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Old 17-06-08, 12:40 PM   #51
OC Richard
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Randy J. Homer View Post

...the value of the chanter's tone being a good match to the drones...getting both from the same maker is best so that they were designed to be together.
That's the funny thing about the GHB over the last few decades:
The chanters have been going up in pitch, and far beyond that have a tone quality entirely unlike chanters did in the 1880-1930 period.

Yet many, if not most, makers are making drones based on "classic" pipes from that period.

So, you may be getting a chanter and a set of drones from the same maker, but you certainly are NOT getting a chanter and drones that were "designed to be together".
The "classic" 1880-1930 drones were NEVER designed for chanters that sounded anything like the chanters of today (which the makers then probably couldn't imagine).
To hear the blend of tone that the "classic" makers intended, you would have to properly reed up an old chanter.

It's quite remarkable, really, that the chanters have gone up in pitch so much, and have got so much louder, and have a tone quality that is so much brighter, but STILL are very effectively accompanied by drones designed for chanters that were far flatter and softer.

Likewise, I don't think that modern chanters were necessarily designed to blend with the drones. What I mean is, I think that when the chanter pitch and tone quality began drastically changing in the late 70's and 80's the makers and players were simply thinking about getting the chanter pitch and tone quality that they wanted. I don't think it started with a maker listening to a set of drones and thinking "hmmm... I wonder what chanter pitch and tone quality fits these drones best..."
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Old 17-06-08, 11:49 PM   #52
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I understand what you're saying Richard. And for the most part, I agree. But I think there are noted exceptions.

I spoke once with Jerry Gibson who conveyed quite strongly his view that the chanter and drones should indeed be designed together. The sound of a well-made modern chanter consists of more than just higher pitch and brightness (which does sort of sum up our modern goals,) but also a depth of harmonics and richness of timbre that can be present or absent at any given pitch. Jerry pitches his chanters at exactly 480, and the drones are made to match that, and the both of them with the kind of tone quality that complements and blends.

Frankly, that's higher a pitch than I like to hear, especially for solo work. But lower pitch does not mean less bright! I have a Starck set from 1898 to 1903 that has the brightest drones I have ever heard and with tremendous projection! When reeded correctly, Robertsons can also be quite bright.

I prefer the sound of these Athertons I have at much the same pitch at which I played an earlier MacDougall, about 472-474 htz. As I understand it, the Atherton chanter is aimed at this more moderate pitch with the same kind of timbre and richness of harmonics as to match the drones there and to blend well on purpose. And at this pitch, the drones have great depth and are rich enough that I really don't notice anything lost when played outside on grass. They're just that "full." When I play a modern ridge-cut reed at a higher pitch against them, I just don't like the blend. But a molded reed in a '94 Sinclair chanter goes well. Even a lower-pitched molded reed in a Dunbar Elite I matches well (and it's pretty modern.) But the tone qualities need to match.

When the chanter pitch climbs and the drones are still designed on an earlier model (as you have described,) then I think something is lost. With the right reeds, drones can be made to pitch higher also. And experience demonstrates that the great ones certainly do make that work quite well! But I think those same drones do have a greater richness when played slightly lower. Not a 'dark' tone, just richer.
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Old 18-06-08, 03:21 AM   #53
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Randy :

Regarding your comments...

> "I spoke once with Jerry Gibson..."

> "Jerry pitches his chanters at exactly 480, and the drones are made to match that..."

> "Frankly, that's higher a pitch than I like to hear, especially for solo work..."

This makes me wonder about two questions...

1) When it was that you spoke to Jerry...and...

2) What solo experience &/or band experience do you have ??

Frankly, I'm very impressed that you speak so well as to the qualities of timbre, pitch, harmonics, blend, depth, projection, reed design, etc, etc...

Talk like that, I'd expect to come from someone with a great wealth of knowledge based on years of experience & the guidence of some very knowledgable people...like a person who's played up into professional solos, or up to the grade1 band level for many years.

Would you mind sharing with us what your piping resume is ??

I can't be the only one who's curious.

P.
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Old 18-06-08, 05:50 AM   #54
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What is this, a TEST!

Shucks, guys, I'd have thought that my words were their own testimony. If what I say makes sense, then accept it for what it's worth. If what I say ever makes no sense, then ignore it or state your counterpoint. Who I am really shouldn't be the point, I would think.

But as to your queries, I last spoke to Jerry at his shop a few months ago when I was there to buy a chanter from him (as well as to get some advice on setting up the Starcks.) It was my second Gibson chanter; my first was in 1982, both were blackwood. The last visit before that was about 1 1/2 years ago when I was at his shop to buy a set of Firesides (cocabolo/brass in A.)

I learned to play from Ian MacCallum who learned from his father, William MacCallum. William came from Scotland by way of New Zealand, arriving in the US in 1905. Ian had been teaching for 40 years and playing for 60 years when he started me as a student 37 years ago. So my instruction was very "old school" and I had a lot to relearn as the years went by. But Ian had GREAT fingers and was an excellent teacher. Late in life, he played in the same band where John Crawley, Sr. first played after emigrating here to the States. You may know John from the 87th Cleveland. Ian's daughter, Heather (still a friend of mine) is fond of remembering (and still quotes) John from when he once said, "Ian is the finest man I've ever known."

My band playing experience has been quite limited - only the MacCallum's family band - which is now no more. I never enjoyed competing, so I didn't do it much. I'm fairly confident though that I still play to at least a Grade 2 level. Most of my satisfaction has been as a soloist. I've enjoyed the times I worked for the PGA, who provided (in addition to the pay) all-expense paid trips from Ohio to Florida to play at the official opening of 5 or 6 different Tournament Player Clubs. I've been on some big stages and on TV numerous times, with and without orchestras. At the most recent such occasion, I played a 9 1/2 minute jig set with orchestra as part of a program that was carried on PBS across the US and via satellite TV to about 60 other countries.

Alas, a rather severe spinal injury has left me in poorer shape. I don't blow nearly so hard and don't do as much these days. I was ready to give it up entirely, and would have had it not been for the advice of Jim McGillivray, who gave me some reed manipulation tips while staying at my home for a few days.

But I suppose most of my blather about "timbre" and such comes from other sources. I was a music minor at Kent State (philosophy major while preparing for the ministry.) In addition to my time as a pastor, I was actually much longer (over 20 years) as a church Music Director, played several other instruments (in several different ensembles) and tuned pianos (mostly by ear.)

I realize that there are lots and lots of very good musicians here and about, most of them much more accomplished than me. And I've never claimed to be more than a mediocre piper (though better players than me have been kind enough to argue that somewhat.) Overall, I've been pretty lucky to have had some excellent instruments and made the acquaintance of some very knowledgeable people who were kind enough to pass along some good ideas, which I've always made a point to listen to and learn from. That is one thing I certainly don't regret: I have listened a LOT to good pipes and to good pipers.

BUT, I still count that sort of stuff for very little and would expect people here (or anywhere) to accept or reject what I might contribute solely on the merit of the words themselves. If what I say adds, contributes or makes any sense, I would expect it to be so only because it's sensible.

And if it's not, well...I've been wrong once or twice!
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Old 18-06-08, 08:02 AM   #55
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Strewth fellars----what are we getting into here??????????? I thought we were leaving this "one up man ship---mine is better than yours" mentality to be expressed on one of the other forum where it's the general rule to cane some one for his/her opinion. I for one can easily recognize a good sounding combination and I'm only an average band piper but I certainally know what a good set of pipes are and certainally dont need a diploma in music to dertermine what is a better sounding set of pipes. So those of you who feel that a music diploma and many years in piping at the highest echelons of this folk music art form feel that your knowing is better, perhaps you might like to give me a bit of "stick" along with the many thousands of pipers like myself. You never know, you might just turn us around to thinking your way and thereby negate our opinions on the above matter-----------But I doubt it!!!! Who wants to argue over such trivia?????? The forum members opinion is the important issue--------we can all learn from anothers opinion if we choose to.
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Old 18-06-08, 11:30 AM   #56
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Maybe Gibson should sponsor these forums!
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Old 18-06-08, 11:31 AM   #57
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Folks :

Just a couple of points...

1) There is a great big world out there, that can teach someone a whole lot of things if they decide to persue a field of endevour...and...

2) You don't have to be a chicken to judge an egg !!

Pls don't misunderstand why I asked Randy about his background...

His comments were getting pretty spicific & detailed to the point that he apparently has a clear & obvious undertanding about what he's saying...AND...

Since I'm a Windsor piper who used to drive down to Cleveland to play in the gr2 band (now defunct) there, I had the chance to get to know many of the pipers from the area...however, I had never heard of Randy until I saw his postings here in the forum.

It's a pity that he's been hiding out from playing with the bands in Cleveland...we certainly could have used a chap like him during my years in the North Coast.

P.

P/S And if Jim's comment below is correct, it makes it all the more a shame that he couldn't have been in our ranks !!

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Old 18-06-08, 01:24 PM   #58
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Good post Randy. It's only natural that any pipe maker will use their own drones as the base for chanter design and testing. However, as we all know, the choice and setup of reeds in either drones and chanter will have enormous impact on the tone, timbre, pitch etc... of said drones and chanter. The sheer number of excellent chanters that have come out over the decades is a perfect example of why a chanter doesn't have to be designed for a specific model of drones. I actually feel it's quite irrelevent. Where volume is concerned I can see that some chanters may well overpower a weaker sounding set of drones, but even then, pick an appropriate reed and your off to the races again. If the chanter is so designed as to make that impossible ( I haven't found one like that yet among the top chanters), pick another chanter. Even the great chanter makers out there can occasionally make a dud.
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Old 18-06-08, 01:50 PM   #59
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Paul's challenge brings up an off-topic issue: the assumption that if someone plays at a high level in solos, or in bands, that they necessarily have a good ear for tone, or are even interested in the topic of tone.
I've known pipers who play in top-level bands who have great fingers and blow steady but can't tune their own pipes and know nothing about reed setup.
I know a piper who reached the top level in solos who could not tune his own drones.
I know a piper who reached the open level who doesn't care a bit about tone. He plays crappy pipes and just shoves in any reed that works. He doesn't put tape on his chanter. but simply sticks in a reed and gets what he gets. But he is a fantastic player with flawless timing and expression.
On the other hand, I know pipers who play in mid-level or lower-level bands who are obsessive about tone and play great instruments which they spend a lot of time getting set up just right. They don't have the fingers, in some cases, to compete at a higher level.

Of course it's true that, in many or most cases, a person who is a top soloist or plays in a G1 band will have "it all together" and will be good at timing, expression, blowing, and fingering, and also have a good ear for tuning and a good knowlege of setup. But these things do not necessarily go together.

Anyhow, about the drones and chanters being designed to sound good together, sure a maker will say that he's done this, but in fact the drones have not been designed from the ground up, but are a copy of "classic" drones which were designed to play at a much lower pitch (around 460). This is true whether a maker has himself consciously done it by measuring an old set, or whether a maker is unconsciously doing it by perpetuating a design he learned as an apprentice somewhere.
If a maker has designed his drones from scratch, with no reference to classic pipes, I've not heard of it.

It's a testament to the quality of the design of the "classic" drones that they can produce a great sound when reeded to play at a much higher pitch than they were intended to. In wind instruments including bagpipes, the reed and the bore design nearly always go hand-in-hand to achieve the desired pitch. The GHB situation is sort of like if all pro sax players today played saxes made at the old high pitch (A=452) but had special new mouthpieces and reeds designed to force the sax down to A=440.
But the classic drones seem to thrive on the new high pitch, tuning up on the pins at 482 etc. I'd like to hear MacDougalls or Hendersons reeded to play as they were designed, huge cane reeds, with their original chanter with a proper wide, long-staple reed, down in the 450's.
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Old 18-06-08, 02:03 PM   #60
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Folks, in the recent past in other places, there was a war of words as it were between a few pipemakers and their proponents who felt that their products were bein unfairly denigrated. Now I know that this is not entirely the reason for what's going on here in the undercurrent, but I'm sure that any of us that witnessed it are all still feeling the after-effects. Many who felt that certain pipemakers were being insulted and or denigrated, were polarized to respond, sometimes in kind, to defend each other and often resulted in negative feelings towards the attackers and their brand of choice. None of us wants to see that spill over into this forum and I don't think we've reached that stage at all. However I just wanted to clear up that I don't think any of us wants to see that kind of thing take place and so far I see a fair exchange of opinions and ideas. I know Paul a little from the distant past ( oh my...I'm feeling old). He's a fair, decent person with a great ear, vast piping experience, and a fine appreciation for good bagpipes. I think you'll find that people with that kind of background become passionate about fairness and openness in discussions, are happy to hear about other peoples experiences, are equally passionate about what they know to be good instruments or products, and inquisitive about ones they may not have first hand experience of yet. Inquiring about backgrounds etc, gives you a sense of how people arrive at their conclusions, and doesn't mean to question someone's integrity. I don't think Randy took it that way and I don't think Paul intended it that way.

Discussions about particular brands bring out all kinds of information. Long discussions, especially passionate ones, can sometimes end up feeling like infomercials and we all realize it. I for one make jokes about it and hope you all don't take my input on product topics to be "paid advertising". I certainly don't intend it to be so, but occasionally like to offer my experience, and knowledge when I think it is relevent and useful.

Last edited by Bobby; 18-06-08 at 03:41 PM.. Reason: spelling
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