key of G

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key of G

Postby time&tide » Wed Jan 23, 2013 8:23 pm

I'd like to be able to play the Northmbrian pipes with other musical instruments. I am thinking of getting a G set but I am told the fingering is very tight. I notice, through the Internet, that K. Tickell and P. Cato play with other instruments with a G set. Do you have to have the slim fingers of a girl to play these G sets?, are there any men out there who manage to play G sets, or is the finger spacing just too tight.
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Full Name: William Logan

Re: key of G

Postby RobSay » Thu Jan 24, 2013 10:08 pm

Hello - 'G' pipes are a bit of a conundrum really, not helped by the F/G terminology & transcription confusions.

Kathryn has as far as I know always played an F set and her band have always tuned down (or used appropriate instruments). Pauline has performed for on both F & G. As for male players out there - yes certainly. Andy May plays a G set in most non-solo settings, Inky-Adrian, Chris Ormston have frequently used G sets, I know Andy Watchorn has a G set and Dave Shaw is often heard on G pitch pipes.

In short I don't think there is evidence of a gender specific split or preference for G sets. Having said all of this - none of the players listed have especially fat fingers and I have met people whose finger ergonomics severely affected the ability to play a G chanter (and invariably a D set was more appealing to them).

One thing worthy of note is that there are significant differences in how different G chanters play. G sets have only been around for 35 years or so and all of the makers have been actively refining their sets within that period. I first had a G chanter from the mid-80's and it felt completely different from one made 10 years later - I've since moved to one made in the last five years and it's the closest thing yet in feel and response to my F chanters (until I dropped it on the kitchen floor ..) but I still prefer the F set. It's not the finger spacing that's the issue but the response and sound of the reed & the chanter.

My preferred solution for playing with other instrumentalists is to find a situation where the F set fits - with fiddlers who tune down (or have a second fiddle), accordions who shift down a tone, mouthorgan (switch instrument) and with a piano (most modern electrics have a pitch shift). The other aspect is of course that I play other concert pitch instruments - which means I rarely find myself in a situation where my preference for F pipes means I can't play with others - YMMV.

Best thing to do is to talk to and listen to people playing G sets, find one you like the music / sound of and talk to them about how they find it to play. My starting point on that journey was listening to Pauline.

The good news is that G sets - being rarer than hen's teeth tend to hold their value. It is a risk but it can be worthwhile getting a 2nd hand set, trying it for 6 months and then simply moving it on. Just be cautious of any non-player describing a set they are selling as 'G' (especially on eBay). I have come across numerous entirely honest mistakes in this area.

Hope this helps - I am sure others will chip in with different perspectives as well

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