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D or G chanter for sessions?

PostPosted: Fri Aug 19, 2016 12:47 pm
by keelbolt
I play whistle and accordion at a lot of sessions locally, and would dearly love to learn the Northumbrian pipes. But before I can settle on a set, I need to decide between a D or a G set. I understand that the D range starts at A below middle D and goes up to G1. By analogy, I assume that a G set will start at D and have a range not unlike my D whistle. But I've been told that the G set is harsh and not as nice a sound as the lower 'D' set. Most of the session tunes I play are either in G or D, with the occasional foray into A, E minor and A minor. So which would be a better choice? A D set with its lower range, or a G set which more closely matches the range of the D penny whistle? Or have I got it all wrong?

Re: D or G chanter for sessions?

PostPosted: Wed Aug 24, 2016 7:45 am
by RobSay
Morning Richard - it's a common question with no exact answer.

I recently created this little chart to help: ... -f-g-or-d/ (You've just reached the "Free(ish) Choice" step ...)

You're correct on the range G chanter - it will give you pretty much the same range of notes as the whistle allowing you to play tunes running from D all the way up to high B. The biggest issues with a D chanter in session playing are that; you don't have a scale of G without adding more keys (and even then the G scale is not in the center) and the A scale starts right at the bottom (most A tunes will use 3 notes below this). Here's a couple of summaries for each chanter (natural scale in bold - everything else is keys)
D Chanter:
  • 7k Range: A,B,C#,D,E,F#,G,G#,A,Bb,B,c#,d,e,f# (adding low G and top g and 2 c naturals would really help)
  • (+) Extra wide finger spacing
  • (+) Easier reeding & softer sound
  • (-) Playing in sessions, requires rearrangement of tunes in G or A
  • (-) Playing in G is hard work; requires extra keys and dexterity
G Chanter:
  • 7k Range: D,E,F#,G,A,B,c,c#,d,d#,e,f#,g,a,b (adding 2 g sharps would really help)
  • (+) Allows you to play easily with musicians in G,D & A (on a 9k chanter)
  • (+) Tunes played in same range and without re-arrangement
  • (-) Narrower finger spacing can be problematic
  • (-) G reeds need careful selection to avoid 'harsh' tone

In terms of finger spacing - much work has been in the last 20 years by various makers with angled holes and modified bores. I have played across many sessions in the UK over the years and have multiple G chanters - but have to borrow a D chanter on the odd occasion I need one.

Hope this helps


Re: D or G chanter for sessions?

PostPosted: Thu Aug 25, 2016 2:50 pm
by Richard Evans
What Rob said.
Also the D chanter transposes- when you read a G in the music and raise your lowest finger, you hear a G on the G chanter, an F on the F chanter and a D on the D chanter (obviously). So a tune written in G will be played in D on the D chanter unless you learn an unorthodox fingering pattern. I knew someone who taught himself from scratch to play in G on a D chanter but then when he got an F set he was stuck because everything he had learned was 'wrong' on the F set.

A G set is the way to go for sessions with non-pipers.

Re: D or G chanter for sessions?

PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2016 9:50 am
by GrahamRB
RobSay wrote:
[*] (-) Playing in sessions, requires rearrangement of tunes in G or A

Hi Rob, thanks for the D/G comparison
I understand Richard's explanation of the transposing nature of the D set.
... could you explain a little more about the how and why the need for [i]rearrangement[/i] please?

Re: D or G chanter for sessions?

PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2016 11:31 am
by RobSay
GrahamRB wrote:... could you explain a little more about the how and why the need for rearrangement please?

Certainly - the summary is that a pipe tune in G with a standard range of low D to high B has to be re-arranged because the top notes are not available on the chanter. The highest note on a standard 7k D chanter is f# (the top line of the stave). For example; take the tune Archie's Fancy and joining in with someone playing it the key of G ..

The A part looks like this:
ArchiesFancyOne1.png (8.43 KiB) Viewed 1193 times

The first three notes (the lead in) + the first bar gives you two immediate challenges:
  • B (6th hole note, LH middle finger)
  • c ... you need an extra key to play this ...
  • c# (7th hole note, LH index finger )
  • d (8th hole note LH thumb at rear)
  • g ... this is the real problem as you are now three tones above the 8th hole note - your standard chanter only has two keyed notes above the holes. So you either need an additional key or need to rearrange the tune. You can't just play it a whole octave down because if you look towards the end of the line you have a low D which is the 1st hole note (RH little finger) and you can't go an octave below that.

The 2nd part of Archie's Fancy then comes along and makes things even more complicated on the D chanter. In this part you have the same lead in but you then have a series of high notes cropping up:
ArchiesFancyTwo.png (7.78 KiB) Viewed 1193 times

  • top a - you are now four tones above the 8th hole note - I *think* this has been done on a D chanter - but it would be very custom / experimental
  • top b - ... five tones above ... this is into the realms of mechanical impossibility, there simply isn't space to get that many keys in at the top of the chanter



Re: D or G chanter for sessions?

PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2016 12:35 pm
by GrahamRB
Thanks for a clear explanation of the why, it's much appreciated.

I'm guessing that one could play harmonising notes if playing with other G pipes but that playing that tune solo in G on D pipes is not possible... or is there a workaround?