------Est. 1980 Glasgow city centre's oldest bagpipe shop------
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Dear Piping Enthusiast,
The tinsel is out and the shop is looking very festive. We will shortly be having our
usual staff Xmas night out and this time it's at a very traditional Glaswegian
hostelry - Sichuan House in Sauchiehall Street! The numbers seem to grow each year and my daughter is now the latest recruit - looks like I'm going down the Bob Shepherd route of a family business. We had some fun recently with Swedish TV and I hope our Swedish customers saw the broadcast. If not, and for those of you who are interested, check out the link near the bottom of the page.
It's been another great year and our thanks go out to all our customers around the
world. From all of us at Begg Bagpipes, have a great Xmas and Hogmanay - see you again in the New Year.
James Begg, Gavin Begg, Lisa Begg, Bill Begg, Iain Begg,
Donald MacInnes, Gordon Cameron, Mark Smith and Malcolm Foster.
Our 2014 Merit Award will be announced at the end of January and so if you would like to nominate someone who has gone above and beyond the call of duty in the Piping World, please do let us know. The winner shall receive a Piobaireachd Society
kilt pin in solid silver (as shown), £250 to spend with Begg Bagpipes and world-wide acclaim through our Newsletter.
The Merits (or otherwise!) of: Picking and playing a good tune well - Part 2
You may wonder what defines a tune as being good or bad, tasteful or tuneless. It often comes down to personal taste and in competitions, it could explain why we get differing and conflicting results from one judge to the next. How can a band be 2nd in the opinion of one judge and 2nd last in the opinion of another? Tune selection has a big part to play but other factors come into it as well. Choice of tune is critical and selecting a tune on its merit is difficult and judgmental. Perhaps it's best to stick to the tried and tested tunes found in books like those of D Macleod, W Ross or the Scots Guards. If you start down the line of well established tunes, it will help you to experience what really goes into the making of a good tune. The need for a strong melodic line is probably stating the obvious when picking a particular tune. However, we do have tunes which are considered to be great but lack a distinct melody. Your own skill set is also important in this regard and I'm sure in my first few years of playing, I tackled tunes that were great but way beyond my ability at that time e.g. the march Glengarry Gathering by Angus Mackay. In hindsight, it did challenge me but in reality I needed another 10 years to get of top of this masterpiece (Guards1 page 132). I've done this with quite a few tunes, especially piobaireachd, where you quickly discount a tune due its perceived lack of melody but in reality, you are not playing it well enough to make it musical or get the best from it. I suppose this is the challenge and what keeps you going - you know it's not quite right but "I intend to get it better next time". Try to avoid more obscure books as there may only be a few tunes of merit and just because it's in a book doesn't make it good. Oops - I can see a few hackles raised on that comment! Listening to top players helps you learn good taste in tunes but as previously mentioned, they started with the bread and butter tunes like the rest of us. So if you take a 6/8 like Port Askaig or John D Burgess, don't just play the notes - get the lift and music from each note, think about what you're playing and don't just play each crotchet and quaver in a metronomic fashion. It should be all about tuneful, melodic playing. Play tunes that are appropriate to your skill level and experience, but always still challenge yourself with something that's a bit harder - if you are not continually trying to improve and stretch yourself, there is a risk that you will end up going backwards.
As part of our Merit series, we would like to invite nominations from our readers as to who within their piping/pipe band community deserves a special mention in our newsletter and who will go on to being considered as the candidate to receive the Begg Bagpipes 2014 Merit Award. The person can be a player or an administrator/back room supporter but should be someone who has gone way beyond the call of normal duty to advance the cause of piping and/or pipe bands within their local community. In addition to a handsome trophy, the winner will receive a voucher for £250 to spend with Begg Bagpipes, either online or in our shop. Please email your nominations with a short write up and photograph if possible to firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris has produced his own branded make of drone reeds after very successfully producing collections of music books and cds. Chris is also an accomplished solo champion, P/M of Grade 1 Scottish Power, National Piping Centre tutor and an all round nice guy! However, all these many attributes don't necessarily make for good drone reeds, but with the high standards Chris sets for himself, it will be surprising if his reeds fall short. The external packaging and the excellent branding gets everything off to a good start. There are 2 versions, both of which have carbon fibre bass tongues. The more expensive version at £85 has a more moisture absorbent body which I think would always be good. The slightly cheaper £65 set are similar looking but with a different body and a glossy appearance. Essentially, both models look similar apart from a matt and gloss finish - black with a yellow bridle. They are well made, with a solid and some would say an exciting look - this generates confidence since some other reeds have tongues that look as if they may not last the tuning stage let alone a solid session. The reeds appear lower pitched than others on the market but don't have the same squealy hard to strike-in problem that some other makes tend to have. Being lower in tone may be no bad thing. The tone is deep and solid and you get the impression that stability is great. The blend when all three reeds are going is great and the harmonics are fine too, although being of a traditional outlook, I never find any synthetics that can surpass cane in this regard. We hear comments that synthetic is just like cane and synthetic reeds can have their uses, particularly from a competition standpoint where the attitude is "let's get to the end". I'm sure our 18th century past masters had it all sorted out when after some 2/3rds of playing they would just stop during a piobaireachd and start again. This approach would save the entire tuning preamble we have now! With 2 reeds on, I found the tone slightly muted but with the 3 going it seemed to gel well and that is indeed an unusual effect. It's hard to gauge from such a small trial but I found both sets easily set - solid, bold, deep sound, durable and well made. I'd recommend these reeds to you and they are definitely worth trying to see if they suit your taste and indeed your beloved pipes. So put new life into your pipes with Roddy's chanter that I reviewed last month and a set of Chris' reeds.
James C. Begg
Hey, I know we had this offer on recently but it's worth doing again if you like my review above!
James Begg stars alongside U2, One Direction, Ozzy Osbourne and others - well almost.
As part of the recent MTV Awards held in Glasgow's SSE Hydro, a Swedish TV crew filmed a programme to cover the show and included some great shots of Glasgow - as well as a session with the one and only James C. Begg! Check out the following link, which is a mixture of Swedish and English - the highlight of the programme starts at 2 mins 54 seconds minutes into it, but start from the beginning to really get the flavour of the event.
If you would like to report on any aspect of the Piping World from wherever you live, or if you would like to comment on any articles or issues, we'd be pleased to hear from you. Email to email@example.com