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!