~ Universe of Bagpipes ~
~ Border Pipe ~
The "In-Between" Size Scottish Bagpipe
New option! A secondary, quieter smallpipe-style chanter - see below.
This Border Pipe is a traditional, generic mid-size Scottish bagpipe that falls about halfway between a Scottish Smallpipe (SSP) and a Great Highland Bagpipe (GHB) in size and volume. It has three drones, a bass, a baritone and a tenor. The chanter, patterned after a 19th century chanter by an unknown maker, has a conical bore; its length and fingerhole spacing are very close to a GHB chanter. The pipe is finely machined (not molded) of Delrin (polypenco) and is mounted in a Gore-Tex synthetic bag (made by a major UK bag-maker), which has a velvet cover. The drone reeds are single-blade synthetics, in the familiar GHB style, and are especially made for this pipe by EzeeDrone. The chanter reed is cane and is specific to this pipe. The chanter scale is the same as the GHB's, but in standard concert pitch (A=440 Hz.) The drones sound A-E-A. Fingering patterns are the same as the GHB. This Border Pipe is available in both mouth-blown and bellows-blown versions.
(Engraving from our collection)
Anyone reading these words is more or less familiar with the large, powerful Scottish Great Highland Bagpipe (GHB), and has quite possibly encountered the diminutive, quiet Scottish Smallpipe (SSP) in one or another of its various forms. There is a third sort of traditional Scottish bagpipe that is not so well known, especially in North America, but that is undergoing a vigorous revival in and around Scotland. This is the Border Pipe, which over the past few centuries has been known by a number of names, including Lowland Pipe and Northumbrian Half-Long. All three terms refer to the border region between the Scottish Lowlands and English Northumbria. These pipes, and further variations of them, appear in the past and present on both sides of the border. They were most popular during the 18th and early 19th centuries, but apparently fell out of favor in the later 19th century. However, unlike many other bagpipes, they never died out completely. There was a minor revival in the early 20th century when the Boy Scouts commissioned sixty sets from the fine old pipemaking firm Robertson. One of the surviving Robertson sets is owned by our colleague Sean Folsom and can be seen here on this site, and heard on our Bagpipes of the World album.
(Mouth-blown version, demonstrated by Sean Folsom)
During the last half and especially the last three decades of the 20th century many extinct or nearly extinct bagpipes began to draw the attention of pipers, pipemakers, non-piping musicians, historians and many others. Among these were Scottish Smallpipes and again the Border Pipe. This time itappears that the Border Pipe revival has taken better hold. It is beyond our scope here to delve into the complex history of these instruments but we can refer you to the excellent UK-based organization Lowland and Border Pipers Society at www.lbps.net where you will find a wealth of information, recordings and publications (some of which we will have available here shortly for our North American customers). Today there are a number of makers of Border Pipes in the UK trying to meet a surging demand for these pipes. The Border Pipe we are offering here is both inexpensive compared to most (if not all) of the rest and there's no long wait as is often the case otherwise. We hope that placing the Border Pipe into easier reach will further stimulate the revival of this nifty class of bagpipe, and that this in turn will ultimately benefit all pipemakers and pipers.
An off-the-cuff video demo by Sean Folsom of the Canadian-made Delrin Border Pipe.
Apologies for the casual clip, our computer ate the more formal presentation!
As is the case with many bagpipes, the Border Pipe was never standardized and there are both old and new examples that differ from one another in details of configuration and construction. One of the things they have in common is a physical size and a volume of sound that falls somewhere in the middle of the range bracketed by the GHB and the SSP. A Border Pipe usually has three drones clustered into a single stock (as do most smallpipes) and a chanter that superficially resembles a GHB chanter but that has a narrower (yet still long and conical) bore and a lighter reed. The chanter of modern Border Pipes is most often in concert pitch (A=440 Hz) and the scale and fingering are the same as the GHB.
Aside from volume and style of playing, two things set the sound of the Border Pipe apart from a GHB: One is the proportionately longer bore, which yields a kind of distant, slightly haunting tone that nevertheless retains the high-energy edginess generated by a conical bore; the other is the presence (often but not always) of a baritone drone between the bass and tenor, which, sounding the "fifth," lights up a whole new layer of harmony (or discord, if it's left running during some tunes). (Only the most crazed bagpipe nut would attempt a written description of bagpipe sounds, but there you are...)
There is a growing revival of the Border Pipe and its traditional music. An increasing number of pipers and pipemakers are approaching this bagpipe for its own sake, in some cases making it their primary or only pipe.
But many pipers have interest in this class of bagpipe because of its volume and its pitch. There are many situations in which a GHB is simply too loud while a SSP is too soft. The Border pipe falls neatly between the two. It has enough authority to be played outdoors without disappearing into the background, but is not overwhelming indoors. Likewise it is often a better match than the too loud GHB or the too soft SSP for playing with other instruments, not only because of volume but also because unlike the GHB it is (usually) pitched in standard concert pitch (A=440 Hz).
The baritone drone, which can be used or not at any time, adds further versatility. Physical convenience is another consideration. The Border Pipe in the mouth-blown version shown here does not require nearly the air or stamina needed for the GHB. Portability is another advantage; this Border Pipe is compact and yet robust, making it a great traveler.
Here's a new optional second chanter that increases the versatility of the Border Pipe even further. This is a Smallpipe style chanter, pitched the same as the regular Border Pipe chanter but much quieter due to its narrow cylindrical bore. It employs an Abbott practice chanter reed, which is stiff enough to raise the operating pressure high enough for the drones to function normally. While the Border Pipe is not loud in comparison to a Great Highland pipe it's not a pipsqueek either, and there are times, such as while practicing or playing in a small room, when quieting it down is desirable.
Price, $125 with reed and reed-cap
Historically, Border Pipes are usually bellows-blown. However, bellows did not appear on bagpipes in Western and Eastern Europe until fairly late, and there are many sorts of small and mid-size bagpipes that were or still are played either way. It is reasonable to speculate that whatever smaller bagpipes existed in old Scotland and England would have been mouth-blown originally, with bellows being a later addition.
(Engraving from our collection)
For the average GHB piper, learning to operate bellows can be time consuming and frustrating, especially if he or she intends to play the pipe only occasionally, or as a second or third instrument. On the other hand bellows have the advantage of yielding stable reed performance, because the reeds are not exposed to constant changes of moisture and temperature. With this Border Pipe having synthetic drone reeds, the chanter reed is the only thing affected but as every piper knows that's not a small thing. So, for those already playing a bellows pipe (typically that would be a SSP or an Irish Uilleann Pipe), the Border Pipe with bellows (or set up for bellows if the piper already owns bellows) is the obvious choice. But for GHB pipers, or for someone who is considering a Border Pipe as a first pipe, it is easiest to start out with the mouth-blown version. It is also quite simple to connect a bellows to a mouth-blown Border Pipe, which allows running it both ways and thus provides a way to learn bellows operation while otherwise playing the pipe by mouth.
(Price, US $195)
The only physical difference between the bellows and mouth-blown versions is the location of the blowpipe (air inlet) stock (a "stock" is a short tube that is tied into the bag and that receives a chanter, drone or blowpipe) and the blowpipe itself. On a mouth-blown bagpipe the stock is tied in more or less on the top of the bag, while a bellows stock is tied in low down on the side. The mouth-blown blowpipe is long, ending in a mouthpiece, while a bellows blowpipe is short and ends in a fitting, typically a tapered nipple, that accepts a hose that connects from the bellows. A bellows blowpipe incorporates a one-way air valve, just like that on a mouth-blown blowpipe.
Professional-grade bellows are in general quite expensive; they are hard to find for less than a few hundred dollars and can easily cost over $500. We have a plain, lightweight but well designed bellows available for the Border Pipe for $150.
To us, one of the most fascinating things about bagpipes is the mystery that surrounds their origins and development. Solid historical information, either written or graphic, about any of the hundreds (yes, hundreds) of different kinds of bagpipes known to have existed over the centuries is very sparse. Finding a thread that leads from a certain bagpipe into the distant past is always interesting and exciting, but the resulting conclusions are never complete or definitive. Much that has been said about bagpipes, whether by amateur enthusiasts or professional historians, is in fact based on little more than opinion, speculation, mythology and so on. The fact is that we rarely if ever have discovered how and where a particular bagpipe came to appear in a particular culture, or what specifics influenced its subsequent development.
The last time I was in Scotland I saw neither African Blackwood forests nor elephants roaming about. Yet today a Blackwood GHB with ivory (or more often imitation ivory) trim is considered "traditional," to the point that some pipers curl a lip at any pipe made of other materials. Such attitudes come from a confusion between tradition and re-creation. The tradition in pipe making (and for that matter in pipe music) has always been one of innovation and adaptation. Pipemakers have always sought out new and better (or more interesting) materials and methods of construction, and have always adapted their instruments to meet the shifting musical and practical needs of their clientele. They've also always tossed in personal elements of style and decoration. It this were not true, we would today have only one type of bagpipe in the world, perhaps made entirely of cane with a goat skin bag and burned-through fingerholes! (And for that matter, there would only be one tune!) This process is ongoing; for example, to the casual eye the familiar form of the GHB looks unchanged through the 20th century, but on close examination, every maker's GHBs differ significantly from every other's, and most often an individual maker's pipes differ from one another over time. The same is true of "other" (non-GHB) currently produced bagpipes (Spanish, French, Italian, Eastern European, etc. etc.) and of the Border/Lowland pipes. Traditional bagpipe making is very much dynamic, not static.
Now, re-creation is another matter entirely, and if your wish is to have a bagpipe that might have been found in a particular time and place the process starts with a whole lot of research. The ideal re-creation is made by measuring and copying an existing instrument of known origin. But the further back we go, the fewer surviving original bagpipes there are. In fact, in almost all cases including even the GHB, the number rather quickly drops to zero. These were common folk instruments that led a hard life. If they weren't literally used up during a piper's lifetime, they were seldom if ever cherished by the piper's descendants for more than a generation or two before being consigned to the woodshed or attic, where the mice, mold and insects quickly gobbled them up. Until quite recently museum curators and serious collectors seldom if ever wanted anything to do with nasty old folk instruments of messy provenance. Add to this the already mentioned rarity of written descriptions and we are left with things like paintings, engravings, carvings and such, themselves scarce, in which pipes are seldom the central subject and in which the accuracy of detail depended on the whims of the artist. Surviving written music can be a great help, where it exists, in reconstructing the acoustical elements of a bagpipe, but even there much depends on speculation and assumption.
We here have great respect for those who have spent years and even decades re-creating early bagpipes of various sorts. The results are often wonderful and certainly can transport the piper and his or her audience back to other times and places, as if by magic. But the inexperienced enthusiast should heed the factors outlined above and not form hard opinions and attitudes about the "correctness" of this or that bagpipe, and take with a grain of salt any hard-and-fast proclamations by experts, regardless of their credentials. To do otherwise can stifle that magic and turn it into little more than talking points in bitter little arguments. Get the bagpipes that please you and play them to please yourself, and have fun! ~ O.S., 2010
Border Pipe: US $790.00
(Either Mouth-Blown or Bellows-Blown without Bellows)
plus $19 shipping
Bellows Only: $195
plus $10 shipping if ordered alone
Second, Quiet Smallpipe-Style Chanter: $125
plus $6 shipping if ordered alone
Stock Status and Ordering: We keep this pipe in stock, and if we run out more are already on the way, so there are no long waits. If you wish to order a Border Pipe, please call or write us. This and other full sets of bagpipes are not present in our "shopping cart" system, because direct contact with you is the only way we can be sure that what you're purchasing is suitable for you and configured to meet your needs.
Please feel free to contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org 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!
We can accept payment in many different ways from just about anywhere in the world:
Credit Cards: We accept major credit cards by three methods:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
From 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Pacific Coast time (GMT minus 7 - 8 hours), seven days per week.
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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.
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please send your payment to:
Universe of Bagpipes
P.O. Box 447
Albion, California 95410
Please make your check or money order payable to Oliver Seeler.
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