Monthly Archives: October 2013

Salado entry forms

For those of you not on the direct email list of the contest organizers of the Salado Scottish Festival, you might have noticed the entry forms to the Salado contest may not be too easy to find on the web. So, I’ve attached them to the bottom of this post for your convenience. It includes individual piping and drumming, pipe band, and dancing entry forms.

SALADO – WORD document

SALADO – PDF document

RJM solo chanter, take 2

I was a little concerned about the D on the RJM solo chanter being flat from my initial set up of the chanter. A summary of that post has both new and broken in Husk and new Melvin reeds all giving a flat D such that I had to tape every other hole down (except high A) to match the tuning of the D. Both those reed makes being hybrid ridge cut or full ridge cut respectively, I figured I’d see if the flat D persisted into the realm of straight cut reeds. I found one of my old broken in Gilmour reeds from days past and lo and behold, I didn’t have to move a piece of tape; therefore, the D is still flat. So, I feel this particular chanter might could stand a little undercutting on D. Another RJM player has reported a perfectly fine D but another flat note, so looks like there’s a wee bit of variability. (EDIT November, 4 2012 – Roddy has reported that the flat D is unusual and would like to take a look at the chanter, you can see a pic of his personal chanter in the original post.)

I figured I was 2/3 the way to what I call the standard Gold Medalists set up, so I figured (we do a lot of that in West Texas) I’d go all in and so I have switched the bass drone reed in these Colin Kyo pipes from a low pitch Genesis Kinnaird to a Henderson Harmonic Deluxe. I prefer this combination as the bass isn’t quite as overbearing, so you get a really good blend. Since this is the combination a lot of upper echelon players use, I guess these CK pipes are a lot like all those classic Hendersons those guys play. If I recall correctly, Murray based his pipes off an old Henderson.

My fingers are still adjusting to the different chanter spacing from the Colin Kyo chanter, pardon the slips please. Mic is drones side, i.e. behind me.

Burden of Innocence and Happy Days – a tragic tune followed by a happy tune

Ewe wi the crooked horn and Rejected Suitor – still working on my strathspey phrasing, SWSW seems to work pretty well for the first part of Ewe, just need to figure out what works best for the other parts

Kantara to El Arish, Cowal Gathering, and Major Manson’s Farewell to Clachantrushal – gotta work on my 2/4s for the upcoming competition in Salado, TX

RJM solo chanter

Today was very frustrating. I was getting my Colin Kyo pipes going again after the flapper valve broke off and I gave Bryan his Canning reeds back. So I installed a new flapper and put my Canning drone reeds in. I bought these Cannings earlier this year and we noticed that one of them was much more brash than the other. I contacted Ryan Canning and he has sent a replacement that has yet to arrive (edit: received!). But today, putting them in the CK pipes, they both wouldn’t hold tuning for anything. The slightest pressure variation and they’re going out all over the place. It was driving me nuts. These Cannings are nothing like the Cannings Bryan had in these pipes so I imagine the brash tenor is going crazy. I’ve got an older used set I’ll dig out and try in these CK pipes but until then, Ezeedrone tenors and a Kinnaird low pitch bass worked flawlessly. Nothing worse than dinking with drones for an hour when you’re trying a new chanter. Evidence that these Cannings work fine in other pipes can be had in this post (listen to the ones at the very bottom, made the same day as the recording in this post) and even in these Glencoes in a recording just the other day.

So, about that chanter. Below is the only decent recording I got of the new to market RJM solo chanter, designed by Roddy MacLeod and manufactured by Naill bagpipes. I was exhausted by the time I finally got this recording where the drones started in tune and stayed that way for more than 5 seconds, all I had to do was switch drone reeds. Below you’ll find some pictures. The first thing you’ll notice is how far down the low A is compared to my regular CK chanter. I could definitely feel my pinkie covering the low A hole from the top (see new EDIT below, added 9-9-2015). Tuning wise, I found the D flat. I tried brand new Husk and Melvin reeds, both drooled all over and squeezed to my strength. Both were in pretty far. But, both had a flat D and so I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a reed issue so I plugged my year old Husk that I’ve been using in all the most recent recordings on the blog in to see what happened. It had a flat D too. So in all the pictures below, you’ll see the tape where I had to tape the RJM holes down to the D, the only other hole not having tape being high A. Speaking of high A, it certainly has a different tone than you’ll get out of any other chanter, a selling point is being able to achieve Roddy’s famous high A. Concerning how far these reeds were in, the reed seat is quite cavernous, at least compared to the Colin Kyo I’m used to. I wonder if this is how he accomplished the feat of having both the high G and Piobaireachd high G tuned to the same pitch negating the usual adjustment of tape necessary between those two notes? Something I forgot to test. Oh yeah, the tone holes got taped too, about a third of the holes. It’s unfortunate that I couldn’t get the D up to pitch. Just balancing the A’s initially gave me a good octave everywhere, but D, right at 480 Hz, as claimed by Roddy. However, in taping down to meet the D I think I ended up around 475 Hz. If I keep this thing, that D hole is going to be oval. I’ll note 2 of my 4 blackwood CK chanters have had the D hole sharpened some by undercutting. I’ve done this to Bryan’s laminate CK chanter too which is how I know its easier to undercut the laminate material than blackwood. I also had a flat D with the McC2 chanter. Something about flat Ds, I dunno.

Fair Maid, Gallawa Hills, Leaving Port Askaig, and the Quaker – sorry about the bass dominance once I start marching, I guess I should march perpendicular to the recorder and not parallel to it, doh! Slow airs are taken over several orientations relative to the mic so you get a feel for chanter drone blend.

Photos below compare the RJM solo chanter (left) next to a Colin Kyo chanter (right), my standard chanter brand. They are both taped up for Husk reeds. You’ll notice the F# hole is a little lower on the RJM. On the bottom hand the D starts it off just a little lower than on the CK with the relative spacing to the C# and B about the same, but then the low A is much lower on the RJM.

EDIT November 4, 2013

I have been in contact with Roddy about the chanter and he says the flat D is unusual. He says he plays Troy McAllister reeds and so I’ve ordered a couple of those today to try. Roddy has offered to have a look at the chanter and so I’ll be posting it back to him for a look. Meanwhile, he’s sent me a picture of his RJM solo chanter as played at the Bratach Gorm in London on Saturday, November 2, 2013. Pretty cool he’s using his new chanter in competition and not his old one. Seems to work pretty well, he won the Bratach Gorm with it! You’ll note he’s got tape on D, so certainly not flat for him.

EDIT September 9, 2015

Roddy has redesigned his chanter a wee bit to raise the low A hole of the chanter to be easier to reach. He has kindly provided a picture with the old design on the left and the new design on the right. See below:


1947 button mounted ebony Robertson – $SOLD

I had this idea to play tunes that haven’t been published yet. So, that requires a bit of sight reading so I figure it’d be good to work on those tunes just a wee bit before getting them up on the pipes. In lieu of unpublished tunes, I’m currently sight reading tunes I used to play ages ago when I was teenager and had nothing better to do, to at least have some idea of what notes are going to come next. Needless to say, it’s been a while! It is also near impossible to sight read Piobaireachd and arrive at something remotely close to sounding like music.

I’ve got the Robertson spec carbon fiber Rockets going again here. Pipes are for sale. Imitation ivory ringcaps and bushes, nickel ferrules, button mounted, ebony Robertsons from 1947. No blowpipe or chanter, but the rest of the set is complete. Sticks only. David Murry is the owner of the pipes. You can contact him for more info at: (contact info deleted after sale). I’ll note if you need a bag I have a lead on small and large sized Gannaways that I think both have grommets and zipper. In order to tempt you I have played some nice little tunes and then with an appeal to you Piobaireachd players, I did my best! Of course, these Rockets can go with the sale too.

The Wasp (RS Taylor) and The Homewrecker (Bob Worrall)

Charlie MacDonald (D Ogilvie) and Caroline’s Jig (Bruce Gandy)

Random notes that just happen to be in the same order as Patrick Og MacCrimmon’s Lament

mid-20th century H. Starck with various drone reeds

Jim up in Colorado recently purchased a set of H. Starck bagpipes but having just got them back from being refurbished he his headed out of the country. So, he mailed them to me to play for a little bit. This post is me throwing my collection of drone reeds at it: Canning, Kinnaird, Selbie, Ezeedrone, Crozier Glass, and Colin Kyo with a few more to come. This chanter reed is on its way out so the chanter sound isn’t super crisp (nor is my fingering). Excuses excuses….

Recorded October 9, 2013:

Canning reeds with carbon fiber bass – Castle Dangerous, Loch Maree, and Lochanside – the new band 3/4 set, just listen to the ring of those drones, that’s the Cannings talking right there

Genesis Kinnaird with low pitch bass – Bloody Fields of Flanders and Willie Cumming’s Rant – my favorite drone reed set up, I think, Canning was good as was Crozier glass

Selbie – Kilworth Hills and Archie Beag – I think I hit 1 birl. Also, the reeds just wouldn’t settle.

Recorded October 10, 2013:

Ezeedrone – The Haunting (Neil Dickie) and The Keel Row (as a reel) – sight read though I’ve played both tunes many times in the past on the practice chanter, not quite the same sparkle as Canning, but a solid sound nonetheless

Crozier Glass – Echo Lake (Donald MacLeod) and Benside (Donald MacLeod) – a pretty good example of the harmonics of the drones interacting with the chanter

Colin Kyo (drone reeds) – Banks of Locheil and Jack Aloft (Donald MacLeod) – the slow air was the one Lyon College used at the 2001 World’s (grade 3B, 2nd place), I’ve never played the hornpipe before, in the tenor “ring” department about half-way between Canning and Ezeedrone

I have to say, these drones are very amenable to just about any set of reeds you want to put in there. Stabilization is always very fast and tuning stable with reasonable pitch response (except a wee bit with the Selbie’s, but I think that’s a Selbie thing in that they produce larger amplitude overtones and so you have to really get them dialed in). The only drawback is the weird drone reed seats. I had to finagle the hemp on the reeds to accommodate what seemed to be very wide reed seats that didn’t correspond to the angle that any maker uses when forming the shape of the tenon on the reed body. For reference, I spent more time fitting the reeds than warming up each set of reeds and recording the set. I may have to have another go at the first 3 considering the difference in recording despite the fact that I was standing in the exact same spot and relative orientation to the mic both days, mic up high bass drone height part way between chanter and drones on my left, tenor side. The drones seem less full in the first 3 recordings which is a bit different than what I remember, so maybe pretend the drones are a little louder in those. Trouble with comparing recordings! Might just be my imagination.

Here’s a pic:

Edit 2013-10-14

Here are recordings where the drones are facing the mic.

Battle of Waterloo, A Dram Before you Go, and Deer Forest – Canning with carbon fiber bass

51st Highland Division, Scarce o’ Tatties, and Deer Forest – Canning with polycarbonate bass

Robertsons with Canning and other Rocket reeds

This post is the 2nd in a series about a set of Robertsons on loan to me that are for sale. The previous post featured several recordings with Robertson spec Rocket drone reeds with carbon fiber tongues. The general impression was that the tenors were too quiet and the bass too loud, relatively speaking, and the overall blend was lacking. We rectify that today with two sets of different drone reeds: Canning and the Naill spec (I think) Rockets that up until a few weeks ago were the reeds dedicated to my Hendersons until they were supplanted by Atherton MacDougall spec Rockets. You can tell, I love getting my hands on Rocket reeds (they all come second hand to me).

In both cases, you’ll hear a marked improvement in tenor volume and overall blend. First the Cannings. For each recording in this post I start with a slow tune and face the mic with 4 different orientations that roughly change with the change in parts, taken in the following order: mic behind the drones, mic on my left (tenor side), mic chanter side, mic on my right (bass side); then I take a generic stance with the mic off to my left side (half way between mic chanter side and tenor side) for the faster tunes.

Fair Maid, Iron Man, Balmoral Castle, and Orange and Blue – I don’t play strathspeys often enough.

Wth my Naill spec Rockets:

Gallawa’ Hills, The Curlew, and Alan MacPherson of Mosspark – I was trying to start into Kalabakan (see next set) but I played the Curlew instead, then my brain farted again and I played Alan, whatcha going to do (when they come for you).

The Mermaid, Kalabakan, and Broken/Crooked/Old/Boogery/Slimy Bridge – I can’t ever remember what the name of the last tune is.

David Murry is the owner of the pipes and he’s selling them. You can contact him for more info and price at: (contact info deleted after sale). I’ll note if you need a bag I have a lead on small and large sized Gannaways that I think both have grommets and zipper. There is no blowpipe or chanter but the set of drones and stocks are both complete.