Scottish Smallpipes

Tools of the Trade Aug 2016 in Chanter 2016 Autumn

I first encountered bellows smallpipes in the late 80s at the Holmfirth Folk Festival. On the Saturday there was an open stage bagpipe event. The variety wasn’t on the scale of The Blow Out, but this was my introduction to one of the main bagpipes of the British Islands. Among the Northumbrian, Union, and Highland pipes, someone was playing a set of highland fingered smallpipes. I fell in love with the open, almost Northumbrian type sound, and the fingering was the same as I had learned as an eight year old at my local pipe band in Port Glasgow.

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More reflections on Colin Ross Dec 2019 in Chanter 2019 Winter

In 1973 I was a student at Newcastle University. I managed to secure a place on an evening class, learning to make the Northumbrian Pipes. This took place in the metalwork room of a local school, and it was a lot more interesting than my degree course! At two hours a week, making a set of pipes was a long-term project - after the first session, I was the proud owner of two 2”x1” brass plates, which the following week would be rolled up to make ferrules for the chanter and blowpipe stocks.

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Blowout 2016 Mar 2016 in Chanter 2016 Spring

3rd to 5th June Savage Prunes (concerts, Saturday, Sunday) In 2015, the Savage Prunes won the ‘Petites Formations’ competition at ‘Le Son Continu’ music festival, since when they have expanded into a trio. The group is particularly influenced by European folk, as well as baroque, Celtic, jazz, techno, and classical music. Callum Armstrong is an innovative piper whose questing approach to the hitherto unexplored acoustic possibilities of the smallpipe is taking the instrument into areas most of us have never encountered.

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The First Time Nov 2016 in Chanter 2016 Winter

I headed to my first ever Pipers’ Gathering simply hoping for a chance to try my hand at Scottish smallpipes. I’ve played the highland pipes since my teens but now, as a retiree, I hope to share my love of this music by playing an instrument that can be played indoors and with other instruments. Also, I wondered if playing a bellows-blown instrument would enable me sing with my pipes. In every way, the Pipers’ Gathering far exceeded my expectations.

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Making a Bagpipe Mar 2017 in Chanter 2017 Spring

Long ago when I decided I’d like to make myself a set of pipes I had no idea how to go about it. There were only a couple of books on the subject; Wilbert Garvin’s crash course in uilleann pipe making and Cocks and Bryan. Garvin is still worth getting although it was out of print for a few decades and became quite sought after. These days we are only a click away from a video of pretty much any part of the process but it has to said that it’s not all good practice.

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In the Bag: Callum Armstrong Mar 2016 in Chanter 2016 Spring

Callum Armstrong is an experimental piper who enjoys exploring the possibilities of the pipes. He won the solo prize in 2014 and the ‘Petite Formation’ Prize in 2015 with Cellist George Pasca at the ‘Son Continu’ Festival in France. Callum has recently collaborated with Julian Goodacre to develop a smallpipe chanter with almost 3 octaves, and is currently working developing a technique for the ‘double Scottish smallpipe chanter. Amongst Callum’s current projects are learning and developing reeds for ancient auloi and learning the Musette de cour.

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Scottish Smallpipes A modern development of the 1980s, Scottish Smallpipes are based on the old eighteenth-century instruments that survive in various museums. SSPs are typically in the folk-friendly keys of A or D, are usually bellows-blown, have a set of drones in a common stock worn across the chest, and use a nine-note scale that fingers like a GHB but which plays at a fraction of the volume.

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