Scottish Highland Smallpipes in A, b flat and hi D. Bellows or mouth blown, drones in common or separate stocks
A Discussion of the various Species of Scottish Bagpipes:
Before we go into a discussion about our bagpipes, we need to give a little background information. Various makers and players have different ways of catagorizing the different species of bagpipes. We choose to divide them up into groups according to the chanter bore design. There are several species and numerous subspecies of Scottish smallpipes. In addition to the Highland Smallpipes and Great Pipes we make, there are 2 other species of Scottish pipes: Lowland Smallpipes; and Scottish Border Pipes.
Scottish Border Pipes: they sound like a GHB, but are quieter - similar to a “reel” pipe, and are often called a half-size pipe.. They use a modified GHB chanter reed, and are often bellows blown w/ a common stock. They can also be mouth blown with separate stocks for the drones. They and have a conically bored chanter like the GHB, but with a shallower cone to yeild a softer tone. At the present time, we have Border drons available, but our chanter is n the prototype stage..
Scottish Lowland Smallpipes in their modern incarnations use a northumbrian type of chanter reed/bore system. Yes - I know it's confusing, and that's a story in itself! They can have keyed chanters, and the sound is both a bit louder and different than the Highland Smallpipes. Tmy knowledge, Colin ROss, a Northumbrian pipemaker, was responsible for the resurgence in interest in this instrument.
Now to the pipes we make:
The Highland Smallpipes [HSP's] in their mouth blown versions are also called parlor pipes, miniature pipes, and chamber pipes. Walsh's Shuttle pipes and Gibson's Fireside pipes are subspecies of this pipe. Their defining characteristic is that they use a practice chanter type reed for the chanter, and operate at a slightly higher pressure than the Lowland pipes. Their natural sound volume blends well with acoustic instruments such as with fiddle, guitar, or harp, and with strong reeds can be as loud as Lowland Smallpipes, but still aren't loud enough for most session playing.
Our pipes standardly come with a hand rubbed medium to high gloss oil & wax finish. -See GHB notes for a complete description. They have your choice of nickel, brass or sterling silver ferrules, and come with our own machine stitched/glued seam leather bag & hand stitched bellows. The mouth blown versions come with separate stocks in a Piob Mhor configuration, and drone cords. They come reeded, wax-hemped, seasoned[mouth blown only], tuned, and ready to play.
The common stock can be tied in to rest on the shoulder where the bass drone would go for mouth blowing, or in its more usual confoguration where the drones lay across the chest to the right shoulder for bellows or combination bellows & mouth blowing [recommended]. The mouth blown version, with separate stocks, is also known as the “parlor pipe” or “miniature pipe”. Although our original bore design was based on two antique instruments, there has been much evolution over the years to its current state. We have developed a bore system based on the plastic practice chanter reed. This enables the same instrument to operate either mouth or bellows blown. You can have your instrument set up to do both, something we believe to be unique in smallpipes today.
Our drones come equipped with our Delrin bodied, plastic tongued reeds - These reeds are very stable and will last for decades with care. The tongues are very delicately set up though, so take great care in handling them. You can also use cane drone reeds if they are available, or in a pinch you can use plastic practice chanter reeds - but they're not quite as steady. The same drones are used for both the A & B-flat chanters.
The3 drones can be set up 2 ways:1] Bass, Baritone and Tenor [recommended] or 2] Bass & 2 tenors. The major difference Between HSP drones and GHB drones is that the BAss is only one octave lower and the tenors are in unison with Low A on the chanter. [On the great pipes, the tenors are one octave lower, and the bass is two octaves lower than low A.] People that play the pipes with both the A and B-flat chanters have been tuning one tenor to A and the other to B-flat, thereby only needing to retune the bass when switching back and forth.
The D set comes with three drones: a tenor drone pitched at D in unison with the chanter; a baritone drone at A; and a bass drone at D an octave below the tenor.
We now offer 2 drone sets. This eliminates the baritone drone on the “D”'s and the 2nd tenor on the “A/Bflat”'s. Some people consider the third drone - especially when it is the Baritone drone - to be unnecessary, or to contribute too much harmonic presence. We are now offering the two drone sets in response to this request.
We also offer a 4 drone set so you can play A, [or B flat], and D by switching chanters and having the drones for all the chanters in one stock. The four drone set comes with: a tenor drone pitched at D as above; alto drone at A; baritone drone at D an octave below tenor; and a bass drone at A an octave below the alto. You will notice a pressure difference when you switch from the D chanter to the A or B-flat chanter. This a consequence of using the same reed for both instruments, requiring a bit of retuning of the drones when you switch back and forth.
On all sets, the chanter comes with a detachable hemped stock body, and a substock which is tied into the bag. This serves as a blank stock or reed protector, allowing you to remove or exchange chanters easily without exposing the reed. Our chanters are set up with plastic chanter reeds. These reeds eliminate most of the temperature and humidity change problems associated with cane reeds. However, take extreme care of them. They must be individually tuned to the chanter to have a perfectly balanced scale. You may get lucky when going to replace the reed, but the best route is to take great care of it, and purchase a spare with your pipes. If bellows blown, these reeds can last for decades! The reeds aren't as easy to adjust as great pipe reeds, so extra care should be taken when handling the chanter and reed. Should you experience difficulty in balancing a new chanter reed, we recommend that you send the reed and chanter - in it's stock body of course - to us for setting up. Usually you can tap the end of the drone to shut it off, but optional drone plugs can also be used to shut off the drones for tuning. They are attached to the top of the drone -under the bell- with a cord “safety binding” and dangle when not in use. I've also used pipe cleaners in the bore as drone plugs - not as elegant, but functional! See Piob Mor description for more details on the materials used in the pipes including silverwork by Steve Walker Metalsmiths . A Bor Mor valve is supplied with the pipes, as well as our Cushing mouthpiece on the mouth blown versions
These pipes standardly come with our Highland Smallpipe [HSP] Chanter in A, B-flat or D. This chanter has samll chamfered holes, and the "A" chanter has a bit longer reach for Low A than a usual GHB Chanter. The Full size chanter remains the best choice if you want the time spent on your HSP to help your GHB playing. The new chanter would be the choice if you want a bit more volume in playing situations. The cost is the same, just specify HSP chanter in your choice of key when ordering.Call or write for more information.
Of interest to Great pipe players, the B-flat set can use our Full Size Chanter with the same spacing and hole size as the Piob Mor, so all of your practice on the smallpipes translates perfectly to them.
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