D, G or 1.5v: A revue of the TechnopipeBy:
Everything else is turning digital, so why not bagpipes. So, there was I quietly checking what was hap-
pening to my Facebook friends, when I noticed that Imogen had a new toy. It was what appeared to be a cross between a whistle and a Stylophone. After a few email exchanges I discovered that it was actually some- thing called a Technopipe. After a little extra research, I had my Will Smith moment, “I’ve got to get one of those.”
Technopipes are the new taste sensation coming out of Sweden, although appar- ently they’ve been around since 1991. They’re made by a most helpful guy, Anders Fagerström. To look at, they are similar in size to a penny whistle. They feel heavier though, and they have no holes. Instead, your fingers make contact with small electronic studs. It takes one AAA battery. At what would be the blowing end, there is a hole for connecting a lead to an amplifier or headphones.
Technopipes come in a range of colours (black, white or see through) and featur- ing a range of different pipes and fingerings. Thus, you can buy a Technopipe so that it sounds like a Northumbrian set and has that fingering pattern. At the moment, the range includes:- Great Highland, Scottish smallpipes, Northumbrian, Asturian/Galician, Swed- ish, French, Cornish, Veuze, Belarussian, Baghet and Biniou kozh. Anders is a really accommodating chap though. I found that he was prepared to put together a bespoke set for myself with a sort of adapted Welsh pibau fingering pattern which even features half of a second octave.
Technopipes have seven metal studs at the front + one at the back, relating to the normal finger holes found on most real pipes. There are three other studs for the right hand thumb. Using these in combination, you can turn on drones, adjust their volume, change key, ( I can play in G, D, or A, + their minors) adjust volume or even adjust the pitch. You have to maintain contact with the fourth stud whilst playing certain notes in order to …… and I’m not winding you up here… to maintain a good earth.
The sound that they produce is pretty authentic
to my untrained ears. Fingering is light, quick and ac-
curate.Quite honestly, they appear to have found a
better piper inside me than I ever knew existed. One
thing that the instrument does lack is the ability to bend any notes. It’s a case of what you have is what you’ve got. However, you can get you fingering style set up to give you vibrato on some notes.
One thing that I felt was missing was…..well, do you remember the old Casiotone electric pianos, popular during the eighties. They always had a demo button. Pressing it set the piano off to play a bit of pre-recorded Gershwin. Well, the Technopipes don’t have that. It would have been cool to be able to press a stud combination and get some kathryn Tickell coming out. They do have the next best thing. It is possible to record yourself playing within the pipe itself, then play that back, playing a duet with yourself. Cool or what?
Yes, I know that this isn’t the real thing, but there are quite a few advantages to consider here.
Price is less than £250 for a set of pipes that will play in a range of keys, perfectly in tune all the time. Delivery:- mine arrived in less than 3 weeks! Great for asthmatics and people who have neighbour / partner / pet issues whilst practising. Totally portable:- using ear-phones you can practise anywhere. As I said earlier, the only negative point that I can think of is the inability to bend notes. Maybe Anders should consider adding the Technopipe equivalent of the tremolo arm?