9) Modern Technology
...(electronic pipes, plastic reeds, etc.).

 9.1) Electronic bagpipes? Are you kidding?

 A) Not at all. Electronic pipes have been around for several years now. Incidentally, most electronic pipes do not involve the use of a bag. The sort of configuration you might expect to see will include a chanter (often plastic) which is connected to a box containing the electronics. The chanter usually operates via some type of sensor - either touch pads or embedded sensors. The "electronic bagpipes" referred to here are all meant to simulate the GHB. The author is unaware of any electronic versions of other pipes.


9.2) Well, then, who makes them and what are they good for?

 A) Four makes of electronic pipe have come up most often. The first is the "BAZPipe", these were made by Bazzell Cowan now deceased. BAZPipe like devices are now reportedly being made by Pine Tree Electronics ($325), Ross ($195 from Song of the Sea), and IOLAIRE Technology. Pine Tree and Iolaire will repair old BAZPipes. The second is the G.H. Boyd Electronic Bagpipe, which was made by G.H. Boyd. The third is made by Anders Fagerstroms. The fourth is the DegerPipes Chanter made by Manfred Deger.

General opinion holds that electronic bagpipes can be handy for practice, especially in cases where the player has to be quiet. Electronic pipes can also be handy for beginning players who may be somewhat limited in blowing strength, but who wish to spend more time on fingering technique. Addresses follow:

Pine Tree Electronics
William MacGregor, Proprietor
691 Quail Haven Road
Colfax, CA 95713
Tel(US) (916) 346-2196
FAX(US) (916) 346-2262
email: macp@foothill.net
IOLAIRE technology
47 Old Mill Lane
Inverness IV2 3XP
Tel/ Fax 01463 230439
Friedrich-Weick-Str. 5
D-76189 Karlsruhe
Tel(DE): 49 721 9862122
e-mail mcdeger@aol.com
Anders Fagerstroms
Sibylleg. 33, 2tr
e-mail technochanter@chello.se

If you are closer to the U.K., you might try Charles Young. According to Don Ward, he makes electronic versions of Highland, Northumbrian and Scottish smallpipes. MIDI interfaces available:

David Naill also makes an electronic practice chanter. See bagpipe makers in the resources section for his address.


9.3) What are plastic reeds, and how are they used?

 A) The most common use of plastic reeds occurs with the GHB practice chanter. Some people estimate that 90-95% of the practice chanters played today use plastic reeds. 

Another widespread use of plastic is in drone reeds for the Highland pipe. Hybrid (Ross, Champion, Indian/Cairns) drone reeds feature a plastic body and a cane tongue. The tongue is usually held in place with a rubber wrap at the bottom, and a rubber band is used as a bridle. The cane tongues are varnished or sealed with plastic, to protect against moisture. Shepherd plastic drone reeds use a plastic body and a thin plastic tongue. Wygent (Synthe-Drone), Henderson, and Pipe Dreams (EzeeDrone) plastic drone reeds use a wood-composite or plastic bodies and not quite as thin plastic tongues.  

Some players of bellows-blown pipes sometimes use plastic-bladed chanter reeds (often made from yogurt containers).


9.4) Are plastic drone reeds any good? 

A) As to Ross and Champion reeds, you won't find general agreement on this question. People who like them say that once they're properly set up they're quite consistent and require little maintenance. People who don't like them say that they produce an inferior tone to cane and are too easily affected by moisture or a changing environment. Some people like Shepherd plastic reeds while others say the sound is inferior to cane. Wygent, EZeeDrone, and Henderson reeds have a wide acceptance. Most agree that the plastic-tongued reeds can be more stable than cane-tongued reeds. None of these reeds is a panacea.  


9.5) I've heard that artificial materials are used to make some bags. What are these bags, and are they better than hide or leather? 

A) The type of bag you're referring to is commonly called a Canmore bag. Canmore bags are made of a synthetic fabric called Gore-Tex. Some people swear by them: they're lighter and easy to maintain (never need seasoning). Other people swear at them, saying that they are too light and that the mechanism used to hold the stocks (o-rings) is too unreliable.

B) Dave Barsby informs me that there is also the Ross Bag. He says, "...the Ross Synthetic type bag from Ireland has a more substantial method of securing the drones, blowpipe and chanter with a type of jubilee clip, also the neck of the bag is contoured downward to the natural playing position, I have tried all the combination's of natural hide bags as well as the canmore but my Ross bag beats them all. I have no shares or interest's in the Company and am sure they dont know me from Adam but when I find something that makes piping easier then I feel obliged to share it with the rest of the piping fraternity.I have also fitted the Universal Blowpipe to give my neck a rest." Is this the same as the Ross bag from Australia? The Australian bag comes with a system of absorbent and tubes which dries the air before it gets to the reeds.

9.6) Okay, so what's a "Universal Blowpipe"?

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