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

6 thoughts on “Smallpipes with A chanter and G drones!

  1. I love that you post these amazing tunes for us newbies, old & young alike, to enjoy and learn, Patrick! You are a true blessing to all. I’d like to acknowledge your gracious generosity. Thank you. Your devout fan, AAM

    1. Cheers Alan!
      Thanks for stopping by the site and leaving a comment. This website is all about testing ideas, playing tunes, and connecting with pipers around the world. I’m glad you find its content useful!

  2. Hello Patrick

    As a highland and Scottish sma’ pipes ( in A ), I must say that I’m most disturbed with the lack of harmonies between the chanter sound and the background of the drones
    To my feeling, that combination conveys a heavy mood which doesn’ t allow the melody to bloom completely
    The problem would be the same if I played
    ( on smallpipes in A ) fourth’ s intervals while the A drones combine with a E barytone that sounds a fifth , it’s very restrictive because that doesn’t tune together, and would better sound in scale of A only
    But that’s my own opinion, because I love to hear the sounds to be in tune and harmony, and in fact that’s the real purpose
    ( vocation ) of the drones , otherwise, we might as well, not to play melodies against a drones background

    Jean Michel

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