returning to--the size--or lack thereof--of the holes for
                    the notes on the pc--Time was--just a quick trip to the
                    local hardware store--and returning with a wide and
                    rather shallow-reach wood reamer--and at no great
                    cost--took care of this matter--and quite handily!! :-)

                    Careful approach--and judicious slow turning of the
                    reamer--easily enlarges the tops of the holes--and--
                    Bob's Your Uncle!! :-)

                    Tone?! Well--back then--seldom few ever thought the
                    pc to be anywhere near--a musical instrument!! :-)

                    It was simply our device--and with many sounding like
                    a very unhappy Duck!!--that got us to (properly) learn
                    the fingering--and then begin to strengthen our lips and
                    our lungs.

                    Wishing you--and All--the Very Best of Good Fortune!! :-)

                    Pip01

                    A Very Quick Post Script:

                    Judiciously!!--oh so very Judiciously--this same technique
                    is easily applied to pipe chanters--wood or synthie--But!!--
                    with the very greatest of care--and concern--and relaxed--
                    though thoughtful--ease--of approach.

                    Again--wishing for Everyone!!--All the Best--with any such!!

                    Pip01

                    Last edited by Pip01; 06-29-2021, 06:04 AM.
                    My friends all know,
                    With what a brave carouse...

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                    • #11
                      Thanks Pip, I wasn’t nearly that gentle, and just took an electric drill to the damned thing. I accidentally drilled a new hole in the back, but one strip of electric tape (and a sharp piece of plastic lodged in my foot) later, I was back in business with no discernable change to the pitch.

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                      • #12
                        I second the tape over the bottom of the hole on the pipe chanter.

                        I recently had to change birl styles from the tap-drag to the down-up (some tendinitis in my pinky was making the curling motion difficult and causing non-stop pain in my hand) and found that my birls weren’t quite as clean as I’d like. A little tape (actually two pieces making a V on the LA and B holes) have made my birls much more consistent.
                        You don't have fun by winning. You win by having fun.

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                        • #13
                          How does tape on the low B make a difference to your birls?

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                          • #14
                            When sweeping my pinky down for a birl, my B finger tends to roll a little, and making the hole smaller helps alleviate that.
                            You don't have fun by winning. You win by having fun.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Davidck View Post
                              ...do something liken pancelticpiper suggests and drill a larger hole in the practice chanter...
                              To be clear, I didn't drill larger holes, and though that might work it's not necessary to go to that much trouble.

                              What I did was use a Dremel to scoop out shallow indentations. They only have to be deep enough for your fingers to feel the edges. The actual hole is left alone, and can be anywhere in the large circular depression. That's the leeway I spoke of- it's not necessary for the actual tone-holes of the practice chanter to be repositioned or enlarged.

                              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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