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Welcome to Begg Bagpipes


                           ------Est. 1980 Glasgow city centre's oldest bagpipe shop------
                                            click on the banner for our home page


                                               Newsletter - May 2010

Dear Piping Enthusiast,

We are a bit later than usual with our Monthly Newsletter but we hope you will like the new look in terms of both presentation and features. It is important for any organisation or project to remain dynamic and open to change, but at the same time preserving history and culture. This is particularly true to the World of Piping and over the years we have witnessed many attempts at new products, materials and designs - some have been more effective than others and it is on the note of A for Authentic that we start our first new feature below called "The A-Z of Piping - a personal view by James C. Begg". After that, it is your chance to see if you can "Name that Tune". You will see the first bar of a tune and you have to work out what it is - email the correct answer for the first three tunes to mailto:bill@beggbagpipes.com and be entered into a quarterly draw for someone to win a hand-made Begg African blackwood practice chanter.
With the new season almost on us in the northern hemisphere, we look forward to seeing the results of the new leadership in some bands and on how Inverarary and District will perform in their first year in Grade 1.  With so many good bands around these days, we may see many "hung results" in the same way that we are seeing a hung parliament in yesterday's British General Election.

Yours Aye,

James C Begg



We are keen to broaden the content of this newsletter in recognition of the fantastic development and importance of piping and pipe bands throughout the World. This of course is particularly relevant when you think of places like Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the USA and we have many customers from these parts. So if you would like to become a Begg Bagpipes Correspondent for your Piping Region, please let us know. It is not important to have journalistic skills, but rather to be enthusiastic and feed us with information about people and events which you think would be of interest to a Global Piping audience. We can do any editing that is required, so please let Bill know on mailto:bill@beggbagpipes.com
We also hope that you won't be inconvenienced too greatly but we have had to introduce a 10 minimum order value on the website. In terms of time, cost and efficiency, really small value orders are a disproportionate strain on the business and we trust you will understand.

  A-Z of Piping - a Personal View by James C. Begg

  A is for Authentic

  Are the bagpipes of today, that we play and adore, really authentic?
This is an interesting point as piping does evolve and change through time no matter how hard we try to preserve its character and authenticity
. Things are often out of our hands in trying to maintain the tradition and this is why the existence and approach of the National Piping Centre, the College of Piping and indeed Begg Bagpipes are of such importance - even more so now than ever. One area of change are the new laws that appear overnight from the European Union and other such bodies banning products that we have traditionally used in the manufacture and maintenance of pipes, on the grounds of " 'elf and safety" and the like. Other items can disappear due to a lack of demand as the large companies just don't see a profit in a particular product. Thermo wax by Ball and Company was a recent casualty but there are many more cases of items being withdrawn due to a lack of volume or profit for the manufacturing big boys. There is hardly an item that I order that is either readily available or does not come with some sort of problem attached to its supply. Take that of hemp a few years back. The one company that supplied it reduced its thickness dramatically. Not many customers seemed to notice but I certainly did and I still find that it's not the quality it should be - in fact, it's pretty poor stuff in comparison to what was available and I've had to alter the way I use it in the bag making side as well as in the hemping area. I wrote a letter at the time to the company concerned and they more or less implied that I should take it or leave it. Today, China is playing an increasingly larger role in the supply chain and we all need to be even more vigilant on the quality side of things. So whilst Begg Bagpipes sources authentic and natural products when it can, some items have evolved and are continually creating more challenges for us as we try to maintain original processing techniques where possible. It is important I feel to try and maintain traditional skills, like hand made bags and hand turning of pipes as we do in our shop. We do also offer more modern items like synthetic drone reeds etc which have their own place and use with certain pipers, but do we really want to lose our authenticity and essentially produce a cloned item that is in effect creating a different instrument and a potentially unnatural sound?

 Image is of a beautiful and authentic
 Celtic design mount, handcrafted in
 hall-marked silver by James C. Begg.
Piping certainly does change - look for instance at what bands are playing now as opposed to 10 years ago or so. 
Is it better? It's certainly different. So I will try and maintain the standards our glorious piping heritage and culture 
demands whilst appreciating subtle change and improvements.
Technical Academy - Pitch.

The pitch you set your chanter at is a matter of personal choice and you will be governed by your chanter as to where you set your reed at. The pitch or frequency today is quite high and has generally risen over the period of the bagpipes' existence. There is a quote in the Celtic Monthly magazine for Highlanders published in 1896 which shows even then, that some pipers were worried about rising pitch - over 100 years later and the problem is even more acute.
B flat is 466 hertz and was very much the stable pitch for the pipes but more recently the pitch is round about 474 hz and can go well above this to 489hz. Pipe bands are most concerned with pitch as all players need to be in unison with each other as well as with the drummers. Solo players can more or less please themselves and may prefer a lower pitch for piobaireachd. There may even be an argument that a higher pitch attracts a judge more if you are playing after someone with a lower pitch -I can see the point slightly with this but I suspect after a minute or two you accustom your ear to the sound in front of you and assuming it's well set up then the pitch does not really matter to the listener whether judge or audience. Pipe bands are becoming more and more obsessed with pitch. Chromatic tuners have now been in use for some time and this certainly leads to a more speedy tuning session than tuning on an individual basis with each piper- by the time the P/M finished the last piper, the first guy's out of tune again. So a lot of bands now have dedicated drone men and these may not even be players themselves. The tuner allows the band to be tuned as they perform and may be a more accurate process as it's recording the real pitch the piper is playing and not perhaps the pitch of a solidly blown low A. Bands are now getting more and more sophisticated with the gadgets they use for tuning. There is one now that tapes up to drones and chanters and you can see the reading on your tuner that is attached to the blowpipe. It may be better overall that your best sounding instrument should be used to over-ride a pre-determined frequency. Your ears are as good a tool as you can get - some P/Ms can tune a band's drones simultaneously just by listening to the band collectively. Tuners also can be difficult to use individually -it's certainly a good check for someone learning but you need someone to tell you the reading. So tuners are just like a calculator -quick to use but ultimately if you can add up yourself, it's a superior way of doing it. If you can't add in the first place, you don't know that your calculator's correct and consequently, if you can't tune, you don't know for sure that the tuner's right. If your bagpipe stays in tune for a long time and needs little tuning, then it's probably safe to say you've set the pitch at the correct level.
More to follow in next month's newsletter.

Online Special Offer

Ideal for beginners or simply for those needing a new basic instrument, check out our practice chanter and reed which has been reduced by 20% this month. Click here http://www.beggbagpipes.com/ishop/799/shopscr165.html

Look out for more great offers coming soon!  At the point of purchase, we will price match any product of the same quality from another supplier.

Name that Tune   
  Each month, we will give you the opening bar of a tune and your job is to name it! Email the correct  answer to Bill  mailto:bill@beggbagpipes.com for the first three tunes shown in the May, June and July's Newsletters and be entered into a quarterly draw with the chance to win a Begg hand made African blackwood practice chanter.


If you would like to report on any aspect of the Piping World from wherever you live, or if you have had display difficulties with the new format of this newsletter, we'd be pleased to hear from you. mailto:bill@beggbagpipes.com


Begg Bagpipes
202B Bath Street | Glasgow, STRATHCLYDE G2 4HF
This email was sent to: wgbegg@hotmail.com


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