In our previous issue we described the additions to both technique and chanter design that Callum Armstrong has developed with the assistance of maker Julian Goodacre. Here Callum describes his explorations of the potential of the ‘double chanter’, some of which he demonstrated at this year’s collogue.

When I first heard of a Double Small pipe Chanter I was intrigued. What was it? What was the repertoire? What did it sound like? Could you play harmony on it? After finding out that it was two 8 holed chanters running parallel to each other, I decided then and there that I wanted one. Knowing nothing of the history, I decided to ask Julian Goodacre to make me one, but with the addition of a second pair of thumb holes for the right thumb [to give a C natural option].
In the ensuing months as I waited for the delivery, I began to think about what I wanted the chanter to be able to do, and what was the advantage of having one. The obvious advantage is that it will be louder than the average smallpipe chanter, the disadvantage, that tuning would be an increased problem, as a second chanter would also have to be tuned in concordance with the drones. I decided that the ultimate goal would be to play two-part polyphony on the chanter, meaning that I would be able to play two completely independent lines of music simultaneously.  I also decided that the best basic fingering would be highland fingering, rather than a covered fingering, as this would allow the fingers to move more freely when playing chords, like on the fingerboard of a guitar.
The chanter arrived in November 2011, delivered by Julian to me at the Greenwich Early Music Festival. I remember plugging it in to my smallpipes, and being amazed at the tone of the instrument. In particular I noticed that if the two chanters were perfectly in tune and in unison then the sound seemed quite quiet, almost as if, as Julian says, the sound was being sucked into the instrument. However, if the instrument was very slightly out of tune with itself, the sound was suddenly very loud and almost electrical.     
Although my Chanter is in C with a flattened leading-note, I will talk about tuning it as if it were in A like a Highland Bagpipe. Tuning was originally the bane of the whole project. First of all precise unison tuning is difficult to obtain if you tune each chanter individually. With one chanter turned off, the instrument operates at a lower pressure. This means when you then bring in both chanters together, after freshly tuning them both separately, the chanters, now playing at a substantially higher pressure than they were tuned in are thrown completely into discord.
 The Eureka moment came when I saw a violinist tuning up at college in a practice room. Violinists tune in 5ths, by double-stopping two strings at once, and tuning one string to the other. So I decided to do this with my chanter. Tuning one chanter to the other in 5ths. After establishing what pitch the low G is at on both chanters, I then proceed to tune a D on one chanter to the low G on the other chanter, before swapping the notes around. I then tune the high A to the D, then the Low A to the high A and then E to the Low A. With the main notes now fixed in place, I tune the F and the C slightly flat so they sound in concordance with the drones and make a pleasant sounding chord against D and C. The only notes that now remain to tune are the B and the High G.  The High G is tuned in unison with the low G and the B is slightly flattened, so it makes a softer sounding chord against the low G, but more importantly, so that in B minor it creates a nice 5th with the already flattened F. The result is a perfectly tuned chanter, with the exception of playing slightly flat in B minor, due to the lowering of the B and the F.
I was unable to find any specific repertoire for a double chanter, so I decided to compose my own music. This allowed me to develop the technique of the instrument over the various pieces that I wrote, making the practice time far more enjoyable than playing constant exercises.  I began by using mainly parallel 3rds and 6ths. I then started adding suspensions and contrary motion passagework. As time progressed I was able to make the two chanters more and more independent until I was able to play a flowing tune on one chanter and a rhythmical accompaniment on the other.  My ‘Siciliana’ was composed to exploit these possibilities. I have included a tablature for the basic note combinations F/D,G/E, F/A. The intermediate notes follow this pattern; repeated notes use simple gracings, mostly ‘bottom-hand’ notes, but occasionally high G’s where an attack is desirable. I also use some alternative fingerings to deal with the issues raised by the tempering of the chanters and quick fix tuning, if the chanter is slightly out of tune in a performance.
I still don't know much about the history of the double chanters. I would be very interested to learn more on the subject should anyone know any thing.

Tablature for the notes in bars 8/9. The chanters are shown as if viewed from the back; o=open, x =closed. The same principle applies at bars 27-34 and 50-62
The left hand fingers are slid across from left to right [keeping the left-hand holes covered] to cover holes on the right-hand chanter as required; this is particularly challenging in the section bars 27-34.
The c naturals are achieved using a right-hand double thumb-hole at the back of both chanters. There are a number of other subtleties that have evolved in my development of this piece, but perhaps they are best kept for another time.

The Double Chanter

The editor is always happy to respond to readers’ requests, so here is a brief introduction to the double-chanter as it has appeared in the past and as it  appears today.

The notion of one piper playing two pipes at the same time, though it may sound unlikely, turns out to be at least as old as the notion of bagpipes themselves; in fact, the earliest surviving example of a reed pipe of any sort appears to be a double-pipe. These pipes were discovered by Sir Leonard Woolley in 1926. This is, as far as we know, the earliest known reeded instrument, dated back to around 2800 B.C.1

The twin pipes of Ur

Numerous images and descriptions of players survive from the Middle East, Egypt and Greece. However, a Scottish example does exist, on a Roman relief carving found at Bowness; this features the Roman double pipe, the ‘tibia’.2
From around the middle of the first century BCE we have the small bronze figure from Sardinia playing the instrument still known today as the launeddas. This is a triple-pipe, consisting of two ‘melody’ pipes and drone, all of which have ‘single-reeds’. It appears that a similar instrument was known in Ireland and Scotland from the 8th or 9th centuries, appearing on a number of carved stones, and an English depiction survives in a 16th century Norfolk church. These examples are all blown directly in the mouth with no bag intervening. There are many current bagpipe forms in various parts of Europe and North Africa, some with restricted compasses and some with a full octave or more, such as the Italian zampogna and ciamarelle), as well as those from Eastern Europe where most of the holes on one chanter are either absent or blocked, making it more of a ‘tunable drone’. Some types of bagpipes from the Carpathian basin may have up to five such bores in the ‘chanter’.
 However, there are also numerous depictions in English churches which show bagpipers playing double-chanters. A summary was published by James Merryweather in the Galpin Society journal, and others have been located since. Julian Goodacre has made reproductions of two examples, both from pew-end carvings from Cornish Churches. Both these have chanters with the left hand having the upper range of holes and the right hand the lower.Piping Shepherd at Marwood. N. Devon.

Piping Shepherd at Marwood. N. Devon

Only one depiction has so far been located in Scotland, on the painted ceiling from Rossend Castle, dating to around 1575. It is, however, taken from an French pattern book, although I believe the original pattern has only a single row of holes. 3

This instrument is clearly of the ‘musette’ type, with shuttle-drones. Another early depiction appears the  Harmonie Universelle (1636:). An altogether more fanciful bagpipe is that referred to by Mersenne as ‘Musette de Naples’, an enhanced version of the Neapolitan surdelina, having not only two keyed chanters, but also keyed drones - regulators as they would be termed today.4
There are, however, descriptions of bagpipes which appear to match today’s ‘scottish smallpipe’ in all but pitch. The first of these is described and measured in the manuscript of James Talbot, compiled in Cambridge around 1700. Julian Goodacre has made a reproduction of this pipe.

This is one of Talbot’s two instruments he titles ‘Bagpipe - Scotch’, though this term needs to be treated carefully since it had a wider geographical meaning than it would today. Like the Mersenne chanter, it has only the bottom four holes for the right hand. Its pitch appears to be around ‘E’, similar to the single-chantered ‘Montgomery’ smallpipe dated 1757.
The second example is contained in the journal kept by George Skene on his journey from Aberdeen to London in 1729. When he stops at the Crown Inn at Penrith and meets James Bell,
“ He [Bell] brought with him…, two sett of Double Small pipes and two sett of single ones, each differently key’d [ie in different pitches], I bought his sharpest double one for David wc. has three burdens for wc. wt. a bellows pay’d half a guinea…. I observ’d he makes more out of variety in all parts wt. the Double Small one, than I thought could possibly have been made of any small one…”
At the end of the 18th century the double chanter appears in Irish imagery; there is a depiction in Ledwich’s 1790 publication The Antiquities of Ireland.

An illustration from Ledwich’s The Antiquities of Ireland, 1790

Today double-chanter bagpipes of one form or another are common both in North Africa, Italy, Greece and the regions of Eastern Europe.
Since the beginning of the revival, several makers of Scottish smallpipes have offered double chanters, (as have occasional Uilleann pipe-makers). These have generally been a single piece of wood with two holes bored down it, each bore having all eight holes, although some have been made from separate lengths of wood glued together.
Hamish Moore told me “I found them very difficult to set up and maintaining them wasn’t easy unless the owners were very experienced – so - I stopped making them.”  He can, however, be heard playing one made by him on his 1985 recording ‘Cauld Wind Pipes’.
 I understand that Colin Ross has also occasionally made them (apparently with similar misgivings) and I have in my possession one made, I think, by Herriot and Allen, though the reeds are severely damaged. I have also seen pictures of one made by Ray Sloan and it may well be that other makers should be added to this list. Julian Goodacre tells me that the one he made for Callum was number 59 and he has now made 60, all with the full eight notes in both hands.
This kind of chanter takes a good deal of attention and perseverance to master, but can produce some remarkable results, as Callum demonstrated at this year’s Collogue. Hopefully videos of his performance of his Siciliana will soon be available on the website.

Pete Stewart


All retrieved 29/11.2012