Scottish Smallpipes

The Scottish Small Pipes are the quietest of the Scottish 'cauld wind' bellows pipes. The current dramatic growth in interest in playing these pipes has been largely the result of the activities of the Lowland and Border Piper's Society, of which I have been an active member for over twelve years and a committee member for over six years.

The many early examples that have survived are delicate and restrained in appearance. I have taken my inspiration from them, particularly from sets that I have examined and measured in the collections of The Royal Museum of Scotland. I have developed my pipes in a range of modern keys whilst retaining the feeling of the original instruments. My pipes are made of Scottish woods, usually yew, thorn or plum, with brass ferrules and boxwood mounts and the bellows are closely modelled on 18th century Scottish examples. I have designed my chanters, drones and reeds to produce a warm rich tone. The result is a beautiful-looking parlour pipe which is sweet-sounding.

An A set of Scottish Small Pipes' chanter plays a 'Scottish' scale of A, with flattened leading notes of G natural. The chanter and drones use plastic reeds. Not only are these very stable but they combine perfectly with the woods I use to give a great tone. The chanter has a slightly tapered bore which helps to broaden and amplify the lower notes.

Although my personal preference is for using closed fingering on the chanter, I can provide chanters tuned for Highland fingering or open fingering. Your choice of fingering system will ultimately depend on your chosen playing style.

The three drones share a common stock. The usual drone configuration is a bass drone sounding low A, a tenor sounding A an octave above and a baritone sounding E. It is possible to tune the baritone drone down to sound D. This provides another drone combination to suit different keys or modes. The Highland configuration of one bass and two identical tenors is also available. My full range includes pipes in F, E flat, D, C, B flat, A or low G. (Flat G is also available; see 'Musette pitched smallpipes.')

 

I usually make the pipes of Scottish yew for its richness of tone. Other woods are also available. The chanter and drones usually have boxwood ends and the drones each have delicate boxwood plugs. The drone and stock ferrules are brass. Horn ends and ferrules can be fitted as extras if required. The bag is hand-sewn leather, with the traditional green baize woollen cover.

The two most popular keys for chanters are A and D. The combination pipes are a practical and economic way of having both. Two interchangeable chanters combine with four drones to enable you to play in either pitch. The chanters are fitted with split stocks and three of the four drones are used with the other being plugged. Please contact me for more information.

PRICE  Scottish smallpipes in A available within 8 weeks. These pipes are now sold

Double Scottish Small Pipes

These are the same as the Scottish Small Pipes, except that they are fitted with a double chanter. The chanter is made from one piece of wood, with two bores, two reeds and two sound holes for each note. This gives an extraordinary and distinctive tone as each note can be tuned to give a slight beat.

Normally it is fingered exactly like the single chanter, placing each finger over a pair of holes but there are possibilities of fingering individual holes to introduce harmonies, as Callum Armstrong demonstrates here:

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Another possibility is to fit an English Double Pipe chanter whose harmonies sound even richer and more wonderful when played with the three Scottish Small Pipe drones. The problems of instability often associated with double chanters fitted with cane reeds are overcome by the use of my plastic reeds which are very stable.

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Double Scottish smallpipes (top) and mouth-blown smallpipes (bottom)

Mouthblown Scottish Small Pipes

Many of the early surviving examples of Scottish Small Pipes are mouthblown. It has been assumed that they were later converted from being bellows-blown. Mouthblown small pipes when fitted with cane reeds have a reputation for being hopelessly unstable and difficult to keep in tune as a result of the warm, moist breath of the player affecting the very small drone reeds and finely scraped chanter reed. All my Scottish Small Pipes are fitted with chanter and drone reeds made of plastic. As these reeds are not affected by moisture it makes mouthblown small pipes very practical. Mouthblown smallpipes are also much more compact and are appreciated by pipers who do not wish to learn to use the bellows.

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WITH HIGHLAND FINGERING, MOUTHBLOWN SMALLPIPES ARE THE IDEAL PARLOUR INSTRUMENT FOR HIGHLAND PIPERS

 
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