MacLellan A440 GHB Bagpipe Chanter
Oliver Seeler's
~ Universe of Bagpipes ~





At Last!

A Fine Synthetic Great Highland Bagpipe Chanter
In Concert Pitch

A=440 Hz !


$240.00 U.S.

Plus $8.00 S&H via USPS Priority Mail


MacLellan A=440 Hz GHB Chanter

MacLellan A=440 Hz Concert Pitch
Great Highland Bagpipe Chanter in Poly (Delrin)


The Great Highland Bagpipe chanter discussed on this page is a specialized instrument; if you are interested in upgrading or replacing a regular chanter, this isn't what you need - see instead the J. Dunbar Ltd. chanter offered by us here or contact us for ordering information for a wide variety of chanters by various makers.

Also: Several of our customers made false starts when trying to set up a pipe so that the A is at 440hz by purchasing a R T Shepherd "Orchestral" chanter. This chanter is indeed in concert pitch, so it is not entirely incorrect to refer to it as an A440 chanter. But all this means is that the scale it plays is in concert pitch, and the keynote of the chanter (to which the drones are tuned and where we're looking for an A) is B-flat. This critical distinction is not mentioned on the Shepherd web site.

In our essay on bagpipe tuning we discuss the gradual rise in pitch of the modern Great Highland Bagpipe (GHB). While nominally in the key of "A" today's GHBs are in fact pitched far higher than the standard concert pitch of A = 440 Hz ( Hertz, or cycles per second), to the point where A = 470 Hz and beyond is common in new instruments. The reasons for this climb into the stratosphere are varied - in general, pipe makers have been following the demands of pipers and pipe bands. Bagpipes are by nature solo instruments (or are most often played with other bagpipes) so the absence of a standard pitch, such as has been employed worldwide for over a century in orchestral instruments, is not a great problem. However, there is an increasing use of pipes in settings with other "conventional" instruments, and musicians, composers and conductors often get a nasty surprise when they discover that the GHB, despite what the music looks like on paper, won't tune down to the expected pitch. We get letters regularly from non-piping composers and conductors asking how to meld a GHB into their works - the answer is that it's not possible in most cases.

So, one major reason to set a pipe up in concert pitch is to be able to play with conventional fixed-pitch instruments. But another reason concerns the sound of the pipe. Many pipers have never heard an older lower-pitch GHB, and when they do hear one a common remark is that it sounds like a different instrument. Is it better? That's a matter of taste, as far as we're concerned. One can talk about the rumble of the lower pitch, or about the electric crackle of the higher, or about differences in the perceived loudness (higher pitched sounds are perceived as louder by most people, even if they aren't) and so on, but "better" is not the issue here. The lower pitched GHB has a different sound, and it's one that is very attractive to many people.

No amount of reed-juggling and/or taping of finger holes will drop a modern GHB chanter down into anything close to concert pitch. Furthermore, antique chanters often used a reed that differs in size from modern ones. Thus, obtaining (or copying) an antique chanter doesn't solve the problem, unless one is (or has available) an accomplished reed-maker as well. So, one of the first requirements for a practical modern concert-pitch chanter is that it uses a standard commonly available GHB reed.

None of the dozen or so major pipe-making firms have an A=440 Hz chanter in production, but several smaller firms and individuals have filled this void to one extent or another. We've always been interested in these low-pitched chanters - in fact, the GHB heard on our Bagpipes of the World album is an antique concert-pitch instrument. So, we decided some time ago to offer an A=440 Hz chanter here, but it had to meet a number of specifications. We wanted a Delrin (Polypenco) chanter that can be supplied reliably by a top-notch maker, and (importantly) that uses a standard modern chanter reed. It took a while to find a source, but we succeeded and are now offering such a chanter by the American bagpipe maker MacLellan Bagpipes, a firm well known for their conventional instruments (though the word "conventional" applies here only in regard to overall form and tuning - some of Roddy MacLellan's pipes incorporate decorative work in silver and other materials that makes them fabulously unique).

What About the Drones?

So, we are now stocking this fine A=440 Hz concert-pitch chanter, along with suitable cane reeds. But the chanter is but one part of a bagpipe, and of course the drones must also drop down to concert pitch. The pitch of a bagpipe drone is determined by overall length, bore configuration, and the reed. Most modern drone/reed combinations will not simply tune down to A440 without some adjustment - the sliding joints will fall off first. Neither drone bore nor drone reed designs are standardized, and while some combinations are more common than others (for example Henderson pattern bores with Wygent style reeds), it's difficult to predict how much will need to be done to get a particular set of drones down into concert pitch.

Possible scenarios begin with just adjusting the pitch of the reeds themselves. That may do the trick, with luck, but perhaps not. It also raises the issue of having to readjust the reeds when switching back to a conventional chanter. As every piper knows, messing around with a working reed (drone or chanter) is risky, and can lead to an attack of the dreaded Reed Horrors, accompanied by hair loss, insomnia and loss of job and friends. So even if your existing reeds can be coaxed into producing a lower pitch, if you're planning to go back and forth a second set of reeds, dedicated to the lower pitch, is perhaps in order.

Next, or rather instead, is the use of drone reed extenders - short tubes that fit between the reed and the reed seat, effectively lengthening the bore (and thus lowering the pitch) without adjusting the reed itself. A set of drone reed extenders can be seen in the photo below. Made by Dunbar, these can be purchased from us. Depending on the pipe it may or may not be necessary to remove these when switching back to the regular Highland pitch chanter. It may be necessary, again depending on the pipe/reed combination, to double-up a set of these to gain enough length to tune down to concert pitch. If reed extenders do the job, they're probably the easiest and cheapest way to go.

Finally, if all else fails, some reed makers now make "oversized" drone reeds designed for concert pitch. We carry these here at the Universe of Bagpipes. A set is shown in the photo below, with a set of regular size reeds on the right for comparison.

MacLellan A=440 Hz GHB Chanter

(Note: The reeds shown above, by Mark Wygent, are unfortunately no longer available. However, we can provide oversize reed sets by EzeeDrone to do the job. )


A Note on Tuning
The A440 Chanter


In considering a “concert-pitch” chanter it is important to realize that there are significant differences between setting up a pipe chanter to play solo (or setting up matched chanters to play in unison in a band) and setting up a chanter to play at a particular pitch, in this case at A=440 hz.

When setting up a solo chanter all that really matters is that the chanter is in tune with itself - that is, that the intervals between its notes are proportionally correct, and that thus the various notes will be in harmony with the (properly tuned) drones.

The solo piper needs to concern himself only with this “balance” of the chanter. The ideal situation, rarely achieved, is that a particular chanter is balanced as issued by the maker and remains so. But in reality there are a large number of variables that can throw things out of whack. For instance, it is probable that whatever reed the piper is working with differs from the one used by the maker in designing, fabricating and “voicing” the chanter. Then there are environmental factors - altitude/barometric pressure, temperature and humidity all affect not only the reed but also the acoustic properties of the air column inside the chanter. Additionally, playing style - in particular the degree of air pressure supplied by the piper - will create differences. Resonance generated by other parts of the pipe can play a role as well.

Rough balancing can usually be accomplished by moving the reed up and down, because such movement has a greater effect on the high notes than on the low ones. For example, the high and low A can usually be brought into balance by this alone. But the other notes may then require individual attention. That fine balancing process is outlined in my article Tuning the Bagpipe on this site, and is covered in great detail, with full instructions, in the excellent Jim McGillivray videos available through us. It is a logical procedure, and like many things around bagpipes a bit tricky but not inherently very difficult.

But with a concert-pitch chanter yet another factor is introduced. Required here is not only balance but also absolute, fixed pitch. We no longer have the luxury of not caring where the top or bottom pitch ends up, so long as the intervals are correct. So now, for example, the low A cannot be moved up or down in pitch while balancing the chanter - it must stay put, at 440 hz, and everything else must be tuned to it. Some of the usual balancing procedures will not work under that restriction, and the entire process becomes more complex and requires care and patience.

A valuable aid in setting up a concert-pitch chanter, or for that matter in balancing any GHB chanter, is an electronic tuner designed specifically for the Highland bagpipe. An inexpensive tuner such as the Korg 30 is helpful but limited, as its intervals are not appropriate to the Highland scale. Unfortunately, available dedicated bagpipe tuners are very costly, running into hundreds of dollars. However, there is now a low cost alternative that we are experimenting with and plan to review in detail in the future.

Pitch Pipe Bagpipe Tuner
Pitch Pipe Bagpipe Tuner
(reduced size screen shot)

This is a very slick software-based tuner called Pitch Pipe Bagpipe Tuner, the work of a brilliant piping software engineer in Ohio, that runs on your desktop or laptop PC, and even on some PDAs. We are not selling this software here, and are not connected to the company - we just think this is one of the best things to come along in quite a while. Pitch Pipe Bagpipe Tuner, including a free trial version, is available directly from the designer’s Web site at pitchpipetuner.com. Let us know what you think of it, and have fun!


Prices:

MacLellan Delrin (Poly) A=440 Hz Concert-Pitch Great Highland Bagpipe Chanter
US $240.00

Apps G4 Cane GHB Chanter Reed, Medium Strength
US $14.00
(recommended by the maker of the chanter)

Drone Reed Extender Set
US $18.00

EzeeDrone "Long" A=440 Hz Synthetic Drone Reed Set
US $90.00

Shipping, Domestic, US $8.00
(Any combination of the above, via Priority Mail)



Stock Status:
We try keep these chanters on hand,
but they are made in small batches and thus
there may be occasional delays.


GENERAL ORDERING INFORMATION

Contact & Queries:

Please feel free to contact us by email at bagpipes@hotpipes.com or by telephone at (707) 937-1626 between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. Pacific Coast time (GMT minus 7- 8 hours), seven days per week. We suggest you do so if you have any questions and especially if you have any doubt about the suitability for you of your intended purchase. We're anxious that you get what you need, and we're not interested in selling you something you don't need!

Payment:

We can accept payment in many different ways from just about anywhere in the world:


Credit Cards: We accept Visa, MasterCard, American Express credit cards by three methods:
  • 1. By telephone: This is the least complicated method and provides you the immediate opportunity to review the details of your order with us;

  • 2. By email: We suggest splitting the information between two messages for security (not that we've ever had any problems). We will need:

    • the card number & expiration date;
    • the name and billing address associated with the card;
    • the shipping address if that's different than the above.

  • 3. On Line: We have a secure shopping-cart system on line through which you may use your credit card directly for purchases of most (but not all) items. (Not available for purchase of this chanter.) Please pay attention to the instructions within this system regarding payment for shipping costs. Click on the credit card logos near the the bottom of this page to access this system.

    Note: This secure system is administered by PayPal. You do not need to have (or need to establish) a PayPal account to use it. While free for you, the fees at our end are rather high, so we prefer, if it's not inconvenient for you, either of the first two methods above (both of which also provide direct contact with us, which can be helpful in making sure you are getting what you want and need.) International customers, please contact us for special instructions regarding shipping costs before using this system.

PayPal: We accept payments from the US and internationally directly through PayPal , which we have been using for years with zero problems. Our PayPal account is under bagpipes@hotpipes.com. Expect an email acknowledgement from us in addition to the automatic one from PayPal. If you prefer (or if you aren't so familiar with PayPal) we can send you a "request for payment" through the PayPal system.

Other Payment Methods: We cheerfully accept personal checks, money orders, wire transfers, bank drafts, cash and so on. Let us know your preferences (or problems) and we'll work with you.

Prices:


The prices on this site are in U.S. dollars and are current. We never issue surprises in this regard. There is no fine print about fluctuating currency exchange rates or such. You may find some lower posted prices elsewhere, but you will also find dealers who don't update their sites, and/or who add qualifiers to their stated prices, and/or who do not actually stock what they sell, and/or who provide little if any real customer service. Not here.
We can offer modest discounts on quantity purchases of some items - feel free to inquire.

Inventory:


We stock what we sell. Occasionally there are unpredictable runs on items, and/or short re-supply delays. If an item is going to be out of stock for more than a few days you will find a notice to that effect at the top of this box. Fine bagpipes and bagpipe accessories are made in small lots by meticulous craftspeople, not mass-produced & warehoused, and buying them should not be viewed like zipping down to the 7-Eleven for a six-pack. Feel free to ask us to reserve items for you, even if you're not quite ready to order - it will help us, and avoid a possible delay for you.

Shipping:


Domestic (US) Shipping: We usually ship the next business day after an order is received. We normally ship by U.S. Priority Mail with Delivery Confirmation, except for small items such as reeds and CDs which are normally shipped First Class. Standard shipping costs are listed with each item's price. We do not attempt to profit on shipping and charge no "handling" fees or such. Our packages are insured by a private company (DSI Insurance) so no signature is required on delivery of most packages. (This also means packages can be left if no one is home - a good thing for most people, but if that might be a problem please let us know.) Priority Mail has been very reliable and fast, taking three days or less to cross the country. If faster shipping is required we can provide Express Mail (two days from here to most US locations) or Federal Express - but be aware that these services are pricey. If you are ordering more than one item, please contact us for shipping costs, which will be less than the total of the respective amounts. We guarantee delivery and in the very rare event of a lost or damaged shipment, we send a replacement first and worry about the insurance etc. later. We ship to APO and other military addresses at no extra charge.

International Shipping: If you're not in the US or at a US military address, please email us for shipping options and costs. We ship something overseas just about every day, so we can offer advice based on experience. We send most medium-size packages (practice chanter outfits, electronic pipes, Kitchen Pipes, etc.) by postal Global Priority Mail, which costs only very slightly more than ordinary airmail and is safe and fast.

Warranties:


We stand by everything we offer, as do the manufacturers and our suppliers. We sell only properly made, high-quality items in the first place, so problems are altogether rare. In the unlikely event of any difficulties, you will be dealing with us on an immediate and personal level. If necessary, we will deal with the maker or distributor of the item on your behalf - we are a major customer of most of them, and have a bit of clout. We (and the makers of the items we sell) are keenly interested in maintaining our hard-won reputations for quality and excellent service, and we do whatever it takes to keep our customers happy!

To Order by Telephone:

(707) 937-1626

From 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Pacific Coast time (GMT minus 7 - 8 hours), seven days per week.

To Order by Email:

bagpipes@hotpipes.com

We try to answer all email within a few hours - rarely, a day at most. If you don't hear from us, something's wrong - try giving us a phone call.

To Order by Mail:

please send your payment to:

Oliver Seeler
Universe of Bagpipes
P.O. Box 447
Albion, California 95410

Please make your check or money order payable to Oliver Seeler.

To Order On Line by Credit Card:


Click on the above logo


To Order Using:


Go to your PayPal account and initiate payment to bagpipes@hotpipes.com


Always feel free to ask questions and thanks for your interest!

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Copyright 2002-2009, Oliver Seeler