Category Archives: Union, Smallpipes, Northumbrian, etc.

People playing ‘other’ pipes.

Tune of the Month – August 2017

I have been listening to Ed Miller sing Scottish folk songs all my life. Pipers will recognize the playing of EJ Jones on many of Ed’s more recent albums. Ed collaborates regularly with Brian McNeill, one of the founding members of Battlefield Band, awesome fiddler, and songwriter as well. Despite the many pipe tunes EJ contributes on pipes, the Tune of the Month for August is actually a song, Wark o’ the Weavers. It is a song about how many trades serve a limited segment of the population, but everyone needs the work of the weavers. Unless you’re a nudist I guess, not something covered in the song, haha. It’s arranged here as a 2 part 2/4 march.

Wark o’ the Weavers – pdf file

A video of me playing the tune on my Ray Hughes smallpipes can be found on YouTube:

A chanter with G drones sounds better with D baritones/altos

My last post featured my A smallpipe chanter specially made to tune against G drones. I was using my C smallpipe drones which naturally tune to C on the tenor and bass and G on the baritone. Up until this point, as in the last post, I’ve plugged the tenor C and just played the G baritone and C bass. But, based on a comment from Jean in my last post, someone finally made me think it was, in fact, too dark sounding. So, remembering the pins were pretty far out on the tenor and bass I pulled them up to D and now the As on the chanter sound so much better and it is much happier sounding!

So, an A chanter with what amounts to, relative to an A chanter, a D alto, G tenor, and D baritone (no G bass drone, yet).

Keelman Ower The Land

Ulverston Volunteers


Smallpipes with A chanter and G drones!

Yep, I’m playing a special A smallpipe chanter by Seth Hamon that was made to tune against drones playing G instead of the usual A. This requires repositioning a couple of the holes from a normal A chanter because the notes do not play at the same pitch to be in tune against G drones. It is really easy to get me sidetracked on the details so I’ll just stop now with discussing the details. One more thing though, this chanter also has a C natural hole where the C sharp (C#) hole normally is. Bagpipers don’t usually refer to our “C” as C# but that’s what it is. What makes this chanter different is that it plays in A dorian (A B C D E F# G) instead of the usual A mixolydian (A B C# D E F# G). This isn’t unheard of as C natural holes can be drilled for the bottom hand thumb to use (I have one like this) or it can also be keyed. However, my thumb sucks at covering that hole and keys prevent embellishments. So, I had the C natural hole drilled on the front of the chanter instead of the usual C#.

For a first iteration, the chanter is playable. With a few modifications it will be even easier to play (the C-D gap is a bit wide right now). You can hear in the recordings below a couple times where my fingers didn’t land on the bottom hand holes very solidly.

Where do you get G drones? C smallpipes! I cork the tenor C and just play the baritone G and bass C drones.

Here are a whole collection of tunes I’m working on that fit this pipe. There aren’t many standard highland bagpipes tunes that work because they mostly end on low A. So, I get to expand my repertoire to include all those tunes from other Celtic (or not) traditions that end on G. I think most of them are Northumbrian or Irish. The pdf of the collection will continue to grow and the most recent version can always be found at this on the Free Tune books page of my website. It’s mostly compiled in highland style with various grace note patterns I’m experimenting with. Many of the Northumbrian tunes are often played by Northumbrian smallpipes which don’t utilize grace notes to near the extent Scottish smallpipers do, if at all. Remember, the “C” notes all need to be C naturals!


Ulverston Volunteers

Dick’s Maggot

Stybarrow Crag

Give Us A Drink Of Water

Sir John Fenwick’s The Flower Amang Them A’

Ribbon Dance

Double Chanter

So, I ran across this website and it has a pipe with two chanters. I thought that was awesome. Then I was telling my dad how cool it was and he said, well, you could do that with your smallpipes. I was like, DUH! My smallpipes used to be bellows blown, but are now mouth blown, so I just stick another chanter in the old bellows stock. Here’s a couple tunes in video (quicktime format). I taped the top hand of the 2nd chanter.

Kalabakan – Both hands on one chanter then each hand on its own chanter. Just played the tune straight through leaving each hand where it would be were I only playing one chanter.

Kalabakan video

Kalabakan on YouTube

Sleep Dearie Sleep – Each hand on its own chanter. Tried to do some harmony.

Sleep Dearie Sleep video

Sleep Dearie Sleep on YouTube

The volumes of chanters and drones aren’t matched real well, but hey, it works! I had to use a rubber coaster on my leg to keep the top hand chanter from flying off when playing high G/A.

The pipes were made by Ray Hughes.

Slow Air / Hornreel

So I broke the smallpipes out for the first time since early September. I usually only get them out to play with the local Irish musicians but the kid went to sleep so I figured I would play something that was quieter. The slow air is a tune I wrote called Calista Anne McLaurin (the kid who was asleep) and the hornpipe/reel was a tune I wrote called Rascal’s Runabout. The sheet music for both can be found here:

airhornreel <- Listen Here


Smallpipes in A with 1 drone = E (not A!)

I loan out my smallpipes to students, at least I have recently, so they can get used to the mechanics before playing the big pipes. I got a set back a few days ago and stuck a drone in (tenor) but it tuned to E not A. So I went with it! Here is me playing Hector the Hero, Sleep Dearie Sleep, and Humours of Ballyloughlin (sp?). Note: you have to sharpen the high G for it to sound good (I think, so I did, though I didn’t have an A drone to compare it to). Needless to say, my smallpipes are ‘composites’ of components from a couple of sets of Ray Hughes smallpipes…clickhere.mp3

Peace, Patrick McLaurin

Bagpipe Setup = Ray Hughes Smallpipe in A – Ray Hughes Drone Reed – Ray Hughes Chanter with Walsh D Reed with lots of tape because I should have bought an A Reed!