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finger tips

PostPosted: Thu Jul 05, 2012 10:01 pm
by Mark
I am on day 2 of my adventure with this instrument and hope to develop good habits early on. I have read that the chanter holes should be covered with the finger tips, rather close to the nails. Is this generally recommended, and do most players do this?


Re: finger tips

PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2012 10:32 pm
by John Gibbons
Don't make a fetish of this - Tom Clough used the pads, not the tips, of his fingers to cover the holes.
The holes are so small that it is crucial to feel the full circle of the edge of the hole to guarantee a good seal.
So using the most sensitive part of the finger makes sense. Do what feels most comfortable and works best.


Re: finger tips

PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2012 10:42 am
by pipemakermike
Although there are a number of top players who use a "flat" style of fingering, There are good mechanical reasons why the accepted finger tip method has much to commend it. One of the advantages is that gives much more freedom to the rest of the hand so that the use of the thumb and the little finger are easier to use for the keys. This is especially true of the bottom hand where the thumb needs to be able to reach all of the keys and, if the bottom hand is "flat" fingered the thumb is pushed much further away from the chanter and is hard to move to access the keys without causing leaks in the fingers of the bottom hand.
Some of the top players use a "flat fingered" top hand and a "tip finger" bottom hand.

Re: finger tips

PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2012 1:05 pm
by RobSay
'Fingertips' and 'fingerpads' are not especially accurate terms of the variation that can be achieved in finger position on the chanter and I treat any of the historical writings on the subject with a healthy does of skepticism - not because the writer was wrong but because we don't necessarily know what they mean. It is hard to describe how the very small changes in hand and fingure positioning can dramatically influence your playing. Hands, fingers and chanters also come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes which change what can be achieved.

The overiding principle is to cover each hole whilst retaining a relaxed hand position that allows each note (key or hole) to be played without reference to any other. Without the relaxed hands (that stay relaxed as you are playing) the player is always exerting energy controlling the instrument rather than being able to focus on the music.

Playing on the end tip of the finger accentuates the arch for the fingers. It introduces tension in the top of fingers, and actually increases the amount of movement required to play a note; the base and knuckle must both move or the base must move further to play any given note. It may also cramp the RH thumb (fully bent at rest). If you find your fingernails hitting the chanter then you're almost certainly too much on the tips (note that the thumbs are exceptions here, long thumbnails just don't work).

Conversely playing flat fingered introduces slight tension in the palm and means that the RH thumb rest position on the chanter requires extension. It also affects how you actually support chanter - it ultimately means you have less control. One resolution to this is to plant the chanter footer or otherwise brace it.

My recommendation is imagine looking straight down the face of the chanter from the top. The fingers will typically be coming in at an angle of between 30° and 45° on left hand and 45° - 60° on the right hand any more than this and you could well be too much on the tips. Any lower than this and your thumbs are going to be stretching and the movement of the RH thumb is likely to be strained and have the potential to introduce leaks.

Another approach is to place a pencil on the table in front of you, pick it up in your left them and forefinger - take a look at the arch of thumb and finger. Repeat with your right hand. You don't want to be too far away from that 'natural' position.

All of this to be taken of course in the light of not once having seen your pipes, your hands or playing position.

Re: finger tips

PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2012 1:54 pm
by Mark
Many thanks for the advise. After three weeks of efforts, I am tending toward flatter on the top hand and more curved on the bottom hand. Any suggestions on keeping the drone notes at a constant pitch?

Thanks again

Re: finger tips

PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2012 2:24 pm
by John Gibbons
Probably the best way of achieving this is to open up one drone, say the big G,
and shut off everything else. Don't worry about playing tunes - close every hole on the chanter.
Now sound the drone, ideally with a pitch meter on, so you have an objective measure of pitch,
and keep it sounding until the neighbours call the police.
You need to train yourself to hold the bag pressure, without thinking, to maintain a constant pitch.
The drone should be relatively insensitive to pressure variations, compared to the chanter,
so don't try to adjust it by squeezing more or less.
That would make the chanter pitch go up and down like a yoyo.

When you can play with one drone on, then go for a pair, say big G and little d,
and you should listen for the perfect 5th between them. Keep these going till they call the police again.

You might want to start playing the chanter by now. Make sure drones and chanter are in tune - sound a B on the chanter, and then the triad GBd is the giveaway if things are wrong.

Last of all add little g, which is the most pressure sensitive.

If you don't do this, you will have serious pitch problems for years - I did.


Re: finger tips

PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2012 8:05 pm
by Mark
I am a bit confused about playing technique with different numbers of drones operating. The fewer the drones the slower the bellows deflates. Is it better to maintain the same pumping pace irrespective of the number of drones open and vary the amount that one allows the bellows to deflate, or should the player always fully deflate the bellows? Also, is it customary to play some tunes with only two or even one drone operating?

Re: finger tips

PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2012 4:38 pm
by John Gibbons
The recommended technique is to refill the bag, with a single stroke, as it gets down towards empty, say 1/4 full. That won't overinflate the bag. Don't over-deflate, either, or you can't regulate the pressure any more.
More drones mean you use more air, but with a good bellows action - not too many strokes, but fill the bellows before you pump -
you should be able to supply chanter and 3 drones well enough. Tom Clough used 4 drones (DAda) on occasion, but that does use a bit of air.
Most G maj pipe tunes will need either Gd or Gdg drones, D major will need DAd. It is easy to get in the habit of pumping vigorously with shallow strokes 'to keep the bag full' - try and avoid this. It is a hard habit to lose if you get into it. You shouldn't really know you are pumping.

A few double tonic pipe tunes that switch around between A minor, G major and C major chords, such as Cuckold come out of the Amrey, work well with Gg drones, but are often played with Aea drones, like ordinary A major or A minor tunes.

It makes sense to start with fewer drones initially until you have the hang of it; you will want them to sound both the tonic and dominant generally, so start with, say Gd drones if you are in G major.


Re: finger tips

PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2012 5:58 pm
by Mark
I see now that I have been doing this wrong because I have been trying to keep the bag fully inflated at all times. You say that when the bag is down to about 1/4 full, I should refill it with a single stroke. After the bag is refilled, should the bellows be held in a closed, deflated position until the next stroke is needed? Are there any videos on YouTube that you believe demonstrate good technique?
Thanks again for the help.


Re: finger tips

PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2012 10:32 pm
by Barry Say
Hi Mark,

I meant to reply earlier, but other things intervened. Here is my 2 cents worth.

At maximum inflation, the bag should be almost, but never quite, full. When the piper has used sufficient air he (she,it) opens the bellows almost to their full extent and delivers a bellows-full of air to the bag, returning it to the almost full position.

The pipers upper arm should lift as high as is comfortable when the bag is full, there should be no sensation of excessive lifting. Initially, it is possible to compress the bag by almost relaxing the arm and using the weight of the arm to develop the required pressure in the bag. As the bag deflates, the piper must use more effort to maintain the pressure.

The bellows/bag action should be relaxed and as effortless as breathing. Joe Hutton's dictum was 'Ye c'n alus tell themas were'nt set away proper. Thur furever snatchin' at thur bellasis'