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Smallpipe makers?

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  • #16
    If you go with a bellows, the seller will likely have everything set up and ready to go. You shouldn't have to fiddle with the chanter reed (or the drone reeds) at all. When I bought mine, I did purchase a second chanter reed as a backup, but I have never used it. Without the moisture to deal with, the chanter reed will last a very, very long time.


    • #17
      Originally posted by MariaF View Post
      Would going for bellows with a plastic reed and a cane reed too be a way perhaps. Then if it all works out smoothly with the cane - yay - and otherwise there is a plastic backup to save me...
      So the problem here is that cane and plastic reeds behave slightly differently - both will "work" in a given chanter but they won't both intonate well. Unfortunately, you pretty much need a chanter designed for the reed.

      In terms of setup, yes, most makers will set an instrument up in good order before sending it, but obviously the transit process and climate changes along the way can do bad things. If you have big humidity swings you might like to look at spruce rather than cane reeds - these cope with the changes a bit better. Nate Banton has also done some work on making reeds that are more resistant to humidity changes.
      -- Formerly known as CalumII


      • #18
        Since Maria is listed as being in Sweden, some recommendations from that side of the Atlantic might be helpful. There is a listing of pipemakers on the Lowland and Border Piping Society's web site at Additionally, the Bagpipe Society has a lot of info on their web site.
        Best wishes.
        "Some folks say I'm apathetic, but really I don't care."
        ~ Robert Earl Keen ~


        • #19
          Again, thanks to everyone.
          Definitely leaning towards bellows.. although a bit scared buying an expensive instrument like that without ever trying bellows before. But as many pointed out here and elsewhere, it should not be too hard to learn.
          Crossing fingers I will end up with a well set-up instrument that copes well with possible climate differences.

          In the list I find makers closer to me, but I am slightly biased towards Scottish and American makers. Maybe I should not be..


          • #20
            HI Maria,

            I'll toss my hat in as one of the old timers around here.

            I play both. In regard to reeds and tuning... well.. its a bear. When I first starting playing 20 years ago, I would play so much I got what we call a "piper's headache". Something awful. Had to stop playing ( I learned later it was from terrible from and overblowing) so I would tinker with my drones for hours.. until the headaches went away.

            That 1st year was invaluable. I learned a LOT about drone reeds.. and how they need to meld with the chanter reed. harmonics, blend, "locking" (yes that is real- the 4 reeds can and dare I say "should" lock) and how to manipulate them all in rain, heat, draught, cold,.. alll NY weather.

            So, if you are turning away from the GHB because of frustration in tuning.. I might humbly suggest to get around some men or women who seriously know how to tune... that know that aspect of the instrument. I am only a Gr 3/2 piper. But I have decent ears and understand (with the help of some solid players and guys who "have the ear" around here) the instrument. It is not just needs to be mentored and passed along. There are some of us that can talk and play and swap out reeds and drones and bags and chanters... forever!! Because we love the sound we can make from all the nuanced adjustments.

            You can learn all this.

            Having said all that- the SSP in bellows are very very stable. There is no moisture introduced. So once you learn how to tune those little drones against your chanter, you are very. much plug and play once you have "blown down" with your bellows technique. It always takes me at least 5 minutes to settle in (but I am not a natural on the bellows).

            If one has that fickle ear (not better- just fickle), one might say that bellows sounds richer due to the cane reed. Others do not care or do not notice a difference. That is 100% up to your ear.

            Gee whiz.. this is a ramble perhaps.. hope it helps in some way.

            I have played a lot of drones.. and my SSP drone testing is racking up a bit now too. Ray Hughes makes (made) my first set and is amazing. I am not sure he makes sets anymore. Chris Pinchbeck also made me a set ( I *think* his last one) before he retired. If you can find a used one.. you will NEVER regret it. Bellows all the way.

            God bless and Godspeed on your journey. Reach out anytime! I can also point you to some lifelong friends around here that are as crazy as me and more than willing to help out in this amazing journey. above all... have fun!!!! Enjoy the journey.

            David NY

            dwmurry at

            "A man looks down a dark tunnel he must walk, and sees no light and the end of it. It is at that moment that his character is revealed."