New Blue Mikey Microphone and Robertson’s!!! Robertson’s!!!

I occasionally upload videos of me playing to YouTube; usually when I’m in Houston (all the ones in the green room) visiting the in-laws and don’t have my laptop with me (so no audio editing). I picked up a Blue Mikey digital which plugs into the bottom of the iPhone 4/4s and offers stereo recording with a flatter response across the frequency spectrum than what you’ll get with the built in mic (which is mono and attenuates non-speaking frequencies). Of course, every bagpipe sounds the same on YouTube (let’s hope not, there’s some pretty bad ones out there!) so this is an attempt to get decent audio in the videos I make now. I had to fiddle some more with the reed from last time and I’m not sure if I made it better or worse, it keeps going flat. Bleh…I just need to order a few more reeds from Shawn Husk and move on. So, I’m playing my Henderson’s equipped with Rocket reeds, although it’s not a solid sound because the chanter keeps moving pitch, oh well. So, the phone and my usual audio recorder were placed right next to each other so you get the mp3 and the video posted to YouTube so you can compare quality. The mp3 is recorded at 320 kbps (highest possible bitrate, I believe) and the video uses whatever codec Apple uses when recording video (something I can’t change so it really doesn’t matter!). It’s fairly uninspired playing as I was rather uninspired by the tone, but time is money and this is what I got.

WARNING: Big volume difference between YouTube (quiet) and the MP3s!!! The Mikey has 3 settings: 1. quiet because you know the audio is going to be very quiet (45-65 dB range), 2. auto gain (dynamically adjust the gain), and 3. loud because you know it is going to be loud (100-135 dB range). I put it on loud since bagpipes are usually about 90-95 dB but it made the videos fairly quiet so auto gain is next.

YouTube: The Mermaid, PM George Allan, and Alan MacPherson of Mosspark

MP3: The Mermaid, PM George Allan, and Alan MacPherson of Mosspark

YouTube: Rossshire Volunteers and Lochiels Away to France 

MP3: Rossshire Volunteers and Lochiel’s Away to France

Then I ran out of space on my iPhone because I’ve got too much bagpipe music on there so the last (best?) track I only got an mp3 of off the audio recorder because it has an SD card (tsk tsk Apple).

The Fair Maid, Captain Lachlan MacPhail of Tiree, and Bessie McIntyre

The next day I received a package in the mail form David Murry up in New York. David is a really nice guy who I correspond with regularly. He’s a tone aficionado so you can imagine we have a lot to talk about. He’s recently been buying bagpipes like I buy drone reeds (meaning, a lot and don’t tell his wife). He’s got himself a set of Jeffers pipes (heard them here first, muahahaha) but he also picked a couple of Robertson’s up, an older one (1920’s?) and a newer one (1947?). He knows I have a late model Robertson fetish so he sent me the 1947s to try! Woohoo. Naturally, the first thing I did was put Canning’s in them, no brainer. Time is money and the wife was tapping her foot waiting for me to shut up so she could go to bed (the walk in closet isn’t THAT sound proof) so here’s all I got, tuning…meh. Pictures further down below. I just put the drones in my Henderson stocks so we’re missing out on any drone tone contributions from the Robertson stocks; good thing they still sound exactly like late Robertson’s with Canning drone reeds in them. If the shoe fits!

So, I forgot how the first jig went (is it GDE throw or throw GDE?) so I started into the wrong tune out of the slow air (didn’t mean to play Troy’s) and so then I make sure you’re paying attention by cleverly using the last throw of Troy’s as the first throw of Kenneth’s which in the end sounds really bad, but whatcha gonna do (when they come for you?). I also boogered up the 3rd part of Donella, but who you gonna call (Ghostbusters!). Aaaaahhhhhhhhhh sigh, those were some pretty lame jokes, haha, or not.

HOLD THE PHONE!!! Showing these Robertson’s off last night to my Robertson aficionado we discovered that one of my brand new Canning tenor reeds is, well, garbage frankly. It helps if you take the ear plugs out, so much for sounding like Robertson’s, haha.. The bad one is very brash, loud, with huge ugly overtones no doubt louder than the fundamental which is going to give the recordings below a completely different sound. Luckily I have some old Canning tenors and I can get them to sound exactly like the normal new Canning tenor so recordings to follow should sound more Robertsony. So I leave the two below for posterity? Edited: 1-13-2013

Loch Tay Boat Song, Troy’s Wedding, Kenneth MacDonald’s Jig, Thief of Lochaber, and Donella Beaton

Findhorn Bay and Rakes of Kildare

And here are some pretty pictures. The pipes show some of the sap wood which always looks really cool. I’ve only seen it on cocuswood sets but I’m not sure what kind of wood these are. I’m fairly certain it’s cocuswood because the wood is jet black like ebony. As you can tell, David was really worried about his pipes coming to dry ole West Texas as they have the sheen of a fresh bath in oil. Also notice the tenor stocks are different sizes and the chanter stock seems to be a replacement, maybe?

One thought on “New Blue Mikey Microphone and Robertson’s!!! Robertson’s!!!

  1. Thanks for the kinds words Patrick, and yes please everyone, no more tempting offers. I am trying very hard right now not to bite on a set of 1920 Hendersons, but truth be told, my Jeffers are the best sounding pipes I have ever owned. Anywho…
    You have them sounding pretty nice already, Patrick ..sorry about all the oil :)
    I was told the chanter stock was a period replacement, but who knows. They are 1947 and was told cocus from the owner but I think they are in fact blackwood..not 100% sure though. Either way, nice recordings with them. I look forward to hearing more about your thoughts on them and how you find they lock. The bass gives me some real nice mid level harmonics with certain reeds. Roberston did not seem overly concerned with perfectly matching his tenor stocks..my 1920 set also are not perfectly matched and they too are all original stocks.
    I do think you’ll find the stocks add a decent amount their ability to stay “locked” in if you have the drive to tie in the stocks, but I don’t blame you for going the “Hendy” route.
    Enjoy them friend.

    David NY

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