Category Archives: Drone Sounds of the GHB

Drones are the most expensive part of the bagpipe. This is to be a resource of what different makers’ drones sound like with whatever particular reed happens to be in the drones.

My 2 Week Competition Season

Having switched studios, my daughter’s yearly dance recital did not conflict with the Rio Grande Valley Celtic Festival & Highland Games in May (Albuquerque, NM) so I finally had a chance to return to a favorite games of mine, after 15 years if I’ve done my figuring correctly. At only 5 hours away this is the closest piping competition to Lubbock, TX. Two weeks later, I competed at my first indoor competition, the Austin Piping and Drumming Competition; Austin is 6 hours away. If I were not going to Yellowstone for vacation, I’d also attend the Pikes Peak Celtic Festival in Colorado Springs in another 2 weeks (about an 8 hour drive), making my competition season 4 weeks long. But, that’s it really for games that have piping competitions. There’s one in Tulsa, OK in September but I can’t find a website, hrm.

With owning many pipes, the first thing to do is pick which set of pipes to play in competition. The pipes I play most are my band pipes, my old Hendersons. The only other two currently in rotation are my Colin Kyo and Tim Gellaitry sets. It had been some time since I featured Tim’s pipe in competition and so I decided to go with them. This decision was reinforced by the glorious drone tone I’ve been getting with them. I have always loved the tone of them as one of the best and most stable using all original Kinnaird drone reeds, however I have recently switched to Chris Armstrong’s X-TREME bass drone reed and it is all sorts of fantastic. THE BEST BASS DRONE I HAVE EVER HEARD. Coupled with the tenors still using original Kinnaird, I get a most excellent, harmonic drone tone. I got many compliments from fellow competitors and judges alike on the tone of the drones. It should come as no surprise, my chanter of choice is Colin Kyo. A custom straight cut Husk was used in ABQ as their weather is similar to Lubbock’s but it started double toning on F in the humidity of Austin so about 10 minutes before I was to start my series of performances in Austin, I had to switch to a different CK chanter equipped with a Gilmour reed that’s as probably as old as my 7 year old son, luckily it played nicer with the humidity.

Below, you’ll find recordings of the pipes as played in Austin, though the chanter isn’t quite settled in for non-humid Lubbock as I’m still moving the reed and tape back to where they were prior to Austin. EJ Jones once told me it takes days to tune a bagpipe. TRUTH.

The mic is behind me so you can hear the drones clearly (understatement of the month). Most of the tunes below are competition tunes and some are ones I actually played, but not all.

Bessie McIntyre, Alick C MacGregor, Captain Lachlan MacPhail of Tiree – I almost make it to 90 bpm by the end!

Highland Harry and Charlie’s Welcome – a bit quick into the terminal taorluaths in Highland Harry and just outright missing a few gracenotes in Charlie’s, haha. Someday I’ll get it!

Clachnacuddin Hornpipe and Rakes of Kildare – Clachnacuddin Hornpipe is an old version of The Inverness Gathering arranged by Capt. John A. MacLellan and son, Colin, and is a previous tune of the month with sheet music available in the archive.

One topic I have pondered much in recent years is tempo. I grew up listening to recordings of pipe music about as old as I was. Much of my MSR repertoire mimics the 1984 Grant’s Piping Championship album (available on iTunes if you can tolerate the random distortion from the “old” recording). While digitizing this album yesterday from my old cassette tape, I took a few tempo measurements. Iain MacFadyen played one of my MSR: Kantara to El Arish at 74 bpm, Inveraray Castle at 142 bpm, and Captain Lachlan MacPhail of Tiree at 95 bpm. Truly an engaging performance. The slowest reel came from Hugh MacCallum’s John MacKechnie at 85 bpm, Malcolm MacRae’s at 98, Murray Henderson’s at 92, Gavin Stoddart’s at 90, and Bill Livingstone’s at 94. Other strathspey tempos were anywhere from 128-138. Marches in the low 70s. I feel that common tempos have fallen to slightly lower values at the current time. Marches are often in the mid 60s, strathspeys right around 120, and reels in the low to mid 80s. While I have enjoyed more measured performances, with great care taken in rhythm, and have tried to mimic them on occasion, I have come to the conclusion that I prefer slightly faster tempos. Marches are for marching and strathspeys & reels are dance music (and I don’t mean modern highland dancing). Strathspeys are a derivative of reels evidenced by, if nothing else, the often quoted SWMW emphasis in 4/4 time strathspeys which directly coincides with the cut time of reels: 2/2. Piping has many idioms, and I find myself favoring the THIS IS A HIGHLAND BAGPIPE AND I’M GOING TO GET YOUR BLOOD PUMPING style because MACPHERSON HOLDS THE FLOOR.

Colin Kyo pipes tied into an “old” L&M bag

When I first acquired my Colin Kyo bagpipes from a friend they were “tied” into a grommetted Gannaway bag. At the time this did not bother me. On a tangent, I’ve longed neglected my old Henderson pipes due to difficulties with reeding the drones. With X-treme tenor reeds, a short, inverted Ezeedrone bass reed, and a new bass bottom with a bigger bore the Hendersons have been singing tied into an old L&M bag I got off of someone for $50. So, I’ve been playing my old Hendersons a lot. In addition, my Glencoe and Terry sets are also both tied into old L&M bags. I LOVE THEM. Anyways, my Colin Kyo pipes weren’t being used much due to the bag issue as I came to dislike the bulk of the grommets on the Gannaway. So, on the hunt for old L&M bags I came across one that never even had the holes cut. Sweet! So, I’m set to go now. And they sound fantastic with their new bag.

The problem started when I thought a live Facebook broadcast of a practice session of me playing my newly set up Colin Kyo bagpipes was a good idea. Lots of people tuned in, but when I went back to listen to it, there was a lot of audio quality loss. This was a Facebook thing as I guess they think video is more important. The source of the audio was my Zoom H2 recorder wired into the lightning port of my iPhone via a Blue Mikey Digital. So, this post is to offer the audio simultaneously recorded by my Zoom H2 during that session so you can hear what the pipes really sounded like. I haven’t included all the recordings because the first few were during warm up and had me sorting the chanter tuning. I last played the chanter with the bag unseasoned and so it was setup for a wet reed (pushed farther in the seat), but the bag having been seasoned since then left the reed dry and therefore sharp, and then flat because I pulled it out too much, and then just about right.

Colin Kyo drones + Colin Kyo chanter + regular Ezeedrone reeds + 5+ year old Gilmour chanter reed that just won’t quit.

Kind of Laois & Rakes of Kildare

Mo Ghile Mear, Neili’s Polka, & Ger the Rigger

Angus MacKinnon & Frank Thompson

The Big Yin & Picnic in the Sky

Patrick O’Connor’s & Tom Billy’s Polkas – picked these up from Jerry O’Sullivan at the Spanish Peaks Piping Retreat

1950s Hendersons + X-TREME tenors + Ezeedrone bass

I’ve finally gotten back into playing my first set of pipes, a set of 1950s Hendersons. Years ago I played them with Selbie drone reeds and they sounded good, very good, for quite some time. Over the last few years, as I’ve acquired other bagpipes, they’ve fallen by the wayside, to rest in the back of a drawer (I have a chest of drawers dedicated to bagpipes). But, I’ve decided that maybe the 1960s Sinclairs aren’t going to be my band set after all since we’re not going to tune to Bb since that’s a pain; not all Bb chanters actually tune that easily to Bb. So, we’re moving up a few Hertz to 473 Hz and I reevaluated which pipes I was going to play and I’ve been trying my old Hendersons again. I am borrowing the bass bottom joint from my Kron Standards in place of the Henderson’s; the Henderson bottom joint is bored the same as the tenor bottoms which I find odd. The slightly larger Kron Standard bass bottom bore gives a little more power to the bass. We’re talking going from an ID of 0.310″ to about 0.322″. I’d like to get another bass bottom joint at around 0.340″.

I’m running them with X-TREME tenor drone reeds and an inverted, short Ezeedrone bass. I find they are quite stable and don’t need much movement to retune them. That, and they’re tied into an old L&M bag I bought off someone for $50 several years ago; the bag is a dream. New Colin Kyo chanter, Husk reed.

The competition in Salado, TX is coming up soon so I’ve been thinking about what tunes I’m going to play solo. I’ve got plenty to pick from, just have to settle. Here is what I practiced today:

Jeannie Carruthers, Inveraray Castle, and The Rejected Suitor

The Redundancy and Donella Beaton

Captain Calum Campbell’s Caprice, The Big Yin, and Picnic in the Sky – granted, not competition music but a new set of mine

Chris Terry drones with various drone reeds

Chris Terry drones, Colin Kyo chanter with new Husk reed pitching at 473 Hz. Drone reed test. Tune is Fair Maid of Barra. I like the Canning!

Low A – Ezee, Canning, Canning bass Ezee tenors, Xtreme bass Ezee tenors, Ezee bass Redwood tenors, Ezee, Kinnaird, Canning, Selbie.


ezee – Ezee for reference.


ezee-bass_redwood_tenors – Keep the current Ezee bass and add bigger tenors, the Redwoods.


canning – I think this is a good bet to get a deeper tone. Canning carbon fiber basses are good at that with certain bass drones.


canning-bass_ezee-tenors – If you just bought Canning carbon fiber bass but kept your Ezee tenors.


xtreme-bass_ezee-tenors – The Xtreme bass is almost as bassy as the Canning.


selbie – I’d pass.


kinnaird – I dunno, I like the Canning.


Edit 2016-08-13:

Fair Maid, The Big Yin, and Picnic in the Sky – Canning carbon fiber bass with Redwood tenors.

Added Canning bass with Redwood tenors to the Low A file; it’s added at the beginning of the file so it can be directly compared to the full Ezee. The biggest change from that combo to full Ezee drone is still mostly the deeper Canning bass:

CbRt-E-C-CbEt-XbEt-EbRt-E-K-C-S – Canning bass Redwood tenors, Ezee, Canning, Canning bass Ezee tenors, Xtreme bass Ezee tenors, Ezee bass Redwood tenors, Ezee, Kinnaird, Canning, Selbie.

Sinclair versus Glencoe

Well, it’s not exactly a perfect comparison. I just happened to play the same sets on both pipes in recent days. Here’s the skinny:

1960ish Sinclair drones with Redwood bass + Rocket tenors (no markings) + original Sinclair chanter (though carved) with Husk chanter reed = 467 Hz with a clear high A

1974-1983 Glencoe drones (1 of about 250) with Canning bass and tenors + Colin Kyo chanter with Gilmour chanter reed = 476 Hz with the crowiest high A ever (I just can’t throw this reed away, all the other notes sound so good)

Glencoe pipes were made by Matt Marshall up in Ontario after having immigrated from Scotland in 1974. Matt worked at R G Lawrie bagpipes before moving so I figure his pipes are of some sort of Lawrie specification.

Sinclair

Fair Maid, Rakish Paddy, Lady Doll Sinclair, and Henwife’s Daughter

Muineira de Casu, Snug in the Blanket, and Thornton’s Jig

Glencoe

Fair Maid, Rakish Paddy, Lady Doll Sinclair, and Henwife’s Daughter

Muineira de Casu, Snug in the Blanket, and Thornton’s Jig

It is amazing how much easier the Colin Kyo chanter is to play! The Sinclair is my band chanter so it gets a lot of play time. But today, I whipped out the Glencoes with Kyo chanter and my fingers were like, “Aaaahhhhhh, I know where the holes are!” Had a blast.

non-Heritage Kron standard drones

What’s in a Heritage? Pun intended, but this post is about non-Heritage Kron drones. I bought a set of Kron standard pipes off eBay. First, I spent some time gleaning information from the internet about my new-to-me pipes. The history of Kron pipes starts with the fact that Robertson taught Kilgour and Kilgour taught Charley Kron how to make pipes. So there’s a grandfather in the lineage of pipemaking who was quite a master.

According to this direct account from Charley himself on Gordon MacDonald’s Island Bagpipe “Bagpipe ID” website, my new to me Kron drones were made between 1995 and 1998. Mine are stamped C.E. Kron on each drone piece and are therefore missing the Kilgour stamp indicating they were made after Kilgour left in 1995. Charley states he and Dave Atherton stopped stamping the drones around 1998.

The Heritage line of Kron pipes wasn’t released until 2001. Therefore these pipes are the Kron standard model. This was confirmed by many before I bid on them on eBay. Jim McGillivray tells the story of the birth of the Heritage line in this post on the Bob Dunsire forum: http://forums.bobdunsire.com/forums/showthread.php?t=62266.

If you look at Andrew Lenz’s collection of drone bore measurements, Shawn Husk and Mark Lee both report the Kron standard bass middle small bore at 0.422″, shy of the Heritage’s 0.438″ and David Glen’s 0.44(0/6)”. I bring this up because my Kron standard has a bass middle small bore of 0.378″. In Charley’s account, at some point the bass middle bore was opened to increase the volume of the bass drone, so I obviously have an earlier set of the Kron standard model before the bass middle was opened. All other specifications on my pipe match those listed on Andrew’s website. It is interesting to note that most pipes have bass middle small bores of 0.420″+. Skimming through the bore measurements, Gillanders, Grainger, and Lawrie are the only other semi-modern pipes with (some) bass middle small bores below 0.400″.

Apparently many (including Ron “Ringo” Bowen and Jim McGillivray) thought the bass was (still?) too quiet on Kron standards in 2001 (see Bob Dunsire link above in the 3rd paragraph). I’m curious when exactly the bass middle small bore was opened. Was it  before or after creation of the Heritage line in 2001? Charley Kron mentions a review of Kron standard pipes in Piper and Drummer Magazine that was not very good due to a weak bass. So was the bass middle small bore increased as a result of that review or was that review of a Kron standard pipe that already had the bass middle bore opened? Research of the rec.music.makers.bagpipe news group lists many posts by Dave Atherton during his tenure at Kron. This post by madman/Dave on March 12, 1999 indicates the specifications of the Kron pipe hadn’t changed in 12 years. So a Kilgour & Kron pipe should have the same specs as early Kron pipes. This post by madman/Dave indicates, at least up until he wrote the post March 20, 1999, that the bores of Kron standards are the same Kilgour’s going back to ~1968. In this post by Andrew Berthoff we learn the date the survey of pipes was published in Piper & Drummer magazine: February 1996, the same survey that “panned” Kron pipes, as Charley put it. So, the bass middle small bore was not opened in response to the survey since it was in 1996 and at least up until 1999 the specifications of the Kron pipe had still not changed. Of course, Kron has modified his standard design yet again since Dave left in 2007 saying that he modified the bass drone once more, “borrowing elements from the Heritage bass,” to “beef up the sound.” See: http://cekron.com/bagpipes.htm. I don’t see any similarities between reported Kron standard bore specs and Heritage specs so I’m guessing no one has tabulated the new post-2007 Kron standard bores.

Many have quoted that Kron standards are modeled after David Glen bagpipes. However, if you compare the bore specifications between Kron standards and David Glen, you’ll not find many exact similarities (e.g. the difference in bass middle small bore quoted above). Mark Lee has confirmed the David Glen specs in Andrew’s bore specification sheet in this forum thread. Perhaps they mean they sound like, not patterned after, David Glen pipes. I cannot find any quote where Charley states they were designed after David Glen pipes. Dave Atherton once told me that his Glen style pipe was similar to the Kron standard pipe, though I don’t know if he meant the specs were the same or the resulting sound was the same. I have no idea what David Glen bagpipes sound like so I can’t make any comparison regarding tonal similarities despite their specification differences. Ringo, again from the Dunsire post linked in the 3rd paragraph, posted that his experience with the Kron standard pipes is that they are more like Lawrie pipes. I had come to a similar conclusion based on the similarity between bass middle small bore specs between Lawries I have measured and these Kron standards. However, my conclusions about similarity with Lawrie pipes was before I played and heard the Kron standards. I have a set of Lawrie reproductions in the form of Glencoe bagpipes made by Matt Marshall. I’m not convinced they’re tonally similar, though they aren’t really dissimilar either as I’ve heard wider extremes of bagpipe sound than between those two.

These Kron Standards are unique in my collection of bagpipes (I currently have 8 sets of highland bagpipes). The bells on the drones are very square with no fountain to speak of. The projecting mounts are well proportioned and attractive.

2016-06-12 21.24.12 2016-06-12 21.22.262016-06-12 21.19.452016-06-12 21.19.05

I played them first with the Original Kinnaird tenors they came with from the previous owner. The Kinnaird bass gurgled, coughed, and shut off. A couple hours later I reversed the tongue direction and it started working normally. Until that discovery, I played a standard Ezeedrone bass. Without cheating, what pitch do you think I’m playing at?

51st Highland Division, Flett from Flotta, and Lord Lovat’s Lament – mic is on my left

Band Medley #1 – mic is on my left

Band Medley #2 – mic is behind me

Then I figured I better switch out some drone reeds so I spent some time mouth blowing through a few. There weren’t too many that were better than original Kinnairds but Canning offered a different tone in the tenors. The Canning bass didn’t fly too well. Here the Canning tenors are accompanied by a working original Kinnaird bass.

Sandy’s New Chanter and The High Drive – mic is on my left

Unst Bridal March, Room 35, Moonshine, and Spanner in the Works – mic is behind me

Ultimately though, the Canning tenors were sucking air so I took them out. There’s nothing like an inefficient bagpipe to make your playing quality drop like a rock. Out came the Canning tenors and in went the original Kinnaird tenors now paired with the original Kinnaird bass. The pipe was efficient yet again and fun to play instead of a chore.

Paul K’s, Battle of the Braes, and Glenlyon – mic is on my left (the focal dystonia in my left ring finger is rather noticeable as I attempt to play a bunch of E grace notes from D to low A in Paul K’s)

Unst Bridal March and Johnny and Ali’s March – mic is behind me

I was getting pretty tired by that point (they are tied into a large Gannaway, which is a bit too big, and probably hasn’t been seasoned in 2 years) but I wanted to run a few more drone reeds through so I mouthblew through some more. I plan to try a Selbie bass soon which had roughly the same tone as an inverted Ezee drone bass which were two of the best sounding bass drone reeds, though that’s very subjective. The Redwood bass had a different tone so that might be something to try as well (it’s currently rocking in my Sinclair pipe). I think the original Kinnaird had good solid tone. The standard Ezee bass was quite good too although I have concerns about stability based on pitch fluctuations with pressure. Crozier reeds of all sorts weren’t very promising; I haven’t found a pipe the V2 carbon reeds sound good in yet, though I haven’t been trying very hard. Ezee tenors were too mellow. Not sure I’ll bother with X-Treme, they are going well in my Colin Kyo pipes (ah, but I guess I should…).

I have a stash of Rocket reeds so I plugged some of those in last. One set had tenors that were bright like the original Kinnairds but smoother. The bass was also rather big. These Rockets are marked 32281 on the bass reed body, 375 on the bass reed tongue, and 266 on the tenor reed bodies. I don’t recall what pipe they were designed for.

Leaving Port Askaig (mic on my left) and Frank Thompson (mic behind me)

A Rocket bass with 263 written on the body didn’t promise anything more than the Selbie/inverted Ezee and Rocket tenors with no number (but I believe were made for Atherton Premier pipes) were quite mellow when mouthblown, so I never blew them in the pipe. I look forward to trying more of my Rocket reeds once I get them back from loan. I’m using a Rocket bass in my Chris Terry pipes (on loan) and Rocket tenors in my Keith Jeffers pipes (on loan). I’m also using old Rockets in my Hendersons currently tuned with G drones, so not sure I’ll try those cause I’d hate for them to work well and have to come up with another set of G drone reeds on extenders. All this just goes to show there’s a lot to be said for matching reeds to pipes!

One thing I was quite surprised about is how flat the drones are. If you were trying to guess my pitch without cheating, I was playing at 467 Hz, just about spot on Bb. I’m using an old Sinclair chanter that I’ve carved to play in tune. Regular old Shawn Husk chanter reed.

sinclair_chanter

The drones tune fairly normally with most reeds at this pitch, just a tad of hemp showing on the tenors and the bass is only a couple inches off the mount. Tuning screws are all out so the reeds are flatter too but that’s how I set up all my reeds. The bass on my old Sinclair pipes that the chanter came with is way higher on the pin than these Krons, albeit with a different reed. These Krons are also very blended. I kept wondering if the tenors are shutting off but then I check and they’re on and when you turn them off you’re like, oh, they were contributing quite a bit of tone.

They are very stable pipes with the right reeds. Like my Gellaitry, they sound good with the original Kinnaird tenor reeds which give the tenors a bit of power. There’s a lot to be said for the stability of original Kinnard drone reeds. I wonder how well Evolution Kinnaird’s would work? I don’t have any.

The quality of production of the pipes is very good. Even after almost 20 years you could swap the tenor bottoms between tenor tops and stocks without changing the hemp. The tuning chambers are still perfect. There’s no change in resistance as you move the drone tops up and down on the tuning pins.

I am thankful for Charley Kron, David Atherton, Mark Lee, Andrew Lenz, Ron Bowen, Bob Dunsire (RIP), and Gordon MacDonald for personal discussions and/or for their various websites and internet forum comments. Documentation is great!

Be flat, or rather, Bb.

My band here in Lubbock, the Llano Estacado (and District) Pipe Band (LEAD Pb), has recently switched from playing at A 482 Hz to playing at A 467 Hz, otherwise known as Bb. It is a glorious pitch to play at. I’m playing some 1960ish Sinclair pipes with its original chanter with a Shawn Husk chanter reed. I’ve Selbie tenor drone reeds and a Redwood bass drone reed. I think I need to spruce up the tenors a bit to match the bass. Hear below and enjoy!

Glasgow Police Pipers & Troy’s Wedding

Mo Ghile Mear, Nellie’s, and Ger the Rigger

Supporting Causes: la Marseillaise and “Trick or Treat”

Yesterday Paris was attacked and many lost their lives. I understand those who were in a stadium that was attacked starting singing the French national anthem. To show my support I arranged it for the bagpipe and the sheet music can be had by clicking here. It fits on the bagpipes quite well except it requires C and F natural in a couple spots if you’re to play the main melody, but dropping down to low A (which is the chord) is what I’ve done as my chanter’s C natural doesn’t sound very nice; either the C# or C is in tune, but not at the same time due to different taping requirements and both notes appear in the tune. There are also some transient high Bs in the ending phrases; I have substituted high As with what I think is minimal disturbance though I am not honestly very familiar with the melody. I guess I should try to play it on my friend’s new Kinnear smallpipe chanter with high B, F, and C natural keys…

la Marseillaise

One thing I appreciate about France from a piping perspective is the innovative piping of the Breton tradition and Bagad bands. Most notably, their use of minor scales, special chanters with pastilles for playing F and C natural without cross fingering, B instead of A drones (here’s a YouTube video of me playing a Scottish tune with my drones tuned to B and the scale adjusted accordingly), and the low F# instead of low G (other, older blog posts on these tunings here and here). These guys are real innovators and have adapted the highland bagpipes as needed to reflect their cultural traditions. A similar innovator is Lincoln Hilton, a piper in the SFU organization. He has recently put his compositions and arrangements, commonly employed by SFU, up for sale on his website with all proceeds going to fund cancer research in Australia in support of Andrew Bonar, a fellow SFU band member, who has recently been under treatment for cancer. One of Lincoln’s newest tunes is entitled “Trick or Treat” (link to his debut YouTube video playing the tune) for Halloween, the day before his fund raiser went live. This tune is awesome. It is in D minor (A phrygian) instead of our usual D major (A mixolydian), which means it requires an F and Bb instead of our usual F# and B. My tempo is dodgy but I’m working on it!

Link to mp3: Trick or Treat – Sinclair drones with Selbie tenors (a note about these at the bottom of this post), Redwood bass which is freaking awesome in this pipe, Colin Kyo chanter, Husk reed, 3M Scotch 35 vinyl electrical tape since my usual pinstriping tape isn’t wide enough to cover enough of the F# and B holes to flatten them as much as was needed to tune to D minor.

One issue with using alternate notes is how to tune them. Highland pipes are tuned using just intonation because all chanter notes must harmonize with the drones which are playing the note A (Bagad bands have developed sharper drones that tune to B thus necessitating special chanters where the notes more naturally harmonize with B drones). I’m still playing A drones, but I had to tape my chanter’s B down to Bb and my F# down to F, but how do I tune these notes? Luckily, I wondered about the tuning of non-standard notes back in 2013 (click the link) and had already figured out where these notes should tune if you were referencing a chromatic tuner which is useless for bagpipes unless you know which notes are supposed to register as “out of tune” and in which direction, sharp or flat, and by how much they need to be “out of tune” in order to be in-tune using the just intonation scale. That was a run-on sentence, no doubt.

Miscellaneous:

  1. Tenor drone reeds: I started this recording session with old Wygent tenor drone reeds at the recommendation of Shawn Husk on the bookface and while they sounded glorious, they are gloriously bold and thus a big pain to tune, and stay in tune. The slightest differences in tuning between the tenors were noticeably audible making for an unstable bagpipe. I still maintain the steadiness of mellow tenor, blended drones a la MacDougall is really a lack of boldness in the tenors especially with regard to higher overtones making them sound as if they’re locked in tune when really, you just can’t hear that they’re out of tune. I’m not complaining, it’s good enough for me! I gave up on the Wygents and plugged my Selbie tenors in (Ezee are also too tedious to tune for me). The Selbies are surprisingly mellow in these Sinclair tenors despite being quite bold in most other pipes (my 1950s Hendersons for example are impossible to tune with Selbie tenors for the same reason these Sinclairs are impossible to tune with Wygent tenors = the tenors are just too bold and rich). To clarify, you can no longer hear the wawawa due to the lower frequencies but the higher overtones still indicate the drones aren’t quite together, and it’s getting those higher overtones matched which I just don’t have the patience for.
  2. A friend gave this 3M Scotch 35 vinyl electrical tape a long time ago. It seems to hold for long periods without getting gummy. I haven’t tried it in super hot weather yet, but perhaps soon.

No Hornpipe Shakes for Me

Due to my focal dystonia, I am incapable of moving my E finger with any coordinated speed. The dystonia manifested in about my 9th year of piping and I’ve been playing for 19 years now. Since then I’ve gradually become able to play GDE grace note patterns, taorluaths, and even D doublings (but only from a higher note). This means I can also play hornpipe shakes from notes higher than D down to D or C fairly reliably. However, a lot of hornpipe shakes occur from notes below D or C and my focal dystonia still prevents that. From the top notes the pinkie and ring fingers are already up in the air and so I imagine they’re easier to pick up coming from a state of having already been in the air, but from a lower note the tension is already there and the contraction of my pinkie finger upon trying to play an E grace note kicks in and no E grace note comes out.

If you’ve listened to my blog for a while you might have noticed the odd tune where I’ve removed the hornpipe shakes in favor of delayed slurs. Tunes filled with hornpipe shakes I usually avoid posting to the blog but I figured I’d get over it and post a few of my favorites where I’ve had to remove the hornpipe shakes in order to make my fingers be able to play the tune.

The pipes are the new-to-me Sinclairs mentioned in the previous post. I had a go with Ezee in the tenors the other day which will be posted at the bottom but I’d like to feature the pipes with Selbie tenors which I much prefer. The Ezee are a bit richer, but also harder to tune. The Selbies are not as bold as the Ezee (which I find odd and opposite of what I’d expect). I like the Selbies more because they are easier to tune because they are less bold. Additionally, the Ezee tenors do not strike in well and cut out if blown in from a howling state which they are wont to do upon strike in. Basically, terrible reeds for a band pipe. Pulling off the tenor volume a bit with the Selbies also lets the Redwood bass shine quite remarkably in my opinion.

One thing you’ll have to put up with is the fine line this reed has between a crowing high A and a sharp high A. I need to pull this reed out just a tad so I can blow through the high A more consistently.

Recorder off to the left (tenor side):

Leaving Port Askaig and The Quaker – this one’s a bit rough and is provided only for comparison to the Ezee tenor recordings below since they mic was in the same spot as this recording

Recorder behind (drone side):

Hector the Hero, The Rock, 1st Hype Cowboy Division

Recorder off to the right (bass side):

Mason’s Apron and The Good Drying

Recorder behind but farther away (drone side):

Humours of Ballyloughlin, Scarce O’ Tatties, Old Chanter, and Leisa McCord

Here are the recordings using Ezee tenor drones with the Redwood bass. They all are recorded with the mic off to the left (tenor side).

Kalabakan, Bridge Something, High Road to Linton, Sleepy Maggie, and Dancing Feet

Room 35, Moonshine, and Glenlyon

What drone reeds to use in Sinclair bagpipes?

I recently acquired a set of (probably 1960s) Sinclair bagpipes.

sinclair

I mouth blew all my drone reeds and decided that a regular Ezeedrone bass or a short, inverted Ezeedrone bass was best. Many other bass drone reeds were muted. This set would be a small bore Sinclair set, I believe. Apparently early Sinclairs and maybe now modern Sinclairs have bigger bores in places, but with a bass bottom bore at 8 mm I think this set falls in line with the smaller bore pattern attributed to their age. Many tenor reeds had the opposite problem of being too bold. So I settled on a lovely set of Rockets until they wouldn’t sound regardless of bridle position once I added a chanter, so then I just went with straight Ezeedrone tenors.

In the recordings below, we’ve got the original Sinclair chanter paired with a Gilmour reed I’ve been playing for years that’s still too hard for me. It tunes right at Bb (low A = 466 Hz). I put tape on high G and D, and the B is flat, with the F sometimes flat. Short, inverted Ezeedrone bass and regular Ezeedrone tenor reeds. I thought the sound was good although the tenors lacked a little sparkle, in my opinion.

King of Laois and The Thornton jig

Neili’s and Ger the Rigger – POLKAS!!!

Pressed for Time, The High Drive, and The Big Yin – hornypipe type things

Troy’s Wedding, The Snuff Wife, and Thief of Lochaber

After a conversation with Stuart on the bookface (someone who also recently picked up a set of Sinclairs), he floated the idea of using Selbie tenors so I figured, why not? The redwood sounded a bit bold as did the Kinnaird but perhaps a plastic tongue vibrant reed would spruce up the tenors without making them too loud. (Thinking about it, I might try Canning next as they’re a bit bolder than Ezeedrone as well.) I mouth blew the Selbie tenors again and was pleasantly surprised so I went with it. Still using the short, inverted Ezeedrone bass but now with a 480 Hz Colin Kyo chanter.

Aires de Pontevedra, Muineira de Casu, Kittly Lie Over, Leisa McCord (EJ Jones), Rory Gallagher (Gordon Duncan) – this is quickly becoming my international jig set

I then decided I might play a slow air but I couldn’t help from getting the felling that there was some instability in the bass. So, I did something I never thought I would ever do. I reached for the Redwood bass drone reed to put it in. When I was mouth blowing the reeds it was one of the best sounding bass drone reeds, but in every other pipe I’ve tried this reed in, it isn’t very good. Primarily, it has a hard time starting. Well, in this pipe I think it sounds pretty darn glorious paired with the Selbie tenors which makes my favorite combo so far.

Fair Maid and Donella Beaton – let’s see how many times I can make the same mistake twice

Bessie McIntyre, Captain Lachlan MacPhail of Tiree, and Alick C MacGregor

Lastly, I figured I put the Redwood tenors in there to go with the bass, but ultimately I think the Redwood tenors are too bold.

Mo Ghile Mear, The Herring Wife, and Rakes of Kildare

Angus MacKinnon and Frank Thompson – the BBQ set (Angus Frank)

Which is your favorite?