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Buying smallpipes - newbie questions

PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2016 8:09 am
by Mandoloin
Warning: this is my first foray into the world of smallpipes so please make allowances if I say or ask something that is particularly dumb! :oops:

My partner and I play a few non-wind instruments between us and we both now want to learn the smallpipes. We play mostly in G, D and relative minors (with the occasional Bb, Eb, F and G# accidentals thrown-in for good measure). From research so far:
  • I think we need Northumbrian smallpipes in concert G
  • I think 7 keys will allow us to play in keys of G, D and the relative minors but we would need 17 keys to get the accidentals.
  • I've read that concert G can sound "squeaky", and that the finger spacing can be very tight, but that it's the best tuning for English sessions and mixed-instrument concert work
Have I got this correct so far?
How much of a problem is the tight fingering?
I presume it would be best to learn with 7 keys and then change the chanter to one with 17 keys - is this correct?
What else do I need to consider?

I have engineering skills/machinery and have made several instruments so I plan to make a set of pipes eventually but would prefer to buy a used instrument to get started on - where is a good place to buy? Has anyone here got something suitable to sell?

Re: Buying smallpipes - newbie questions

PostPosted: Fri Aug 12, 2016 2:15 pm
by RobSay
Hi Dave - welcome to the wonderful world of Northumbrian smallpipes!

Based on your summary - yes you are definitely on the right track. Needing to play with other instruments & in sessions a G set would probably be the best fit. Perception of the tight fingering challenge does depend on individual finger sizes - it's best to try it and see.

A 'standard' 7 key G set will include the notes (in ascending scale): D,E,F#,G,A,B,c,c#,d,d#,e,f#,g,a,b
which will allow you to play in most modes of G, D, Am, Em - depending on who you play with Amaj can be the 'missing' key. Having spent 10 days in Devon

It is *definitely* easier to learn on a 7k instrument rather than going fully chromatic - 'classic' 17k chanters are more about filling in the gaps than being something that every piper should move to.

In terms of sourcing a set - they don't turn up very often and are often mis-described! Having said that, you may be in luck as I've actually got a Dave Shaw boxwood G set available - 9 key chanter (standard 7 + 2 Fnats).

Whereabouts are you located?

Re: Buying smallpipes - newbie questions

PostPosted: Fri Aug 12, 2016 3:27 pm
by Mandoloin
Thanks for the reply, Rob. I've sent an email to your <milecastle> email address.
FYI I'm in the South.

Dave