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  • Bags, reeds, and other animals...

    Greetings. I'm slowly getting up to speed on things that have changed in the last 12 years. Today I attended the first Scottish games I've been to in almost 13 years (Salado, TX). It was great fun, and I saw some old piping friends and judges.

    More questions have arisen that I want to subject to the forum's collective wisdom. I've found a good bag for my "street" pipes - a plain but sturdy set of Maclellans - but am still deliberating the more important decision for my former solo pipes, a fine old (c1905) Henderson set. I thank you in advance for guidance and advice.

    1. What are the distinctive characteristics of the L&S Gandy bag? I could not find a description on their Web site.
    2. How does the L&S cowhide and goatskin bag rate versus the Gannaway cowhide bag? I played a Gannaway for several years and liked it very much. (I don't really want the maintenance of a sheep skin bag, at least at this time.)
    3. When I was piping years ago, a common maxim was to play the largest bag one could manage. I'm almost 6' tall with average arm length for my height, and have always played a medium bag. However, today I played a friend's pipes with a Gannaway extended small bag, and it was really quite comfortable. I noticed no need to increase my usual blowing tempo, or any noticeable loss of air volume. Do any of you choose to play a bag smaller than the size common for your stature, or have you made a choice at some time to move to a smaller bag size?
    4. Re Ezee drone reeds (I pirated my Rockets and cane bass from the Hendersons to put in my MacLellans until the Henderson is set up again, so I want some solid but low-maintenance reeds for the Maclellans):
    a) can anybody comment on Ezee drone reeds in MacLellan pipes; would you recommend others instead?
    b) what distinguishes the Ezee inverted bass from the non-inverted model?
    c) Are the high-absorption reeds worth the few extra dollars?

    My apologies for such a long list of questions, and sincere gratitude for your comments.

    Cheers!
    Eddie
    "All politeness is owing to Liberty. We polish one another, and rub off our Corners and rough Sides by a sort of amicable Collision." Lord Shaftesbury

  • #2
    A lot of your questions I cannot answer from experience....except for the pipe bag size.
    I grew up in the biggest was best era....and it's hogwash....
    I'm 5'11", and have slightly long arms....and have a physical build...not a body builder...but in decent shape.
    I play/have played/ extended small bags by Ross, Gannaway and Canmore Hybrid....have never wanted or needed anything larger.
    several of the pipers in my band have tried my pipes when they found themselves in need of a new bag....and have down sized to an extended small...all grown men of normal stature...and are quite happy...
    I also run a Canmore hybrid medium on one set of pipes, I can play it just fine....but it gives me nothing over the extended small...

    Comment


    • #3
      Thank, you, Lochie. Your experience confirms the brief time I had with the Gannaway extended small today. I expected a small bag to be more demanding of air, but it was not. It fit very comfortably under the arm. You and I are of similar build, so your comments will help me make a decision. I also bought the Canmore hybrid medium for my MacLellan "street" set, and I like it, but I want a pure hide bag - at least cowhide - for the old Hendersons. Thanks again!
      Eddie
      "All politeness is owing to Liberty. We polish one another, and rub off our Corners and rough Sides by a sort of amicable Collision." Lord Shaftesbury

      Comment


      • #4
        I would stick with Gannaway if for no other reason than the seam on L&S bags is so thick, tying the chanter stock in is a pita. It couldn’t be easier with the Gannaway, as you know.
        My Piping Blog (recordings, articles, reviews, etc.) - Homepage - Pekaar's Tune Encyclopedia - Convert BMW to ABC

        Comment


        • #5
          Hi, Patrick. Thank you. Do you use a Gannaway bag, too? My old one was a full tie-in, which I very much liked - though the chanter stock was especially a chore - but I think I would go with the grommets this time. Perhaps I've gotten lazy....
          Eddie
          "All politeness is owing to Liberty. We polish one another, and rub off our Corners and rough Sides by a sort of amicable Collision." Lord Shaftesbury

          Comment


          • #6
            I currently play a Gannaway (and like it), though I'm considering switching to either sheepskin or goatskin L&S, based upon some recommendations from others. I agree with Lochie that the bigger bag the better is crap. I went through that period with a band and had nothing but shoulder problems...until I switched to a medium. As for EZs, I've never had good luck with them in my drones (Kilgour); but I appreciate that they are loved by many others, and thus have an excellent reputation. It's a case of it they work, great! I haven't the foggiest in MacLellans. Sorry.

            Comment


            • #7
              I can't speak to the L&S v. Gannaway, but in general, there are several essential components that go together to make a really good stable bagpipe: instrument, reeds, bag, and moisture control. If you don't have that stability, the trick is to identify which of these points is the problem - and if none of them are a problem, then I wouldn't change for the sake of it!

              On bag size, generally you want the smallest bag you can comfortably handle, IMO.

              On drone reeds, I'm not sure about the MacLellan drone design, but it's worth pointing out that Rockets are made and designed for the instrument they were sold for, and may not suit other drones. Ezeedrone tenors go well in practically anything, though, and I'd be surprised if they were difficult in the MacLellans. Bass reeds are more difficult and in general many people swap out the bass for something else, often a Kinnaird or Henderson-style bass reed. Inverted reeds are generally fairly similar: the main differences are a (very) slightly more muted sound, and they tend to be easier to strike in.

              With the high absorption reeds, my first reaction is that if you need them, then you'd be better addressing moisture control first, as treating causes rather than symptoms is always the way to go. But if you've done all you can, and you still need an extra 20-30 minutes out your drones, then they would seem to make sense.
              http://www.callingthetune.co.uk
              -- Formerly known as CalumII

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Eddie Selden View Post
                Hi, Patrick. Thank you. Do you use a Gannaway bag, too? My old one was a full tie-in, which I very much liked - though the chanter stock was especially a chore - but I think I would go with the grommets this time. Perhaps I've gotten lazy....
                The chanter stock doesn’t have the grommet, only the drone and blowpipe stocks. Grommets are okay, I prefer tie-in; just less bulky. Gannaway’s chanter stock tie-in is very straightforward as opposed to leather bags with seams (I feel like there’s a better word for that wad of leather that sticks out the bottom where the bag is sewn together, but I can’t think of it right now). Anyways, Gannaway has a flat seam which is super convenient.
                My Piping Blog (recordings, articles, reviews, etc.) - Homepage - Pekaar's Tune Encyclopedia - Convert BMW to ABC

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Patrick McLaurin View Post

                  The chanter stock doesn’t have the grommet, only the drone and blowpipe stocks. Grommets are okay, I prefer tie-in; just less bulky. Gannaway’s chanter stock tie-in is very straightforward as opposed to leather bags with seams (I feel like there’s a better word for that wad of leather that sticks out the bottom where the bag is sewn together, but I can’t think of it right now). Anyways, Gannaway has a flat seam which is super convenient.
                  Hi, Patrick. Are they called welts? I have a hard time remembering the name for them, also. I've kept them from the old Gannaway, to tie in the chanter stock. Like you, I like the comfort and flexibility of a tied-in bag, and haven't yet decided not to do so again. I bought a Canmore hybrid with grommets for my Maclellans, and have been pleased with it so far; that has eased my mind somewhat about using a grommeted bag for the Hendersons.
                  Eddie
                  "All politeness is owing to Liberty. We polish one another, and rub off our Corners and rough Sides by a sort of amicable Collision." Lord Shaftesbury

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Calum View Post
                    I can't speak to the L&S v. Gannaway, but in general, there are several essential components that go together to make a really good stable bagpipe: instrument, reeds, bag, and moisture control. If you don't have that stability, the trick is to identify which of these points is the problem - and if none of them are a problem, then I wouldn't change for the sake of it!

                    On bag size, generally you want the smallest bag you can comfortably handle, IMO.

                    On drone reeds, I'm not sure about the MacLellan drone design, but it's worth pointing out that Rockets are made and designed for the instrument they were sold for, and may not suit other drones. Ezeedrone tenors go well in practically anything, though, and I'd be surprised if they were difficult in the MacLellans. Bass reeds are more difficult and in general many people swap out the bass for something else, often a Kinnaird or Henderson-style bass reed. Inverted reeds are generally fairly similar: the main differences are a (very) slightly more muted sound, and they tend to be easier to strike in.

                    With the high absorption reeds, my first reaction is that if you need them, then you'd be better addressing moisture control first, as treating causes rather than symptoms is always the way to go. But if you've done all you can, and you still need an extra 20-30 minutes out your drones, then they would seem to make sense.
                    Thank you, Calum - excellent points all around. Fortunately, I'm not facing any problems. Both sets are in fine playing condition, but both needed new bags and a bit of new gear since I haven't piped much in a decade. I'm very fond of the Gannaway, and will probably stick with it for the old Hendersons. I competed very successfully with those, using Rocket tenors and a cane base. The Rockets were picked up second hand about 15 years ago, but they suit the Henderson pipes beautifully and are still in excellent condition. All my other drone reeds are old and not suiting the Maclellans well, so I thought I would treat it to some new tenor reeds (the Rockets will go back in the Henderson pipes once a bag is on it again); I have several cane bass reeds which will work fine in it. I don't know if Ezee reeds are the best choice for a MacLellan set, but I've heard them in several pipes and they sounded just fine; and the MacLellans are used just for fun and outdoor piping in places where I don't want to expose the Hendersons.

                    Thankfully, I've never had a moisture problem. As long as I seasoned the Gannaway occasionally, a simple tube trap was more than sufficient to keep it dry for even long playing sessions. I was just curious about the Ezee absorption model because I had not seen them before - I don't think they were available when I was piping previously.

                    Thanks!
                    Eddie
                    "All politeness is owing to Liberty. We polish one another, and rub off our Corners and rough Sides by a sort of amicable Collision." Lord Shaftesbury

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Eddie Selden View Post

                      Hi, Patrick. Are they called welts? I have a hard time remembering the name for them, also. I've kept them from the old Gannaway, to tie in the chanter stock. Like you, I like the comfort and flexibility of a tied-in bag, and haven't yet decided not to do so again. I bought a Canmore hybrid with grommets for my Maclellans, and have been pleased with it so far; that has eased my mind somewhat about using a grommeted bag for the Hendersons.
                      The Gannaway grommets are more universal but also quite a bit bulkier than the canmore. A toolbox would make a good case for such because the pipes don’t fold all that well.

                      Welt is exactly the word! In that Gannaway do not have a welt and so don’t need those rolled leather doodads. You can tie a chanter in a Gannaway in one shot. I remember working with Nick (can’t recall if you met him, from Houston) and it took us over an hour to get the chanter semi-airtight on a L&S cowhide. And for it he had to season it every other month to keep it airtight, in general.
                      My Piping Blog (recordings, articles, reviews, etc.) - Homepage - Pekaar's Tune Encyclopedia - Convert BMW to ABC

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Eddie Selden View Post
                        1. What are the distinctive characteristics of the L&S Gandy bag? I could not find a description on their Web site.
                        2. How does the L&S cowhide and goatskin bag rate versus the Gannaway cowhide bag? I played a Gannaway for several years and liked it very much. (I don't really want the maintenance of a sheep skin bag, at least at this time.)
                        3. When I was piping years ago, a common maxim was to play the largest bag one could manage. I'm almost 6' tall with average arm length for my height, and have always played a medium bag. However, today I played a friend's pipes with a Gannaway extended small bag, and it was really quite comfortable. I noticed no need to increase my usual blowing tempo, or any noticeable loss of air volume. Do any of you choose to play a bag smaller than the size common for your stature, or have you made a choice at some time to move to a smaller bag size?
                        4. Re Ezee drone reeds (I pirated my Rockets and cane bass from the Hendersons to put in my MacLellans until the Henderson is set up again, so I want some solid but low-maintenance reeds for the Maclellans):
                        a) can anybody comment on Ezee drone reeds in MacLellan pipes; would you recommend others instead?
                        b) what distinguishes the Ezee inverted bass from the non-inverted model?
                        c) Are the high-absorption reeds worth the few extra dollars?
                        1 - The Gandy cut has a similar footprint to a medium bag, in the sense that the reservoir part behind/under your shoulder is the same as a medium. However, the drone stocks holes (if precut) are closer to the front of the bag, and the front of the bag is narrower than a standard medium. Alex Gandy described it on facebook - "The drones are slightly closer to the chanter stock than conventional, and the front half of the bag is slightly narrower. Think almost like a longer slice of pizza. The back end would be similar to a medium but that doesn't really impact you as it sits behind your arm."

                        2 - Lee and Sons cowhide tends to be a bit more pliable than the comparative Gannaway, and then goat would be slightly stiffer than Gannaway (though not as much stiffer as sheep). So, in a ranking of heft, L&S cow then Gannaway then L&S goat. Though, it's worth mentioning that the L & S bags have a welt where Gannaways have a glued seam, so gannaways are more flexible in the blowpipe to floor axis, where L & S bags are more flexible in the shoulder to shoulder axis.

                        3 - I think that bag size depends more on arm and build than height, so if you are of a more endowed trunk so to speak (like me), you'll want a smaller bag than someone built more toward the spaghetti noodle end of the spectrum. I've always been right on the cut off between ext small and medium, and medium is more what I'm used to. But, as a result, I use a shorter blowstick to account for the bigger bag, and I also tie the chanter stock pretty far into the bag (basically shortening the neck).

                        ---4a - I've never knowingly played a set of maclellans with ezees, so you'll have to defer to other's answers

                        ---4b - The inverted bass has the free/vibrating end of the tongue toward the reed seat, where the standard bass has the free end of the tongue toward the bag reservoir (more along the lines of tenor drone reeds). This means that the air has to go up the stock, bounce off of the drone bottom, and then into the reed. A lot of people notice a slight mellowing of the tone and much more reliable strike-in behavior with the inverted bass reeds than the standard, despite all other variables being the same.

                        ---4c - I think the increased absorption reeds are worth it if you need them, but otherwise, they're just ever so slightly mellower than the original body. So, if you're having moisture issues, or if your tenors are just a bit too much and you want to tone them down a half-hair, absolutely. But, I would be tempted to get used to a bag and set up and track results before I would buy them. In other words, my thought is wait until you know you need/want them. Standard ezeedrones are so ubiquitous that you can almost use them as a benchmark to judge drones, rather than the other way around.

                        Hope these answers help, but also there's no accounting for taste and there's no telling how something will exactly behave in your specific case without just trying it. Best of luck, and welcome back to it!
                        Jack
                        Serving Jello with a ladle since... forever

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Lot of great advice already.

                          Bags: I've owned Gannaways, Bannatyne hybrids, Canmore hybrids, and a L&S
                          • I played a fully tied in goatskin L&S Gandy for many months up until a few weeks ago when I sold it to downsize. It was too large for me and I could never quite get comfortable with it. I've traditionally found myself between a medium and an extended small size myself and I am 5'10", average build, long 34" sleeve.
                          • I love the goatskin for its thickness and its moisture control. I didn't love adding water to it each week to bring the seasoning back to life in order to make sure the bag was not sieving air. I was only playing once, or once every other, week though. YMMV.
                          • All welted bags suck when it comes to tying in the chanter stock IMO. I don't feel L&S are doing anything differently here than any others like Bennett, Begg, etc. I re-tied my chanter stock a second time with blue tack in the groove which sealed it.
                          • If I were going sheepskin or goatskin again I would not hesitate to purchase another L&S. I found the bag was worth the cost.
                          • If I were going cow I would probably go Gannaway for the primer, the equally good shape, and the non-existent flat welt.
                          • I agree that the smaller bag that you can comfortably play is the best option. Some players like playing larger bags that they can keep "topped up" with their breath and less arm movement. That's fine, whatever works for you. I have tried to do this with mediums as I found it easier than personally trying to truly focus on relaxing my squeezing shoulder and pulling from my back muscles on smaller sized bags.
                          • After working on posture plus ergonomics this year I have just switched back to an extended small and I am now much more relaxed than I ever have been, despite any increased squeezing movement. I've really leaned into a nice elbow in-out cadence like a bellows, my breathing is nice and even now.
                          • I am not a fan of grommets. I've had several grommeted bags over the years but many more traditional tie-ins. The extended small just I went back to is a regular Canmore hybrid and it took me as long to hose clamp a drone stock in neatly, plus cover the clamp in rubber tubing to protect the bag, as I spent physically tying in the chanter stock with cord. Grommets largely restrict stock movement, they dampen the drone stock vibration, they don't in my estimation save tie-in time (not to mention slipping a screwdriver into your fingers when tightening hose clamps if you're not careful), and they fail so often it seems.
                          • I ordered a non-grommeted full tie-in hybrid bag direct from Canmore and I am loving it. Fit is excellent. Absolutely tight as a drum, goatskin level moisture control (and better even), and no maintenance.
                          • I cannot live without a zipper on my pipe bag. I don't play with anything in my reed stocks but I still just can't. Makings tying in, drying the hybrid bag, using any tube trap you'd like, etc. possible.
                          Happy Piping

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I've had a small L&S goatskin bag, grommeted and zippered, for about six months. I had a medium for a couple of months but couldn't get comfortable with it - just a bit too big for me. I use a Moose valve with a TrapDri in a hose on the blowstick stock. After a 90 minute band practice, pouring off from the Moose valve several times, the TrapDri has a bit of liquid to shake out, and the drone swabs come out barely moist. The bag is "broken in", very comfortable for me (I'm 5'6"). The joy about the bag is the incredible drone sound: bigger, richer, more robust. Most of us in the band have goatskin bags, and it sounds as though we had added 3 or 4 pipers.

                            I, too, started in the "bigger is better" period, but have long since taken Jim McGillivray's advice - go small - and it has made my playing easier and better.

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