------Est. 1980 Glasgow city centre's oldest bagpipe shop------
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Dear Piping Enthusiast,
It is with pleasure that I can report a tremendous result in the recent Pipe Band Survey carried out by Pipes|Drums. This excellent online magazine, which is normally first with all the important news within the world of piping and drumming, carried out a survey of the equipment used by Grade 1 Bands during the 2014 season. You can see the full analysis by subscribing to Pipes|Drums, but with their kind permission, I can report the findings of the Bag element.
78% of the Bands used the same bag and that bag was mandated by the Pipe Major
- in this category, 58% used a Begg sheepskin bag.
22% of the Bands were allowed to choose whichever type of bag they wanted to use
- in this category, 83% used a Begg sheepskin bag.
Only 4% used a synthetic bag and so natural materials were completely dominant. It is also pleasing to note that the Begg share of the market has increased since the previous survey in 2011, and that when pipers are given a choice, 83% choose Begg. It would be interesting to show the contest results against the make of bag used, but that information is confidential and not generally available. As a flavour however, I just need to mention three famous letters in this context - FMM - say no more!
Our thanks go to all the Bands who took part and to Pipes|Drums for the survey.
James C. Begg
The College of Piping in Glasgow has several interesting events this month. There is a recital by Chris Armstrong on the 14th, followed by the Echoes of Oban on the 29th. Both will be excellent events so if you are in the area, do try and call in. The Scottish Pipers Association next "Club Night" will be on Friday 7th November at 7.30pm, also at the COP and all are welcome to come along and play, listen, or both! Their next "Event" is the 3rd in the series of WW1 Recitals, sponsored by the Heritage Lottery fund and will be held on Saturday 6th December 2014, again at the COP. Entry is free and there will be a bar available for refreshments. Artistes include Rab Wallace and Donald MacPhee. Whilst we are talking about the COP, good luck to Stuart Letford in his role as the new Editor of the Piping Times- I'm sure he will rise to the challenge. As for Rab Wallace, check out his new site for his latest views and opinions - always interesting - www.pipingpress.com
The Merits (or otherwise!) of: Picking and playing a good tune well.
This of course is what we all strive for but what makes for a good tune? Tastes differ so much and good taste is perhaps somewhat hard to define. Is one person's opinion better than the next? It is this issue of opinion which leads to such varied results in the pipe band world and this is especially so in the grades which are classed as being "lower" in the rankings. I would venture that you can find many bands in the lower divisions executing tunes in a much more musical manner than some which are near the top - and if you want to get into the social scene, head down the grades for sure!. This scenario isn't quite replicated on a solo level but how often do we hear technically difficult tunes played to a good level but which bore the pants off the audience? There must be some middle ground. It's interesting to note people's perceptions outwith piping. A lady suggested to me that I was not much of a piper because I couldn't play Star Wars. However, with some reluctance, I duly did without donning a Darth Vader mask and I enjoyed the fact that at the end, the curator of the People's Palace at Glasgow Green recognised it as Star Wars - yip, it's great music but tunes like Star Wars don't transfer that well as a solo piping tune - they are played to great effect of course in an orchestral setting. As pipers and indeed as entertainers, we have to adapt to the situation we find ourselves in. When asked to play "Do you think I'm sexy" by Rod Stewart, I always oblige just in case there is some sort of double meaning and a possible "cadenza" after the gig! I suspect we can all adapt and whilst we may have to move away on occasions from traditional tunes, it does no harm to please the audience. So there is merit in selecting the tunes you play and when it is appropriate to adapt to an audience. Tune choice is so important - for example, you can definitely turn up at Inveraray Castle playing The Campbells are Coming but not when you are passing through Glencoe. The Earl of Mansfield at Scone Palace would be one that is spot on. It may seem self evident but with all the pressure and expectations of playing in public, it is easy to overlook the obvious. A little research stops any potential faux pas.
To be continued next month.
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 email@example.com
Roddy MacLeod has produced 2 bagpipe chanters under his own brand name- one in blackwood and one synthetic. I had various motives for trying Roddy's blackwood RJM chanter. Firstly, to try and sound like Roddy and secondly, to win the Glenfiddich next year - fat chance on both counts! Ok, I know I've got to win the various Gold medals first of all before they will even let me through the doors of Blair Castle. In reality, it was to stimulate my own endeavours from a playing point of view. I simply just don't play as much as I would like to or should, due to business commitments, family, distractions and so on - I bet you know the feeling and I'm sure I'm not alone in this regard. It's always good to try something new on occasions as well - sticking your head in the sand or being a stick in the mud is no way forward.
The pipe chanter comes in a very well presented cylinder and so from the outset the image is great. I am convinced that I am definitely going to become a better player even before I have opened the box! It's a bit like Xmas as you open the playstation, wii or iphone 6, but a lot better. The Chanter is well made - lighter to the touch than others but with a solid wall thickness and so no chance of being thin and fragile. There is great kick and vibrancy, with the high A and low A also totally locking into each other. These are the basics of a good chanter - high A vibrant and low A solid and deep. The chanter locks in with drones easily and the scale is true. As all modern chanters come with a screw in reed seat, my only criticism not specifically with this chanter but with all screw chanters, is if you are adjusting them, you tend to strip the hemp off when removing the reed. It's not that big an issue but slightly annoying. It's in the same sort of category as a canmore bag if it deflates - It takes so much more puff to re-inflate. So overall, this chanter has all the characteristics that Roddy produces but of course it is a combination of the player and not just the tool that produces the sound. There is also obviously also more to sound and tone than just the chanter, including the type of reed used. Roddy has indeed produced a chanter which makes you sound a little bit like he does and I have to say that this surprised me in a really good way. I'm glad to say Roddy has been using a Begg sheepskin bag since 1980 and like all recipes for success, it's a combination of all the various ingredients that delivers the result. So there is no doubt that the blackwood RJM chanter should receive 5 stars, and both chanters are in stock and available from Begg Bagpipes - the blackwood at £200 plus vat and the synthetic at £95 plus vat.
Next month, I'll take a look at Chris Armstrong's new Drone Reeds.
James C. Begg
Special Offer - Moose camlock protector free of charge
Buy either the blackwood or synthetic RJM chanter and receive a moose camlock protector free of charge - normally retails for £12. The Moose Camlock Blank Chanter Stock is designed to fit almost every chanter size. It fits easily over the chanter reed and simply turns to tighten over the hemp. It allows the chanter to be stored safely in a tube without any unsightly protruding screws that can also damage the hemp joint. There is no requirement for a hole in the top as the off-set cam allows any excess moisture to escape.
YouReport - A Comment on "Learning Tunes", following our article in last month's Newsletter.
A comment on learning tunes for those of us in the BONUS years of life. Jerry Gibson told me that one of his pipe majors told him - 'if you can sing it you can play it!' I find this to be true with me. This at least helps with the theme notes and the rhythm and flow of the tune. Tunes you like regardless of difficulty seem to be easier to learn. I think it is because the tune will worm its way in your brain and you hum and whistle much to the wonderment of those around you. I have my students mark their music up showing bars and phrases that repeat. It is amazing that once you brake down even a 4 or 6 parted tune how few bars you really have to learn. Believe it or not it is easy tunes that are harder to follow and to stay on track. Tunes like Castle Dangerous can go on and on before one realizes that the tune should have ended 2 bars back - yet there is no problem with all 6 parts of Atholl Highlanders or Caber Feidh. Piobaireachds are another thing whether playing or listening to as they can be so entrancing that I have seen even the best of pipers wander off tune, and audience attendees fall asleep. I am working on 'Too Long in this Condition' for my retirement party. My wife is taking bets as who if anyone will be left in the room much less still awake and if I wander off tune...oh well... none of my co-workers know the tune anyway. One last thought on learning tunes. I give all my students any background I know about the tune including its meaning, origin or composer. I believe that if you can win their hearts they will commit to learning the tune and play it with soul and feeling.
Thanks for a great Newsletter
Thanks Vince, and really great advice.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org