I never knew how much the tone of a set of pipes was affected by the wood they were made out of until these last few days. Tim Gellaitry sent me a set of pipes made of a brown wood to try because he knows I like to experiment with different setups and wood choice really hasn’t been something I could have studied up until now. I already own a set of his blackwood pipes so I can make a direct comparison between these brownwood pipes and my blackwood pipes. (edit 12-18-2012: I have since discovered the bushings on my blackwood set are 1/16″ larger in diameter than bushings on the brownwood set).
Upon receipt, these pipes are very brown. Not ugly brown (a la Pakistani) but instead a pretty brown. I don’t know the name of the wood, so I’m going to call these pipes brownwood. He says the wood itself is a lot like ebony. I played an ebony set of Robertson’s about a year ago; the first thing I noted in them was the strong overtones and overall sweet sound. What’s the first thing I noted with these brownwood pipes when I struck them up for the first time? Great overtones and a sweet sound. Relative to my blackwood set, the brownwood set has a smoother sound whereas the blackwood has an edge to it. The difference between butter and its knife. The overtones of the buttery brownwood set are distinct from the edgier sound emanating from the blackwood. So, some recordings.
The ONLY thing that changes in the recordings below is the material the drones are made out of (and my chanter kept getting flat after switching to the brownwood pipes so the tuning isn’t spectacular on the brownwood recordings, until the last one anyway). Both are Tim Gellaitry bagpipes made to the same specs. I kept the blackwood stocks, Colin Kyo chanter, drone reeds, bag, actual drone reeds, and relative standing position to the mic all the same. The blackwood ones were recorded first, then I swapped out just the brownwood drones into the blackwood stocks and transplanted the reeds; I never stopped the recorder. The chanter is tuning fairly high in pitch as it is very dry in Lubbock. I think I’ll pull the reed out a bit and tape the bottom hand for the next round of recordings coming soon to fully feature the brownwood pipes. I use Kinnaird drone reeds, regular pitch.
I spliced the scales together here for a more direct comparison. Again, you can hear the chanter has gone a wee bit flat on the brownwood, I had to remember to blow it out.
Here are some tune sets. Today was not a birl day, hence the change of jig.
By the time I got to the brownwood pipes the chanter started to go flat a little bit, as can be observed in the brownwood recordings above (and mentioned earlier). For my last recording for the day I spent what little time I had left to record correcting the chanter tuning. So, we’ve got a short tunes I ran across in The Gordon Highlanders Pipe Music Collection Volume I a few days ago. Probably my favorite solo piping album of all time is Hugh MacCallum’s. A lot of my original repertoire comes from playing tunes that he played on that album. So I figured I’d play a tune named after him. Stay tuned for the next installment on the blog where I start out with the brownwood pipes so there’s no funny business swapping drones boogering up the chanter tuning.
Lastly, I do not own these brownwood pipes, they are just currently in my possession after already being in the U.S. Tim Gellaitry tells me they are for sale. A customer opted to have an identical set but with slides added to the tuning pins, which is what gave me the opportunity to play this other set. If you’re interested in purchasing these pipes, definitely give him a shout. I have only played the drones and will not be utilizing the stocks or blowpipe. I believe this brownwood set is one of two in existence. Tim mentioned publicly on Facebook (so I have no qualms about reposting it), “it bores and turns very similar to ebony with the dull bores .Very dusty and hard on your tools. It’s used by a lot of woodwind makers as they prefer the tone.” As I said I own a set of blackwood pipes by Tim (also featured in this post) and they are honestly a great set of pipes. Absolutely top notch craftsmanship (I haven’t seen better) and superb tonal quality. They have been my set of choice for solo competition since I acquired them in 2010. His drones are steady as a rock and sound absolutely fantastic. Finally some pictures!