Monthly Archives: September 2012

Scots Wha Hae like you’ve never heard it before!

Despite the recordings of the Jeffers pipe in the previous post, I felt I slighted them a bit with the rather quiet recordings so here’s my attempt to rectify that. Additionally, Scot What Hae is the most boring tune on earth. After that come Scotland Wedding and Highland the Brave (or is it the other way around? Thanks to parades and Grade 1 pipe bands). Ed Miller sings Scots Wha Hae and it is one of his best tunes, so here’s the vocal rhythm instead of what you’ll find the the COP tutor. It is played 3 times through to hit all the different variations in the way the different verses are sung. Combine your favorite for your pipe version!

Scots Wha Hae – Scots Wha Hae Sheet Music

Then I figured I’d try out sight reading another piobaireachd. Sorry about my slow (e)dre. The whole focal dystonia-ish thing requires me to think of the initial E grace note as a full on E to make it even happen so it’s a little slow. All that’s left is to add this (e)dre on the back of a grip to achieve a crunluath with audible E and F grace notes, unlike the recording below where the un-relearned crunluath makes it quite obvious how little my E finger likes to make grace notes anymore.

The Little Spree

Then we’ve got a couple Irish tunes.

King of Laois and Ger the Rigger

Then some sight read tunes that I’ve been meaning to learn (cause they’re awesome!)

Angus MacKenzie of Dumbarton and Snuff Wife

And lastly a hornpipe I memorized and then promptly forgot followed by a couple taorluath rich jigs. Unlike the crunluath, I’ve played enough taorluaths that I’ve relearned it separate from the E grace note so I can usually rip them off okay nowadays. Just have to work on the grip+edre to eek out a decent crunluath.

PM Calum Campbell’s Caprice, Rakes of Kildare, and Braes of Melinish

Glencoe and Jeffers bagpipes, whew!

Bunch of pipes this go around as I’m catching up. All the pipes below are played with blackwood Colin Kyo chanters and either a Husk or Gilmour reed. First on is my D. MacPherson’s (Kinnaird tenors, Rocket bass, band chanter) with a couple jigs, the second composed by EJ Jones that I transcribed from his album “The Willow”. EJ is a great musician; he also makes some of the best smallpipes and A440 chanters out there. I’ll admit this isn’t the first time I’ve ripped off some of his music. Go check out his website, it’s pretty cool!

Old Chanter and Leisa McCord (Ebert Jones)

Next is one of my last goes on the Jeffers bagpipe before I ship it back to Keith. I’ll say this bagpipe is steady as a rock. As I’ve said before my Selbie’s are well past their prime: loose bridles, moldy, what have you and these Jeffers pipes took them in stride, no problem. That is one thing Keith told me about them, that they were easy to tune and would stay locked in, and I heartily agree with him. Look for the last few posts before this one and you’ll have recordings of these Selbies in the Jeffers and my Gellaitry. I stopped playing the Selbies in my Hendersons because I couldn’t get them in tune. I had no trouble in the Jeffers, but you’ll see even my Gellaitry’s couldn’t restrain them and I had to switch back to Kinnaird for the piobaireachd for stability. We’ll hear similar issues when they’re put in the Glencoe’s later. So that’s all retrospective, today we’ve got the uber-stable Jeffers with one last set of reeds, Crozier Carbon. These tenor reeds have always been decent but I’ve never been a big fan of the bass until the last few days. I’ve always pegged it for quiet which was irritating against the volume the tenors produce. Turns out the trick is to bury that tuning plug in there as far as you can. I’ve known of this effect for a long time, but never experienced it do much except on Wygent reeds. Well, add Crozier Carbon bass reeds to that list, the tuning plug position drastically affects the volume, so push it in and you’ll get good volume from it. These are just a little on the quiet side because my Zoom H2 got reset a bit (unbeknownst to me) when I had to buy a new SD card for it, oh well. This is my easy fun chanter so the reed doesn’t respond well to B grace notes, as regular listeners might have noticed last time I played Thief of Lochaber all the grips from D were pretty mushy. Oops!

Alan MacPherson of Mosspark, I laid a herring in saut, and Kenneth MacDonald’s Jig

Kantara to El Arish, Dora MacLeod, and Captain Lachlan MacPhail of Tiree

Locheil’s awa to France and Miss Proud

Then we move on to the Glencoe pipes, apparently made by an ex-Lawrie turner by the name of Matt Marshall who immigrated to Canada and made bagpipes out of his spare bedroom. They were my father’s but eye problems have put him out of piping so I’m picking them up. We start with some more quiet recordings with my Naill-spec Rockets. This is with my solo chanter at the moment. The bag these are tied into kinks right above the chanter stock which I find irritating and think contributed to the chanter sound, especially the rather odd sounding high G. None of these tunes are played particularly well as the geometry of this pipe as it’s tied in is just wrong for me. The bag sits too low and the kink in the bag above the chanter stock is because it isn’t a “goose” neck bag and your left hand is responsible for keeping the chanter in a playable position, which didn’t help my focal dystonia-ish E grace note problem you’ll hear at some point in at least one of the recordings in this rather long post.

Donald Cameron’s Pipes and Sweet Maid of Mull

Cowal Gathering

So, next day I’m back on the Glencoe’s but I’ve hemped them up for my Dunbar stocks in my medium Gannaway (perfect fit) bag (that I played the Jeffers drones on above). So this is also that same easy fun chanter instead of my solo chanter as directly above. What a mixed bag this post is turning out to be. Also, they’ve got the Selbie’s in them again. Hear that ring? These drones aren’t the truest as far as being perfect concentric circles as you look down the bore and the Selbies, again, are worn, but I think they held their own fairly well.

Fair Maid, Swallow’s Tail, Rakish Paddy, Hen Wife’s Daughter, and Lady Doll Sinclair

Calista Anne McLaurin, Kitty O’Shea’s, and Mason’s Apron

Fairie’s Hornpipe, Jolly Beggarman, Pigeon on the gate, Fleshmarket Close, and Kelsey’s wee reel

On a side note I’ve got some rather interesting things in the works. I’m working on a python script (usable on Windows, Mac, and Linux) that will give ultra-high frequency resolution of the component frequencies that make up a bagpipe, analyzed through an audio recording. This uses numpy/scipy functionality called FFT (fast Fourier transform) to switch between the time domain of a signal to the frequency domain. More neat, is that you can do an inverse Fourier transform to go from the frequency domain back to the time domain. So the idea is that you can convert a recording of a set of drones into its constituent frequencies, zero out certain fundamentals or overtones, reconvert back to the time domain audio signal and hear what the drones would sound like were they lacking certain overtones or hear what JUST the overtones coming off the drones sound like. Pretty neato huh? So, the script is mostly fleshed out but it needs a little more work which means I have to find the time sometime to get around to finishing it. My wife is on a research block for 4 weeks which means I won’t have any nights to myself as she won’t ever be off at the hospital overnight so I’m not sure when it will get done. So I figure writing about it on here will ensure that I do get it done sometime because maybe someone out there might actually use it.

Alrighty, this post is long enough and I bet I’m needed else where. Cheerios (and Corn Flakes)!

Gellaitrys + Selbies & a Piobaireachd

So, had to break out the Gellaitry’s again after the cosmetic refurb of a new bag cover and cords, as seen above. Figured I’d give the Selbie’s that were sounding so good in the Jeffers pipe a go so I did, and the first sets are of that combo. It was okay for light music, but they’re definitely showing their age. By the time I got to my attempt at a Piobaireachd, I couldn’t get through the ground without the tuning changing. I think I started playing these Selbie’s in 2002 and pretty solidly through 2008ish, and then off and on again. They got a little mold on them and stuff. :o) The bridles slide very easily so I’m just not sure they’re tight enough to keep everything in tune. So, in frustration, I threw the Kinnairds back in and had, you guessed it, no trouble.

Gellaitry’s with old Selbie’s:

Mrs. Lily Christie (band 6/8)

Newmarket House & Hen’s March (last year’s HJ)

The Mermaid, Gravel Walk, Spanner in the Works, & High Road to Linton

Big Yin, Kitty lie over, & Drops of Brandy (The Tully Tribute set)

Gellaitry’s with Kinnaird:

Too Long in this Condition (So yeah, I got to the end and wasn’t sure how to sight read the a mach until it was too late. Not too bad considering it was my 3rd Piobaireachd in like a year, and that I play a different one every time. Some day they won’t bore the crap out of me.)

Jeffers + Selbie, Canning, and Kinnaird

So, I got another crack at the pipes this week (maybe I shouldn’t use the word crack when talking about a set of pipes I don’t own) and tried out a couple other bass drone reeds, the polycarbonate Canning and the Kinnaird. I think they both performed well. I think the important point is that those Selbie tenors really make the sound what it is. The tenors are going to have higher amplitude overtones in the chanter fundamental range and I think that’s what I hear a lot of, each note has its own character, lots of growling sparkliness emanating from my Harmon-Kardon space ship looking speakers. Whenever I get around to posting my research on the properties of tenor and bass drone reeds (probably never) you would know as well as I that Selbie’s are the extroverts of tenor reeds, and I think they match these bores very well. Once I go to an all Kinnaird setup, the tenors are markedly quieter (which surprised me), the pipe became very bass dominant (blended? if you will) but I think it lost a bit of sparkle compared to having those Selbie tenors in there. I recommend Selbies often for those who play Shepherds and Hardies because those pipes can be very mellow and need all the help they can get. The Selbie bass is a solid reed too, do doubt. Unlike the Crozier carbon which has bold pure tenors (on par with Selbie) but a very meek bass, the Selbie delivers on all fronts. The also play well in Lawrie type pipes to bring up the tenor presence just a tad, so I understand they work well in McCallums too. I think for big tenor pipes like Hendersons they can make the tenors too big though, so they’re not a panacea. You run into big problems getting all the high amplitude overtones in tune with the chanter fundamentals. I need to try them in my Gellaitry’s again, where the Kinnairds were the perfect fit. Enough talk, more screwing up!

Polycarbonate Canning Bass + Selbie Tenors

01-fair_maid-swallows_tail-rakish_paddy (this has become a staple set of mine)

02-arthur_bignold_of_lochrosque-rossshire_volunteers-kantara_to_el_arish (the first is my Robertson friend’s 2/4 competition march and the second two are mine I’m thinking about switching to, away form Cowal Gathering and Major Manson’s Farewell to Clachantrushal which I’ve used for the last several years)

Kinnaird Bass + Selbie Tenors

03-cowal_gathering-dora_macleod-miss_proud (well, dora sucked)

Kinnaird Bass and Tenors

04-pm_george_allan-braes_of_melinish (fingers tightening had to release some energy somehow, I guess the grips were the needle on the camel’s back)

05-highland_cathedral-clumsy_lover_jig (I know, I hate the first tune too but I’m running out of slow airs and figured I should get it on here at least once)

Jeffers Bagpipe – playing with bass drone reeds

Howdy ho my peoples. My last post from yesterday was short and sweet so this one is long and sour, maybe? My Selbie bass has a bridle so loose I would not be surprised if it is sliding during playing. So, I figured I’d putter around with some other bass drone reeds. Leave a comment if you’d like indicating your favorite or what you thought didn’t sound so good. I think the Selbie is still the best. Colin Kyo was good though, my only quibble is it being high on the pin. The regular ole Ezeedrone just didn’t seem to settle. The Henderson Harmonic Deluxe didn’t work at all so there is no recording. The Crozier glass was really buzzy. The Crozier carbon quiet, as usual. The Rocket that makes my MacPherson bass sing, sucks air in this pipe like no other. So, Selbie it is! Selbie tenors in all the recordings below, and I forgot to mention that’s a Colin Kyo chanter and Husk reed, same for the previous post. Presented in chronological order and I’m going to be really lazy today, given the volume of recordings, and not beautify the track lists. Recorded in the bedroom today so you get to hear them from many angles.

Selbie bass:

01-74ths_farewell_to_edinburgh (I still suck at B taorluaths)

02-donald_macleans_farewell_to_oban (I still round off the quarter C doublings)

03-74ths_slow_march-some_march-pipers_prelude (E grace notes on D are killing me)

04-humours_of_ballyloughlin (this tune has been trying to get on the blog forever, so I finally caved)

Colin Kyo bass: 05-highland_wedding-susan_macleod-bessie_mcintyre (meh)

Crozier Glass: 06-kalabakan-famous_bridge-big_yin-donald_macleod (buzzzzzzz)

Ezeedrone: 07-going_home-sleepy_maggie_x2-dick_gossips-dancing_feet (yeah, I dunno)

Crozier Carbon: 08-scarce_o_tatties-queen_of_the_rushes-frahers_jig (no I didn’t barf)

Rocket: 09-waltz-gravel_walk-korgi (guess I didn’t remember that one tune eh?)

New Pipes – are they the real MacDougall?

Out of the blue I had a fellow by the name of Keith Jeffers shoot me an email and ask for my comments regarding an audio file of him playing his pipes. I thought they sounded good but you know audio files, it can be tough to judge. I didn’t recognize the maker though, so I asked, and he fessed up admitting that in fact, he had made them. I thought that was pretty cool. He told me the styling was inspired a bit by Duncan Gillis. He also told me that he bored them to what basically amounted to ever so slightly modified Duncan MacDougall specifications. I believe he said the bores were intact, so maybe something in the bell was slightly altered, I’m unsure. He would then be the third pipe maker (or pipe maker’s friend) to have suggested to me in the last month or so that they thought the MacDougall based pipe was the absolute best. I then fessed up and said for all that I hear about them, I’ve never knowingly heard a set of MacDougall pipes live. Then you know what, Keith made a set and sent it over for me to try. And here they are, about a month later:

Sorry for the iPhone pictures with the lovely backdrop of my bed’s blanket. I personally love the styling. The cord guide on the bass could be a little narrower and the stocks more uniform and smaller, but other than that I have no quibbles. I like how the rings of the projecting mounts look, passing up the slope smoothly into the wood for a different effect. The understated chalice tops. The slight taper of the drone top sections, but without the bulge you would see on a set of MacLellan’s. The flat drone top. Even the inverse bead is neat. I believe the mounts are made of hard maple. The drones themselves are cocobolo, a wood Keith prefers over african blackwood. He has taken a very different approach to how a bagpipe should look and I think it turns out very nice.

On to the sound, I settled on Selbie reeds (though I’ve only tried Kinnaird, Ezeedrone, and Crozier Glass), but having just sold my new set to a friend up in New York, I’ve got my old, probably need to replace the bridles, Selbies in there. My list of excuses today include having a brutal 1 hour workout about 3 hours before recording, I think the reed is about done in the chanter, and I suck as usual. I’m also in the walk-in closet recording as the kids are asleep and mommy is working the NICU this block. Hopefully I’ll get a recording in an open room soon for a better perspective. Sometimes it gets a little tenor heavy because I guess I kept switching feet (tired from the workout) which apparently landed the outside tenor a little too close to the mic. Nothing bad, just noticeable. I think the tone is great. I don’t have a clue if they sound like MacDougall’s, but the sound very nice regardless. I’ve got two recordings for you. I’ve been meaning to record the band set for the players to play along with and haven’t gotten around to it until tonight, I figured two birds, one bagpipe. So, bear with the rather lackluster tempos and be thankful it makes it easier to hear the drones. Then to make up for it I demonstrate how to play hornpipe shakes with no consistency whatsoever, followed by that jig I finally got right. Cheerios!

Battle of Waterloo, A Dram Before You Go, Glasgow Police Pipers, Deer Forest, Firth of Lorn, Sleepy Maggie, & Dancing Feet

The Redundancy & Rakes of Kildare