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View Full Version : Synthetics - making the piping world better?


wjjagfan
20-03-07, 07:16 PM
There has always been a lot of resistance to changes and from what I've seen the piping world is no different. I think it's a good thing, because it forces those with innovative ideas to make their best attempts at comformity to what looks, sounds and feels traditional.

I was not around when drone reeds went synthetic and missed out on that debate (though it still flares from time to time); and I just caught the tail end of the synthetic bag debate (which still rages in some quarters). Still there are many technical developements that are resisted. I remember when I bought my pipes I ordered a zipper bag and my instructor tried very hard to steer me away from them. Now he plays a zipper bag and so does nearly our entire band.

Being fairly new to piping, I don't really have any prejudices yet, so I've just done the research and ordered what I felt would help me. For example, I've done fairly well with strike in and cut off, but I usually wind up squeezing the heck out of my bag to get a good cut off at the end (curse of the synthetic bag). I bought a set of drone valves for my canister system and ... problem gone!!

I've been looking at the Clanrye chanter reed. Haven't bought one yet, but I think I will sometime. I think as synthetic chanter reeds keep improving and someone starts to win in competition with them they will become fairly standard.

I've heard many comments in our band among older pipers about the nightmares of old cane drone reeds and seasoning hide bags, etc. Then I watch our pipe major and pipe sergent working on chanter reeds and wonder how long it will be before they won't have to do that anymore.

Are we headed to simply plugging in our deger electric bagpipe to an amp and knocking out a few sets without ever squeezing a bag? Where do you think the line will finally be drawn?

UpstatePiper
20-03-07, 07:34 PM
I saw a guy play a Derger chanter plugged into a synthesizer bank at a concert once. It was OK, but I would have enjoyed seeing him play a set of real pipes more.

I'm new to piping too, so I'm still learning about all the "stuff," both old and new. I think that pipers seem to be willing to try out new technology a lot faster than some other kinds of musicians.

I think a certain segment of pipers will always go for the ultimate tone, but a larger segment will be willing to trade off a bit of tone for convenience and/or playing time.

wjjagfan
20-03-07, 10:05 PM
There actually seems to be a little step away from synthetic bags going on. Here in Alberta, ALACL have gone away from synthetic bags and have started playing sheepskin. This is also the case (apparently) with some bands overseas (SLOT).

I've seen that too, but there will always be revivals now and then. I read a story the other day about a couple of companies in the US producing vinyl records again because of a resurgence in their popularity. So is it just naustagia or does it really have to do with quality?

There are so many variables, so many opinions and things change so quickly.

Reid
20-03-07, 10:20 PM
I've seen that too, but there will always be revivals now and then. I read a story the other day about a couple of companies in the US producing vinyl records again because of a resurgence in their popularity. So is it just naustagia or does it really have to do with quality?

There are so many variables, so many opinions and things change so quickly.

I don't think that it's a trend thing. Competitive bands are making the switch to continually improve. I was talking to a couple of guys from AlCal this past weekend and they were telling me that their sound has improved with the new bags.

wjjagfan
20-03-07, 10:49 PM
I don't think that it's a trend thing. Competitive bands are making the switch to continually improve.
Good point.

UpstatePiper
20-03-07, 10:59 PM
I've seen that too, but there will always be revivals now and then. I read a story the other day about a couple of companies in the US producing vinyl records again because of a resurgence in their popularity. So is it just naustagia or does it really have to do with quality?


Most people have never heard a good piece of vinyl played on a quality turntable.

Kind of like most people have never heard a good bagpipe played by a quality piper.

I don't play my LPs very often, because they lack the convenience of CDs, but I always enjoy them when I do play them. And the album artwork is so much better in many cases -- though some new CDs have good artwork too. It just took them awhile to figure out that they could do something other than itty bitty booklets with tiny pictures.

Scarlet O'Hair
20-03-07, 11:32 PM
I've been looking at the Clanrye chanter reed. Haven't bought one yet, but I think I will sometime. I think as synthetic chanter reeds keep improving and someone starts to win in competition with them they will become fairly standard.



A clanrye reed will be a source of heart ache for you....

While a cane pipe chanter reed reacts to moisture or lack thereof and changes and/or settles etc, the clanrye will not...so you could be playing away...your band will ease into the sound your pm wants....and you will not....the moisture also has nowhere to go...and will eventually impede the vibration of the blades....much like a practice chanter reed.....

redneck
21-03-07, 12:50 AM
I've heard many comments in our band among older pipers about the nightmares of old cane drone reeds and seasoning hide bags, etc. Then I watch our pipe major and pipe sergent working on chanter reeds and wonder how long it will be before they won't have to do that anymore.


This will NEVER happen end a story, regarding yer other comment...old cane drone reeds. True, but if they tried new cane drone reeds they'd find a difference, I am one of the old school regarding drone reeds.

Tupperware drone reeds have given me more heartache than CANE.
The cane set up is a lot more easier to do than synthetic........Steve 'n I had my Henderson's set up in about 30mins ...all cane.

My set up ATM is a Kinnard bass ( kindly provided by Sass xoxo ) 'n two cane tenors..........pure class. Bass reed can be replaced anytime if needed by another cane, but I do like the full bass sound of the Kinnard.

BTW, good post m8.

@Scarlet, good thinkin' there Mrs. Exactly right.

true_blue_piper
21-03-07, 08:32 AM
Synthetics can make things easier and quicker and perhaps longer lasting, however because of them I feel that people aren't learning the basics.

It's almost like my kids at school.....calculators are great for arithmetic....but try asking them to calculate something in their head......!?!?!

Bobby
21-03-07, 02:54 PM
Pipers and drummers will always experiment looking for ways to make playing easier, more enjoyable, more steady, etc... No changing that nor would I want to. Never is a very long time so I'll not use that word, but I've heard a number of statements over the years about a great synthetic chanter reed "about" to be released by various people and have not seen it appear yet. One day maybe, but for now cane chanter reeds are far superior. Synthetic drone reeds have made alot of peoples lives easier, more enjoyable, and steadier so there's no arguing that they are here to stay ande that they are a welcome development. As to pipe bags....whatever floats your boat. Some have gone all synthetic, some hybrid, some back to sheepskin, hide, etc. One thing is certain, and that is that the bands and soloists will continue to experiment in the search for whatever will give them an edge on the contest field, parade route, recording studio, or concert stage. Just make sure that whatever you choose is going to work for you in your climate, playing conditions, playing style, and playing regimen.

Reid
21-03-07, 03:28 PM
Great thread, great posts!!!

wjjagfan
21-03-07, 08:26 PM
A clanrye reed will be a source of heart ache for you....

While a cane pipe chanter reed reacts to moisture or lack thereof and changes and/or settles etc, the clanrye will not...so you could be playing away...your band will ease into the sound your pm wants....and you will not....the moisture also has nowhere to go...and will eventually impede the vibration of the blades....much like a practice chanter reed.....

I would never play the clanrye reed with the band; certainly not without the PM's approval. I wanted to get one just to play around with it. Moisture is a problem with drone reeds too, but there are ways of handling the moisture and you could do the same with a synthetic chanter reed.

I've seen a couple of "nevers" mentioned in this thread and I have to agree with Bobby when he said that never is a very long time.

Certainly at this time cane chanter reeds are superior ... but, I also think change is inevitable. Obviously people are buying the clanrye reed even though everyone agrees it isn't as good as cane. What's going to happen when someone developes a synthetic reed that competes with cane for sound quality?

redneck
23-03-07, 03:48 PM
NEVER,NEVER,NEVER............There's a few more fer ya, there'll NEVER be a Tupperware chanter reed in my life time ( short though it may be lol ) used in preferance o'er the cane reed,..........in fact I might just get that carved on my casket/urn or whatever the Mrs decides da do wi ma. :Ceith: :Ceith: :Ceith:

NEVER,NEVER,NEVER........sounding a bit like the Rev' Ian Paisley there huh?.:whistle: :whistle: lmao

Reid
23-03-07, 03:51 PM
NEVER,NEVER,NEVER............There's a few more fer ya, there'll NEVER be a Tupperware chanter reed in my life time ( short though it may be lol ) used in preferance o'er the cane reed,..........in fact I might just get that carved on my casket/urn or whatever the Mrs decides da do wi ma. :Ceith: :Ceith: :Ceith:

NEVER,NEVER,NEVER........sounding a bit like the Rev' Ian Paisley there huh?.:whistle: :whistle: lmao

So Iain what exactly is your position on Tupperware chanter reeds??? Just kiddin'. Cheers m8.

Stormy
23-03-07, 04:37 PM
So Iain what exactly is your position on Tupperware chanter reeds??? Just kiddin'. Cheers m8.

Like myself, he don't like them!!!
The only Tupperware chanter reeds which are acceptable are made for the practice chanter.

wjjagfan
23-03-07, 04:49 PM
I wonder how many pipers rolled over in their graves when world class pipers started sticking plastic in their drones?
:gah: :faint:

scarhandpiper
23-03-07, 09:12 PM
So those drone plugs worked, Jagfan??

PowerBoozer007
23-03-07, 09:26 PM
in fact I might just get that carved on my casket/urn or whatever the Mrs decides da do wi ma

If it's up to the Mrs, you'll have that high traditional honour of being buried at sea! More like diposing the body overboard from the ferry, on the way to the clubs with the girls! LOL

Listened to Alcal last year at Pleasanton, didn't think they needed to change a thing! :dunno:

What we seem to be forgetting is where synthetics have made the biggest impact in terms of improvement which is in the lower grades. I have teachers and engineers in the band that are lucky if they can play once a week. I couldn't imagine these people trying to function with a traditional setup.

It matters little what a gr1 player plays, they'll make it sound good, but I remember all to well all the bother we used to have in gr1 bands with traditional setups to get a good sound. Some people just can't play every day to maintain a stable instrument.

Let me throw another twist in the arguement as i do so enjoy, we talk about the small difference in the dynamics of the sound between synth reeds and cane reeds. What about all the differences in varying drones in a band, all the haramonics of each set is lost in a clash of sound from all the other sets.

Oh and one last great twist, what about these bands that shut off the middle tenor, are they saying the resonance from 3 drones is not needed in a band setting? :devil:

Stormy
24-03-07, 01:12 AM
What we seem to be forgetting is where synthetics have made the biggest impact in terms of improvement which is in the lower grades. I have teachers and engineers in the band that are lucky if they can play once a week. I couldn't imagine these people trying to function with a traditional setup.

Players managed with the "traditional" set-up, as you put it, 20-30 years ago. Why can they not do so now? Has plastic made things easier for those who are lazy?

What about all the differences in varying drones in a band, all the haramonics of each set is lost in a clash of sound from all the other sets.

In the 80's SPPB pipers did not all play the same make of drones. The bottom section of the bass however WAS the same.

Oh and one last great twist, what about these bands that shut off the middle tenor, are they saying the resonance from 3 drones is not needed in a band setting?

They could well be saying this if they have that "80's polis buzz" from the drones??? :wink:

PowerBoozer007
24-03-07, 02:55 AM
Has plastic made things easier for those who are lazy?

YES! :whistle:

UpstatePiper
24-03-07, 02:57 AM
Players managed with the "traditional" set-up, as you put it, 20-30 years ago. Why can they not do so now? Has plastic made things easier for those who are lazy?



It makes things easier for those who are not lazy too, no?

The less time I spend on maintenance, the more time I can spend on practice, and the better my playing will be. At some point maybe I'll feel like my equipment is my weakest link, but right now I'm 100% sure it's my fingers.

Bob

PowerBoozer007
24-03-07, 06:26 AM
Players managed with the "traditional" set-up, as you put it, 20-30 years ago. Why can they not do so now?


In the 80's SPPB pipers did not all play the same make of drones. The bottom section of the bass however WAS the same.

I beg to differ Stormy, players from lower grades could not keep a traditional setup going. Even with all cane reeds, wood chanters and sheepskin bags, there were an awful lot of crappy sounding instruments back then too.

Stormy
24-03-07, 10:34 AM
I beg to differ Stormy, players from lower grades could not keep a traditional setup going. Even with all cane reeds, wood chanters and sheepskin bags, there were an awful lot of crappy sounding instruments back then too.

Would that be down to the materials or the player??? (Then & now)

AlistairFyfe
24-03-07, 11:20 AM
It makes things easier for those who are not lazy too, no?

The less time I spend on maintenance, the more time I can spend on practice, and the better my playing will be. At some point maybe I'll feel like my equipment is my weakest link, but right now I'm 100% sure it's my fingers.

Bob

I don't disagree with you Bob, but personally I have always really enjoyed all aspects of the maintenance side of bagpiping. I guess being retired 'time' is something I am not short of but this always was the case.

redneck
25-03-07, 01:49 PM
It makes things easier for those who are not lazy too, no?

The less time I spend on maintenance, the more time I can spend on practice, and the better my playing will be. At some point maybe I'll feel like my equipment is my weakest link, but right now I'm 100% sure it's my fingers.

Bob

Bob, the more you blow the pipes the less maintenance they'll need.

The only care 'n attention yer pipes'll need are.........tight fitting joints, tuning pins and a tight bag.....IMO this is not an overly arduous task to perform ( well fer some it is...that right Scott ? lol ), to hear some on this forum looking after pipes IS a major task.

Regular blowing WILL maintain yer pipes for you, be it a cane or Tupperware set up. Trust me it's true, there's no big secret my friend.

PowerBoozer007
25-03-07, 10:59 PM
It comes down to knowing your instrument, if you can't trust it to perform without falling apart or drones shutting off, then it's time to get the finger out and make some changes.

How many of you could pull your pipes out of the box, on stage, and play for a dancer on a moments notice.

Just happened last night to me when their sound system failed, I wasn't there to play, just happened to have the pipes with me in the car.

Was I ever glad I knew they would work!

And yes Stormy, regardless of the materials, it's the skill of the player that determines how the instrument will sound.

Werepiper
26-03-07, 12:31 PM
This has been a great thread to read - thanks guys.

UpstatePiper
26-03-07, 06:29 PM
Bob, the more you blow the pipes the less maintenance they'll need.

The only care 'n attention yer pipes'll need are.........tight fitting joints, tuning pins and a tight bag.....IMO this is not an overly arduous task to perform ( well fer some it is...that right Scott ? lol ), to hear some on this forum looking after pipes IS a major task.

Regular blowing WILL maintain yer pipes for you, be it a cane or Tupperware set up. Trust me it's true, there's no big secret my friend.

Excellent -- I play as often as I can. I got a little pain in my shoulder and I stopped playing for a few days to let it clear up, but my plan is to play bagpipes every day.

I currently need to take some hemp off my tuning pins -- they have gotten a little too tight.

How does hide do in high-humidity areas? Our humidity is generally 60% in the winter and 80% to 90% in the other months.

Bob

redneck
26-03-07, 06:56 PM
Sorry m8, haven't a baldy.................John might be able da steer ya in the right direction on that one, never had any probs here wi humidity so can't comment, sorry.

PowerBoozer007
26-03-07, 07:00 PM
Sorry, but hide is absolutely useless at controling excess moisture in any climate. MIght be OK for a 20 minute play, but that's about it!

Bobby
26-03-07, 07:11 PM
With that kind of humidity problem, you're probably better off with breathable synthetics and some kind of moisture control device. Not sure how easily accessible sheepskin bags and seasoning are where you are. The big question would be how fast does everything dry out in that heat? IF it's very fast, then perhaps a hide bag could work well for you.

UpstatePiper
26-03-07, 08:09 PM
All products related to piping are just as (un)easy to obtain as any others -- I mail order everything, unless I happen to pick it up at a Scottish Games.

On an average hot summer day, the dew in the lawn typically won't burn off until around noon. But I keep my pipes inside, and the AC drys things out. This will be my first summer piping, so I'll be watching what the indoor humidity does.

Everyone in my band has synthetic bags, but I'll be meeting more pipers this season I'm sure -- I'll take the opportunity to ask around if anyone around here plays with hide.

true_blue_piper
27-03-07, 10:06 AM
Sorry, but hide is absolutely useless at controling excess moisture in any climate. MIght be OK for a 20 minute play, but that's about it!


I live in a climate which is hot and very humid for about 9 months of the year (90 + % humidity)...and I have an L & M hide bag. Best bag I've ever had and I have no problems with it.

phyx
27-03-07, 01:16 PM
I've no idea what the humidity levels are here--I just know it's not as bad as Houston. :bg:

That being said though, I love my hide bag. I used to play a Ross and haven't had problems with either really. Here's a couple of links to previous threads regarding hide vs. synthetic and moisture issues:

http://www.pipebandsforum.com/showthread.php?t=1538
http://www.pipebandsforum.com/showthread.php?t=1539

Hope these help!

pipingconnections
01-04-07, 08:54 PM
I am using a set of pipes from a guy I am teaching (His Fathers originally)
Had not been played for 10 years Acording to the learner (adult learner26) no reason to dought him, Rehemped them, seasoned the hide bag, Put a set of eaziedrones in but just would not settle. Put in a set of Harry McNultys cane reeds and wow what a sound, really plug and play from cane and hide.
My own pipes have a large bannatyne, ross moisture system, with small cut off grommets and eezie drones and while i like the sound I am seriously considering going back to sheepskin/hide and Harry's reeds the whole sheepskin and cane thing i didnt expect to entertain ever again. still have a moisture problem though so is there a sheepskin with a zip ??

Bobby
02-04-07, 02:31 PM
no zips on sheepskin. Sorry. only 2 natural hide bags on the market with zips. Gannaway and L&M Scotian.