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------Est. 1980 Piping Perfection------

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 November 2022


Dear Piping Enthusiast,

As we head towards the end of what has been a tumultuous year across the world, I hope our common interest in piping continues to keep our spirits up. This year is flying by for me and I am at full speed ahead with the sourcing of materials and manufacturing plans to keep us well ahead for 2023. In addition, accounts need to be in place, a stock- take organised etc etc- ah, the joys of self-employment! On a positive note, we have some great Xmas offers and the advice is to order a.s.a.p. as logistics and stock are not always “just in time”.

My thanks go to a long-time friend of Begg Bagpipes, Martha Davis of the Kansas City St. Andrew Pipe Band. She is a stalwart of piping in that part of the world and we are grateful to her for taking the time to file a Field Report - see below. It's a great view of where we are at in many respects and contains some good advice on how we can all adapt to changing circumstances.


Yours aye,

James C. Begg

Piping Perfection


I see the well renowned ex Police Commander John Wilson is stepping aside as the club piper to The Glasgow Highland Club. He has put in an amazing 40 years stint and I’ve enjoyed many an after dinner piobaireachd from John, along with a nice glass or two of claret and a King Eddy (cigar). Since the Club was founded in 1882, there have been five Club Pipers: Farquhar MacRae; John MacDougall Gillies; Robert Reid; Donald MacLeod; and John Wilson. My personal thanks go to John for his commitment and support to the Club. The Club also has an informal Pipe Band and James Beaton has just retired as the P/M. Gilbert Mackay has taken over as P/M of the band and we wish him well. I wonder who will be the next club piper? It’s a most distinguished position. Lt Col. Hamish Macleod is the Club’s President and oversees a really great organisation – if you like the look of what goes on, you would be most welcome to join.


The evergreen Willie McCallum won the Glenfiddich Invitational for a record breaking ninth time. Regarded as the world’s solo piping championship, Willie’s win at Blair Castle is all the more remarkable since his last win was in 2005 – how’s that for longevity and staying at the top of your game! We were pleased to see improving results from Connor Sinclair, with a terrific 2nd in the MSR and 5th overall. Watch out for this young man's future achievements (3rd from the left)

(Photo courtesy of Derek Maxwell.)



Talking of young and up and coming pipers, some of you may remember that we ran a competition way back in 2010 to find out who went well over and above any normal commitment to Piping – we were looking for a Piping Fanatic. Well, the winner then was a 17 year-old Tom Curd and he has just been in touch to order another bag and to let us know about becoming the P/M of Gatwick Caledonian Pipe Band, Crawley, Sussex. Tom writes “Hi James. I hope you’re well and business is good. It is that time again where I’m looking at getting a new bag. Would it be possible to send my stocks up to you to get one tied on? I am looking for a small sheepskin with a swan neck and I already have the split stock.
Just as a little update - those in the band that got their bag from you are very happy with them. It is so nice for me to have them playing sheepskin - the tone is far superior and they are finding starts and stops much easier too. It's nice to see them playing more confidently.”

Check out Tom’s bio here.

Thanks for the up-date Tom and we wish the Band and you every success – please keep us posted. James

Special Offer - for November only


A big 10% off all electronic chanters and all drone reeds. Just order online and James will knock the 10% off at his end.


Xmas Special Offer.


W. Ross Collection vol. 2  £10 - Classic marches, strathspeys and reels - a must.


Highland Bagpipe Makers - J Campbell  £20  - A comprehensive history of who's who in the world of bagpipe production.


If you would like to order, please email or call on  44(0)7906596927



 Begg's Bugle


This month's blowout - chanters


We have discussed bags and skins in our last edition. So, it seems logical to move onto chanters which of course are the life blood/heart of the great highland bagpipe.

Bagpipe chanters can be a bit of a can of worms as tastes do vary. We are fortunate now that chanters vary less from make to make than they did pre 1970s when essentially, we all had wooden chanters. However, in the mid-70s, the McAllister dynasty in Shotts produced the Warmac in conjunction with the Warnock dynasty in N Ireland. This was a game changer and was set against a piping world at that time which was very anti-change and extremely traditional. However, the synthetic/polypenco chanter had the beauty of uniformity, stability, good volume and low cost. Bands flocked to them and to the McAllister reed which further enhanced the brilliance of the chanter.  However, even in the 80s and beyond, some of the top winning world bands still preferred to use the wooden and excellent Sinclair offering.

 Of course, on top of all the goings on the chanter front, the Begg bag was key to bands from the 80s onwards and without the sound-box being stable, then the tone would fluctuate. There was the odd exception but virtually every world champion band used a Begg bag - Strathclyde Police, FMM, Shotts, SFU – quite a haul and an accolade over the 42 years since we started.

The secret for a good chanter is to marry it up with the reed and every current top maker makes the reed to complement their chanter – Shepherd, G1 and Chesney all do so. Many other makes which are of top quality include MaCallum, Naill and RJM - the choice is yours.

Pick a chanter that feels comfortable for your finger size. Make sure you have good volume without sounding like a fog horn. If piobaireachd is your thing, ensure a good high G. Piobaireachd does let you enjoy piping in the longer term since there are only so many MSRs, hornpipes etc that can keep you fully entertained. This sounds like a separate topic for a future Begg’s Bugle. It's nice if a variety of reeds suit your chosen chanter but as a generalisation, start with a reed and chanter from the same manufacturer and go from there. Ensure the crucially important low A and high A are balanced and complement each other and of course, that the intonation is sound across the range of notes – let’s try and steer clear of your chanter becoming covered in bits of black tape everywhere as we all know only too well!

The crux of the matter is to pick a chanter to blend with the drones. There are so many chanters that blast away and the drones are not heard and the converse can also be true. I’d suggest so many get this balance completely wrong.  It is desirable that as little an input of blowing as possible is achieved and this is also part of the story. Just think of Donald MacPherson as a prime example. Drone power is crucial of course and getting that balance between a strong drone and your chanter is the trick – in this regard, there is none better than Field Marshall Montgomery.

But hey – you should take a personal approach to all of this and don’t just go with the masses. Yes, check out what you most enjoy but adapt it a little for your personal preference.

Should you have a sole? It was very much a thing back in the day and it does enhance appearance. I might suggest a silver sole adds weight and gives a bit of balance but I’d think it’s much further down the agenda. 

Pitch has risen since the days of the Jacobite rebellions and there are articles from the 1890s talking about pitch increases. Today however, we are completely off the Richter Scale!! With rising pitch, we lose volume and today’s band turnouts of 28 pipers are probably only at the same output as 14 players from yesteryear.

We supply all the above chanters plus suitable reeds and strengths. Use Begg Bagpipes/Piping Perfection to revitalise and improve your set up. It will make all the difference to your tonal quality and piping enjoyment if you adopt a tailor-made approach to all aspects of your pipe. Please do call, email or pop in for free impartial advice on which way to go for you as an individual – “one size does not fit all” for sure.

 Field Report - from the Midwest, USA


Where the Pipers Play by Martha Moore Davis


In his “Captain’s Corner” weekly lesson, Ken Eller offered inspiration in May: “The beginning of the outdoor season is here. The pandemic is relenting, and we are soon back to the future!” Last week we, the Kansas City St. Andrew Pipes and Drums, closed out the season in Tulsa, Oklahoma at Scotfest, the American Grade 5 Pipe Band Championship, Midwest Pipe Band Association. Like old times, we were back in the circle.

Over the last two years, I found new ways to stand in the circle—one that was surprisingly large—even worldwide.

The hybrid model of piping, in person and online, has strengths and weaknesses, but it’s a “both/and.” There’s nothing like having an in-person lesson to address everything from posture to technique to expression with immediate feedback from a good instructor. Yet, we can still improve as pipers with practice chanters on Zoom, with recordings of our tunes on pipes and critiques by workshop instructors, and with competitions online where crit sheets are provided.

Opportunities abound. I took the “Piping Hot Summer Drummer” February Zoom workshop and benefitted from a private lesson, learned new music, and listened to a Piobaireachd session led by Jack Lee. We had numerous top instructors to help us. I also learned from the National Piping Centre’s February Winter Gathering with Finlay MacDonald and many of their top instructors who guided us into exploring new tunes and technique. Now, these offerings are sometimes both in person and online. One example is the CLASP (Competition League for Amateur Solo Pipers), National Piping Centre. Players may join whether they plan to compete or not. Anyone can register for the workshops.


On a dark January morning—before sunrise—the house is quiet. I am alone. But I’m not. I click to open Dojo University’s Friday Zoom Q and A session. The circle just opened to include more pipers. “Hey, everybody! How are you doing?” It’s Andrew Douglas, and he’s sipping and describing his latest cappuccino mix. Co-host Carl Donley says, “Let’s get this show on the road!” 


Although online sessions are made up of people from many time zones, a camaraderie forms. We invite each other into our homes. I noticed with humor how human we all are. In what quiet space do you tune into Zoom? One piper sat at a breakfast table in a caravan camper, another in a downstairs pine paneled family room, a college student in a dorm room with clothes everywhere but with organized music and chanter. One player was in a church basement at a table with Biblical murals behind them. My curiosity prompted me to message the piper who had what appeared to be a kilt hanging on the wall, except it was horizontal the sporran sideways, appearing to defy gravity. She said, “It’s a beach towel! I hung it sideways to cover the light glare!”

We all have agency. We can continue to improve. I joined the CLASP and continue to take Zoom and in person lessons from my instructor, Iain McKee, also our Pipe Major. The hybrid model of piping instruction has transformed the “off season” into an “on season” to sample as you wish. These links to the piping world will keep the momentum going. We listen to each other in our pipe band circles, and we can listen to the larger circle we’re all a part of.


At band practice, we prepare our repertoire for the upcoming “Kirkin’ o’ th’ Tartan” service at a local church in which the minister gives a blessing for the tartans. The congregation wears their family tartan or adopted one and celebrate together. Our band circle extends to include them all with the Kansas City St. Andrew Pipes and Drums tartan MacDonnell of Keppoch.


Ken Eller is right: “We are soon back to the future!” We are better for it.


Martha Moore Davis


Thanks a lot Martha - a great read and keep flying the flag in the Midwest!

James C. Begg



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


Begg Bagpipes

The Chall Building Kirkintilloch G66 1QF United Kingdom

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