page 19

page 20


It was with a strong sense of deja vu that I looked through the series of drawings and information regarding the making of Scottish small pipes in various pitches. The book on making the Northumbrian small pipes had originally been presented this way as a series of drawings on large unwieldy sheets of paper at A2 size (23.5" x 16.5") before being published in a more convenient size. This set of plans would benefit from the same treatment as the large sheets of thin paper make it extremely awkward to handle with the weak spiral binding being little help in this respect.

Also the information on techniques and tools is as sketchy as the original Northumbrian small pipe plans from over 30 years ago and it may be a vain hope from Alan that anyone without a good craft background will be able to “produce something that will work well”.

The measurements are basically correct, but I would question the diameter of the chanter bore of the D chanter at 13/64" when it should be at least the same as the rest at 3/16". The measuring of the hole centres should be from the top of the chanter and not the bottom. This is standard for any woodwind instrument as the critical length is from the reed end to the hole as the distance beyond the bottom holes is not critical for the small pipe chanter. It is essential to measure from the very top of the chanter, not the shoulder or some point down from the top, in order that the reed position is fixed in relation to the length of the reed.

The bass drone for the D and A sets are shown as unequal lengths which can cause acoustic problems and is non standard in bagpipe manufacture. This is another example of rushing into print by an enthusiastic amateur maker, as Alan Ginsberg says he is, without having the length of experience and feed-back from customers that a professional maker has over the years.

On the acoustics of the drones I note that the ends do not indicate to having a cavity which is desirable as a means of Softening the tone (attenuating the higher frequencies) to get a better relationship between chanter and drones as in the case of the Highland and Irish pipes.

The drawings nevertheless are well drawn and can be easily understood, and although Alan says the design may not be to your own taste it would have been historically useful to have seen an example of the original 18th Century design included. 

The reed section is almost useless. The drawings are crude and not to scale and give as much clue as to how to make a reed as the original Northumbrian pipe-making book did. Things have moved on since then and as the chanter and drone reeds are the same as for the Northumbrian small pipe and require measurements down to a thousandth of an inch to enable one to make a working reed then he should have left well alone or made a much more informed series of drawings with instructions. There is no mention here also of the reeds being suitable for bellows blown or mouth blown pipes. On the previous page there is a plan for a bag, with a totally inadequate neck length, which has notes on the suitable material for dry or wet blowing. There is a iradition of mouth blown small pipes so I don’t disagree with this, but some reference to the reeds for this type of pipe should have been    included.

When it comes to the bellows, Alan’s background as an Irish pipe maker really comes to the fore, with a drawing that bears little relationship to the traditional small pipe bellows. The dimensions given lack the refinement in the construction of our Northumbrian and Lowland bellows, and when it comes to tacking the leather on to the sides, that is not an option.

The use of Irish terminology is alien to modern day makers and makes the construction of these pipes into more of a black art than it is already. The back page has a drawing of Matt Keirnan the Irish pipe maker to whom the drawings are dedicated which, although a sincere tribute, has little to do with the business of making Scottish and English pipes.

To finish on a more positive note; the list of addresses of suppliers of tools and materials is extremely useful to anyone wishing to have a go at pipe making of any sort. It may go out of date, but this is a great source of information for just now and is more than a professional pipe maker may care to divulge.

Colin Ross

[The full A2 size set of plans (price £35 plus p&p) is available from:

Alan Ginsberg; 2 Celtic House; Bethel; Caernarfon; Wales LL55 1YS  [Tel 01248 671381.]



Goodacre Brothers.

If your piping creed says pipe music is Scottish, French, Irish or whatever your preference is, then this disc is probably not for you.

When I first played it my Highland Pipe background suffered a severe culture shock and I thought this is the kind of noise that gives bagpipes a bad name.

After a couple of runs through I thought, these are English pipers developing their own unique style, playing English tunes on English pipes. They should be listened to in that  frame of mind. Having said that, there were five tracks the absence of which would have improved the disc.

Tracks 1 and 2 did nothing for me. The harmonies are over-worked and did not sit comfortably together. The three Call tracks I am afraid made me think of the worst moments of a Highland pipe band tuning up. After that it all got better.

Track 4 is a lovely flowing setting of Rosin the Beau in which all the pipes hum smoothly along in a very happy and relaxed manner. The relaxed mood gets a sudden jolt as the next track comes to life with John’s dancing fingers in his smallpipe solo - not a track to criticise, just listen and enjoy.

Skip from 5 to 6 to find three lonely shepherds dancing round sheepskins on Breedon Hill. On track 8 you will find the New Director dancing a mazurka first to a duet and then to a quartet. Both these tracks are extremely pleasant and easy to listen to. The first is a gentle Playford tune and the second is a lively full bodied dance. Both are well constructed and while they are not inspiring they fit well into the programme.

We then run into Pete’s party piece, his Great Pipe solo. Another track to listen to and enjoy the fluent and clean fingering of a master piper.

Skip from 8 to 11. On this track, the Bonny Braes of Elcho, Julian introduces the tune on his percussive Leicestershire smallpipes, John joins in with a legato accompaniment with his  Scottish smallpipes adding an ethereal quality. When Pete joins in with his Great Pipe the effect is truly magnificent.

For me Track 12, Julian’s Cornish Double Pipe solo made the whole disc worthwhile. The spine tingling sound of that pipe is such that if I ever bought another set of pipes they would be the ones. It is a shame the track comes where it does; I am afraid it rather overshadows 13, 14 and 15.

Track 13 is a polka written in honour of a special wooden box. It is a pleasant, acceptable but somewhat repetitive tune.

Track 14 is introduced and talked out by Pete’s son Leo in a most delightful manner. The title is taken from the ‘Just So Stories’. The music is Pete’s own composition with a very Highland pipe feel. I would not be surprised if this tune appeared in the pipe repertoire over the Border.

The disc finishes with a stately 16th century processional memorable for the fact that it was played at John’s wedding. 

Whatever your piping background may be I commend this collection to you. Buy it and learn that there are different but perfectly valid ways of playing. Like me there will be parts you love and parts you hate; your likes and dislikes will be different from mine. But this is how it should be.

Duncan Campbell

[Available from Julian Goodacre, 4 Elcho St, Peebles, Scotland EH45 8LQ]



Music for bagpipes by Dick Lee  Published by Octavo Music, 32 Regent St,

Edinburgh.   A4, 44 pages, 32 pieces

This is an attractively presented book of music for bagpipes and other instruments. The cover has a zany and amusing colour illustration of a ‘cat’ with pyjamas. There are 32 pieces ranging from the familiar style of modem reels and jigs to tunes with unusual time signatures (7/8, 5/4) and with split timings within the piece. There are also pieces for pipes and other instruments e.g. saxophone, clarinet and for groups of pipers.

The book has two main origins, firstly in the long association between Hamish Moore and Dick Lee and the production of their two albums ’The Bees Knees ’ and ’Farewell to Decorum’ and secondly the adventurous compositions for all variety of ensembles of which Dick is a well known leading exponent, drawing together Jazz, Classical, Traditional and              Contemporary elements. Such music ‘pushes the envelope’ and presents a challenge to                experienced players and opens up all sorts of collaborative possibilities. I use the word ‘music’ as distinct from ‘tunes’ as several of the pieces require musical literacy beyond that normally required in the traditional context. This may be to the liking of those who take their ‘whisky’ straight but the inevitable process of education is producing new generations of musicians who play several instruments, many styles of music and the bagpipes. The effects of this can be seen and heard in many of the present day Scottish bands. The music also requires the use of alternative fingerings and/or taping of holes on the chanter to play some of the pieces. This is obviously easier if you have a chanter with ’extra’ notes or keyed notes.

In conclusion ’The Cat’s Pyjamas’ is a book for experienced players who are musically literate or can be used as the score to listen and understand music on the albums ‘The Bees Knees’ and ‘Farewell to Decorum’. The book is full of adventurous and original material for the Millennial Piper. I particularly like "Running the Bus’, ‘Nellie the Sycophant’, and the ’Cat’s Pyjamas’... Hey pass me that Bass Clarinet in Bb...

Also worth noting is the high standard of music setting. The bagpipe grips and graces are particularly well integrated. If you want to set bagpipe music then contact Dick.                         

Gordon Mooney