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A Pipers Musical Voice – The Bagpipe Chanter!

Tyrone Heade, Piper

Tyrone Heade performing on Grandpa’s pipes, 1900 Lawrie drones & chanter, A=440 with Yakima Symphony, 2014.

Our voice – the Bagpipe Chanter

“The exhilarating ripple of her voice was a wild tonic in the rain.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Our Voice!

The bagpipe chanter is every piper’s musical voice.  Whether mouth-blown or bellows-blown.  Whether the pipes are Highland, Small, Reel-Border-Lowland, Uilleann, Northumberland, Galician — or so many others — our bagpipe chanter is our instruments’ voice.  And, as musicians – the bagpipe chanter is Our Voice.  It Speaks — to us, to our audience, to the music we play.  To the rest of our instrument, and to our purpose.

Our Rain!

The other “sticks” of our instruments matter greatly — and support our bagpipe chanter’s voice.  The best set up chanter/reed combinations can’t be heard without full-on, well maintained support by the rest of our instrument.

Our drones must be air-efficient, harmonic, blending; a sound you marvel at, appreciate, look forward to.  Rely on.  Blown into our personal perfection.  So, let’s get on-board with detail….

The Ripple!

The reeds in all of these are so Darn important.  Origin – selection – manipulation – efficiency.  All of which comes down to… Desire!  Meaty, gut wrenching, full throated – do anything to get a sound.  Anything.

Pipers, with the modicum of power I have – you’re henceforth given permission.  Do Anything to get a sound.  More precisely:  do anything to get Your Sound.  It’s all about you, what you hear in your head.  This, all of this, reflects you.  We all know – we play better if we sound better.

Pipers, I know you know this.  It’s crossed your minds – can I, should I, go to great lengths to get a sound?  Yes, yes and YES.  I’ve sat with pipers, the world acclaimed folks that we all look up to.  They will work on instruments after dinner until… whenever (multiple nights is common).

Our desire is there, but it’s best to plan ahead for practical matters.

  • We need a block of time;
  • Space to hear yourself think;
  • A large table and good lighting.

Help from Others

Bagpipe Chanter has the large silver sole (soul?) hallowing the bottom, next to David Glen drones, 1890.

Bagpipe Chanter with large silver sole (soul?) halos the bottom, next to David Glen drones, 1890.

Whether we’re shy on skills or heavy on experience — it’s wonderful and simply terrific to get another’s take on all this.  Bagpipe chanter, drones, reeds, tools, more reeds, blowpipes/bellows, position, posture, bags — all of it.  We best succeed by reaching out.  [For example, the Mastery of Scottish Arts Winter School — I’ve attended about 20 years, and helped to found it back in 1995 — www.CelticArts.org.]

Create an instrument you get to know as you moving forward.  Knowing your instrument is a great thing!

  • Is my Maintenance solid?  Air leaks (tenon, valve, reed seats, bridals, perfectly clean stocks?)
  • How long will my tuning last?
  • What’s the affect of letting the instrument rest?
  • Tune the instrument thoroughly, then rest it.  When you start up again, how long will it take for the instrument to come back into tune?
  • Can the instrument take rigorous play over days?  Solid for travel?
  • Balanced chanter?
  • How long does it take, including rest, for the instrument to settle?

We play better when we sound better.  Now, go off and Fitzgerald’s “exhilarating ripple”!

Cheers, kind regards,