Pipes and More Pipes

Pipes and More Pipes

You have your GHB, your uilleanns, your Northumbrians, your Smallpipes and your Border Pipes. I’ve been thinking a lot about pipes recently. And I have been wondering-what’s the difference between all of them (especially the latter three)? Is it just the uilleanns that you can use whistle fingering on? Et cetera, et cetera. I’m just wondering about pipes in general. Because pipes are cool.

Re: Pipes and More Pipes

You can’t use whistle fingering on the uilleann pipes at all at all.

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Re: Pipes and More Pipes

You can’t use whistle fingering on any of the pipes.
The GHB, smallpipes and borderpipes share the same fingering to a degree, northumbians as i remember use closed fingering.
I can’t remember the uilleann pipe fingering but it isn’t whistle fingering.
There’s a rumour you can use whistle fingering on english bagpipes i’m not sure which ones but it’s frowned upon and doesn’t produce the best sound.

Re: Pipes and More Pipes

uilleann fingering is similar to whistle fingering but its way more closed/complicated.

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Oh. Then why is it that whenever you mention wanting to learn uilleanns, everyone tells you to learn tin whistle first-and why do all pipers seem to also play whistle?

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Cuz its close enough! all fingers off for 2nd D, we use the back D hole. Cn are fingered the same way (at least on my chanter) and whiste serves as a good learning tool if your reed has gone off the deep end.

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Re: Pipes and More Pipes

Because playing the whislte will train your fingers and increaas your control, it will als ogive you a bit of a handle on the music you’re goign to be playing on the pipes. Starting the pipes with a bit of background in Irish music is a lot easier than fiddling away at it without having a clue what you’re actually aiming for. From my own teaching experience though I find the really good whistleplayers do have a bit of a disadvantage too as they want to approach the tuens the same way on the chanter as they are used to on the whistle, which can result in some bad piping. Takling up the pipes you need to adapt to th major difference in fingerings the open-tight fingering isssues, the different ways of forming a good tone on the pipes and the whole lot of it.

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Re: Pipes and More Pipes

GHB are the modern form of a very ancient Great Pipe that began in Germany and followed Celtic migrations down through France and Spain and across the sea to Ireland and then Scotland. The chanter has a conical bore, plays in one octave and mostly in the key of Bb. When the Great Pipe fell out of favor through-out the rest of Europe the Highlanders took it as their own and developed it to the high art it is today.

When society moved from the markets and greens into the manor houses the pipes became smaller and quieter. Smallpipes were developed to play the music and style of the Great Pipe indoors and along with its European cousins acquired a bellows to keep the reeds steady and look more gentlemanly.

Northumbrians are cauld wind (bellows blown) and have a closed chanter. The chanter is also cylindrical and can be over blown to a second octave. They are played closed fingered and play the tunes of the border regions. They play well with others like fiddle but some find the boppity boop sound they make too silly. They were mostly played for dancing and parties.

Border pipe seem to be the missing link between the Great Pipe and the other cauld wind pipes. They are smaller than GHB and retain the fingering and technique much closer than other smaller pipes. This seems to be when the drones moved into a common stock and the bellows became attached.

Uillean pipe were developed to play in chamber groups and were probably the first to play in the key of D to accommodate the Irish tunes of the 18th century. They play in two octaves so can play a wide variety of tunes. They also filled the need for a bigger sound when the pipes went into concert halls and pubs.

It is funny that most pipers follow almost exactly the same progression throughout their lives. They start out as a boy on the Great Pipes and them look for a smaller sound in the Smallpipes. They then want something that will play with others and so go to Border pipes. Then as a mature piper they are attracted to the Uilleans.

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I feel compelled to state that there are more types of Pipes, as a player of the Gaita Galega (Galician Pipes) I am affended. Not really, but there are so many more than just the few you name.

On Galician or Asturian Pipes with an Open Fingered Chanter (more common for the former, but not the latter) the player can use a very similar fingering to whistle fingering. The differences being the left thumb hole and the right pinkie hole, the thumb hole is for the second octave (mine go up to G) and the pinkie is for C# (or D,B,Bb,A,etc depending on the key of the pipes) below. There are some slight differences, like the fact that I can only go up an octave and a fourth instead of 2+ octaves. On my chanter I haver to cover the pinkie hole for the F# and G in the upper octave otherwise they go really flat (yeah, it makes no sense). The Gaita has truer and better sounding crossfingerings than Whistle.

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"GHB are the modern form of a very ancient Great Pipe that began in Germany…"

Baglady - I’ve never heard that theory before. I’ve heard one that they came from India with the Gypsies. But, does anyone know for sure?

I think there is documentary evidence that the bellows-blown pipes found in the British Isles (Northumbrian and Scottish smallpipes, Uillean Pipes) are descended from the French Musette de Cour, not from the Great Highland Bagipes. But every country in Europe (and many in Asia, including India) has or has had its own variety or varieties of bagpipes, and it is probable that, if we go back far enough, they all share common ancestry.

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The ancient "Celtic" origin theory for the western European big pipes does not hold water; the modern instruments are descended from a generic medieval form that spread from Europe into England around about 1100 and thence into Scotland and Ireland in the late middle ages, diversifying into local varieties as it spread.
NSP chanters will overblow but they produce a 12th not an octave and the technique is not used in traditional piping.

PP