What does it take to sound good?

Why does sounding good take so much work?

It’s not easy being the Pipe Major or Band Manager. You are responsible for ensuring that the band has the right equipment to ensure the best sound. And with the bagpipes, it is not only the individual’s playing ability that makes a difference. As you well know, the bagpipes has many factors that affect its sound.

But there is hope! By using quality materials, you provide your pipers the best chance of sounding good.

Imagine walking into the competition circle knowing that each and every bagpipe in the band is producing the ultimate sound it can. Hear the sound that your band is producing.

What about your next parade. Can you visualize the happy faces lining the parade route as your band marches past belting out your favourite tunes? Does the joy of the crowd listening to your performance bring a smile to your face?

If your band is like mine, it is relatively new, and underfunded. Each player owns their own pipes, and each person has a different brand of pipes. We are currently playing unmatched chanters, and until recently we were also playing unmatched reeds.

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • 10 pipers on 10 different sets of pipes, with 10 different makes of chanters and reeds

  • Pipers having a hard time blowing, unable to keep their pressure steady

It may be time to look at bagpipe maintenance!

With the bagpipes, it isn’t only the reeds that affect the tone produced. The material that the drones and chanter are made out of affect how they vibrate. But not only do they vibrate, the stocks they are plugged into also vibrate. And because the stocks vibrate, so does the bag. As you can see, the entire instrument affects the tone. And all of this, just for one piper!

  • Do all of your pipers have the same material for drones and chanters? (Blackwood, or Polypenco)

  • Do all of your pipers play the same type of bag (cowhide, or sheepskin, or synthetic? And the same make of synthetic?)

  • Are your pipers playing the same type of drone reeds? (Cane, or synthetic? Same manufacturer?)

  • Are your pipers playing the same make of chanter reeds?

I too am a Pipe Major, and my band was formed less than a year ago. Until recently, we had very little funds. Once we did a few paid performances, we were able to afford to buy matching reeds for the pipers. And what a difference it made to our sound. During warm ups, it is a lot more difficult from across the room with your back turned to tell the pipes apart by sound alone. The drones all have a similar hum, and the tonal quality from the chanters are very similar.

My pipers are reporting that the new reeds are a tiny bit more difficult to blow than the ones they are used to, but they will overcome this in the next week or two with practice. They also tell me that the improved sound, both for the band and for them individually is well worth the work needed to get used to the new reeds.

Now, your band may not need new reeds today. Maybe you have just recently purchased a bunch, or you too just can’t afford them. No worries. I am not actually wanting to sell you anything today. What I want though, is your help.

You see, as we are a new shop, we are deciding what items to stock as inventory. We don’t want to bring in items that nobody has an interest in, and we want to ensure that if you come in looking for something, we are able to help you out.

What I am asking is that you take a few moments, and tell me about your band, and its preferences.

  1. How many pipers do you have?

  2. How many snare drummers?

  3. How many tenor drummers?

  4. What brand of reeds do you play?

  5. What brand of reeds are you going to buy next?

  6. Do your drummers play matched sticks? If so, what brand/model?

  7. What make of drum heads do you use?

  8. How many reeds a year do you buy?

  9. How many sticks, drum heads, etc a year do you buy?

For example, my band has a budget for 1 set of cane drone reeds and 3 chanter reeds per piper per year, and we are playing Shepherds. My snare drummers play KP3s, and we expect to replace them every few years.

What’s in it for me?

Now, there is some benefit to you telling me this information, as I can then ensure that we have the items you would be looking for when you come in. However, I am willing to sweeten the pot a bit. If you take the time to tell me the preferences of your band, we will register your band in our system as a preferred customer. As a preferred customer, we will give you a 10% discount on any items purchased for your band*.

As a bonus, if you tell us the names of your band members, we will add them to our system, and they will get a 5% discount on any items they buy for themselves. Now, I understand that there may be some privacy concerns with giving us their names. We promise that we will never give or sell our contact database to a third party. However, you may still not have your members permission. Here’s what I’ll do. If your band is already registered with us, and your member also registers with us, they only need to mention their affiliation with your band, and we will extend the discount to them as if you had told us at the time you register your band.

Now, you can choose to not let us know your preferences. That is OK. However, it will lessen the chances that we will have in stock the items you want. And you may be OK with that. But the competition season is quickly approaching. Not only the competition season, but the Parade season is fast upon us.

We intend to be at all of the Highland Games in Alberta. It would be awesome for you to come see us and introduce yourselves, meet us and see what we are carrying. I would hate for you to be on the field, a few hours before stepping into the circle, to discover that you don’t have a vital part, and that we too don’t have one available. We want to be able to help you. Help us help you!

Your next steps:

  1. Tell us about your band

    1. What gear you are currently playing

    2. What gear you are planning to purchase in the near future

  2. Tell us who your members are

  3. Earn a discount for not only your band, but also your members.

  4. Be able to purchase the items you want and need.

We hope that we will be able to help you out!