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TOPIC: Bellows or not?

Bellows or not? 2 years 10 months ago #190

  • scotty55
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I bought a set of Walsh Retro A mouth blown smallpipes this year. From what I can see on this forum it appears most of you have instruments that use bellows. Without sounding like a total yahoo and of course hearing musicians like Dick Hensold live I can appreciate bellows pipes.

Obviously I didn't buy what one would call high end pipes but more of a starter set. To the experienced out there can I attain a reasonable sound once I have a tune mastered or should I be looking to ditch the Walsh's and find something else?

Jim
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Re: Bellows or not? 2 years 10 months ago #191

  • Tunni
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Hi Jim

I'm waiting in today for my first set of bellows pipes to be delivered! Prior to this I've spent many year playing the big things and several more with a mouth blown set of small pipes. If you've not played before and are learning completely from scratch I'd say there is a fair bit of merit in keeping everything cheap and cheerfull until you've really started to get to grips with the fingering technique and have started to get a few tunes under your belt.

When it comes to differences and advantages as I see it these are some of the considerations between bellows and mouth blown:
You'll learn loads more about reeds if you get to grips with mouth blown pipes mainly because you'll have to spend so much of your time setting the damn things up! This is either a boon to future development or a crippling handicap dependent on luck, who you've got around to guide and your ability to put up with dodgy notes when learning.

Dry reeds in a bellows pipe are generally more stable in tone and less faff, they also mean that you can get away from reeds that are made from yogurt carton or some such. Bellows pipes from a GOOD maker will generally have more projection and better tone than a mouth blown set because of this. Having said that a quick trip around the web will provide plenty of examples that might suggest different and reveals many a bellows piper sounding more like budding apiarist than musician.

My smallpipes, although driving me mad with the constant battle against the basically rotten reed set up, did provide many, many hours of pleasure and the chance for me to spread my wings and play with other musicians in a way that the GBH pipes don't. I'm looking forward to having a more stable and tonal instrument to continue this when the bellows pipes turn up.

If you want to hear what a good player can do with a set of mouth blown and bellows blown smallpipes respectively I'd suggest check out the Shepherd bagpipes sound page then listen to Gary West.
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Re: Bellows or not? 2 years 10 months ago #193

  • allrrock
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Jim

Don't know anything about Walsh pipes so can't say whether you will ever get a good tone from them. However, assuming you are within geographical range, an alternative way of trying smallpipes without or before committing to buy from a reputed maker would be to hire one of the LBPS practice sets. Only has one drone, but that's quite enough when you are first learning to manage the bellows along with everything else, but they are well made and they sound quite sweet.

Allan
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Re: Bellows or not? 2 years 10 months ago #194

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Well Jim my pipes have turned up and I'm having a break from trying to play them. I was having a dig at those recordings of pipers sounding like beehives well I can only say that's an improvement on a very vocal dying cat! Absolutely no reflection on this beautiful instrument rather it seems I've some way to go before I come anywhere near mastering bellows technique. Back to it before the Missus gets in from work...
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Re: Bellows or not? 2 years 10 months ago #198

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Thanks Allan,

Good thought if I were on your side of the 'pond' but alas I am a New Englander.

Jim
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Re: Bellows or not? 2 years 10 months ago #209

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I've had another week or so getting into the new border pipes and I'm loving it Jim. Now I'm starting to get the hang of it they are so much more stable in tone and project loads better than the old mouth blown smallpipes ever were or did. It's a real pleasure after years of slobbering down my shirts not to have that to contend with either! I'm so taken with the whole experience I'm going to convert my smallpipes to bellows blown when cash allows. There's no going back for me now except the increasingly rare occassions the GBH pipes come out of their box.
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