~ Universe of Bagpipes ~
~ in A and D ~
Two Pipes In One!
(Modeled by Lisa G., San Francisco)
John Walsh has achieved world-wide fame for his outstanding smallpipes. Perhaps best-known for his Shuttle Pipes, he continues to develop and produce bagpipes that combine the best in traditional design, high-tech innovation and above all, wonderful musicality.
Among the other pipes John Walsh builds is a pair of Scottish Smallpipes, available in two keys (sizes), “A” and “D”. These beautiful and popular pipes have three drones - a bass, a baritone and a tenor - mounted in a common stock. They are equipped with synthetic reeds, and the drone reeds are unique in that everything but the tongues are an integral part of the pipe. These pipes are machined out of the same high-tech structural synthetic, Delrin (Polypenco) that is used by many makers of fine woodwind instruments, including J. Dunbar Ltd. whose very successful synthetic Highland pipes (available through us) are a widely respected mainstay of the piping world.
Pipers who play only traditional Great Highland Bagpipe (GHB) music on the smallpipe need only the "A" model smallpipe. But those whose musical interests extend further, or whose primary focus is on, say, Irish music use the "D" smallpipe.
The John Walsh Convertible Smallpipe, with four drones and two chanters
Both of these pipes are pitched to conform to the standard concert “A” (440 Hz) rather than the unique non-standard higher pitch of the GHB. Thus it is possible and practical to play them together with other instruments. Overall tonality remains the same as the GHB, of course - that is, the intervals of the scale are proportionally the same as those of its large brother.
Not everyone can afford to buy two smallpipes to provide such musical versatility, but even aside from the cost, hauling two pipes around, maintaining them both, switching from one to another during any sort of performance and so on is a hassle, at best. Now there is an alternative.
The new John Walsh Convertible Smallpipe incorporates a number of highly innovative and extremely practical features that address all of these issues. It is two complete smallpipes in one and can be transformed from one into the other in a matter of a very few seconds. This is accomplished without any musical or mechanical compromises whatsoever.
Convertible bagpipes as such are not unknown. Usually changing such pipes from one mode to another involves removing or adding a section of one or more drones, or even an entire drone, and/or switching chanters. Swapping drone sections requires keeping track of loose parts and requires re-tuning of the drones after the change. Switching chanters is always fraught with the danger of damaging the chanter reeds - a major concern. The prudent piper, when switching chanters, will always take great care to not ding a reed in the process of removing and installing a chanter on the pipe, and to stow the removed chanter away safely to protect its reed. (A chanter left lying about with an exposed reed will always - believe us, always - hurl itself onto the floor, reed first.) All of this requires not only time but a suitable setting - it means having a spot to put the pipe down, having enough light to work with, having the pipe case at hand, perhaps having other instruments stop playing while tuning, and generally fussing about.
Both chanters and the four-drone assembly with integral reeds.
The rule lying between the chanters and drones is 6 inches long.
The J. Walsh Convertible Smallpipe requires no such contortions. It has four drones that altogether make five tones available (as will be explained) without any change of sections or re-tuning. Three of the four drones are normally played together.
Two of the drones, the shortest and the longest, have small plugs tethered to their tips to silence them - one or the other of these two drones is used at a time, depending on which chanter - the “A” or the “D” - is being played.
The second-longest drone has a rotating section at its top. Rotating this section one way or the other a quarter turn against a stop causes this drone to sound one of two notes, “D” or “E”.
The rotating tip of the two-tone second-longest drone.
Rotating the tip a quarter turn instantly switches from "D" to "E".
So, switching the drones from “A E A” which is the tenor-baritone-bass drone configuration for the “A” chanter, to “D A D” for the “D” chanter, involves nothing more than removing the tethered plug from the end of the shortest drone, inserting the longest drone’s plug, and rotating the top section of the two-tone drone a quarter-turn against a stop. This takes at most three seconds. (The remaining drone is left alone - it was providing the tenor “A” for the “A” chanter and now provides the baritone - the same “A” - for the “D” chanter.)
Switching chanters is even easier, if that’s possible, because of a very clever design. Each chanter is equipped with a cap over the reed. So what, one thinks at first glance, reed-protectors are nothing new. But here, the cap remains on the chanter when it is plugged into the pipe! The cap is hemped on the outside, and the large-bore chanter stock receives it, rather than the chanter’s own conventionally small-diameter tenon.
The two chanters.
The cap always stays over the reed, allowing fast worry-free switching of chanters.
Chanters can literally be switched in the dark!
The cap has a small hole in its top through which air flows to the reed. Thus the chanter reed is never exposed and it is barely even necessary to glance at the chanter and stock when putting the two together. When removing a chanter from the pipe no care at all need be taken, and the removed chanter can be casually laid aside or even dropped into a case without danger to the reed. (Try that with an ordinary chanter sometime!) The fit of the chanter into the cap is considerably tighter than the fit of the cap into the bagpipe’s stock, so no matter where one grips the chanter when removing it, the chanter will come out of the pipe with the cap in place over the reed.
A chanter and reed, and its cap.
The reed remains fully protected at all times.
Convertible devices of any sort usually involve some compromises and/or deficiencies. With this brilliant design, John Walsh has achieved something remarkable - a single pipe that takes the place of two and that can be deployed in either mode, with no musical compromises whatsoever, in less time and with less bother than two separate pipes require.
The craftsmanship of the J. Walsh Convertible Smallpipe is superb. The material is machined black Delrin (Polypenco). Surface finish is a very consistent semi-gloss with no turning marks visible at all. Curves, tapers, grooving and other turning details are elegantly simple and flawless. Wide brass ferrules surround the drone and blowpipe stocks. The overall visual and tactile impression is one of luxurious smoothness. As are all John Walsh bagpipes, this pipe is meticulously tuned (“voiced”) and tested before it leaves the Walsh workshop.
The chanters both have counterbored fingerholes. The “A” chanter has exactly the same finger-spacing as a GHB. The “D” chanter is smaller, and of course has tighter spacing. Persons with large hands may need to use the first rather than the middle joints of the bottom hand. The chanters use a synthetic reed made specifically for the pipe by John Walsh. These reeds are very long-lived, and in the convertible pipe are also well protected, as already explained, so chances of an accident are slight. Replacements or spares can be ordered through us, and are widely available elsewhere.
Another view of a chanter, ready to insert into the pipe.
Hole in end of cap admits air to reed.
The drone system is, as already explained, spectacular. All four drones are in a common boss and the whole unit is removed from the pipe’s single drone stock as one piece, affording immediate access to all of the reeds. The reed bodies, each fitted with a tuning screw at the bottom, are permanently mounted (no reeds falling into the bag!). The easily replaceable tongue of each reed is synthetic and is held to the reed body by three rubber rings - two to actually hold the reed and the third to provide tuning capability. Each drone has a single standing (fixed, bottom) section and a single sliding top section. The top of the sliding section of the third-longest drone incorporates the rotating element already described that gives this drone two voices - “D” and “E”. The shortest and longest drone are each equipped with a little tethered plug at the top, as only one or the other of these drones is sounded at a time. The overall length of the drone assembly is about 23 inches, from bag to the tip of the longest drone. As is standard with most smallpipes, the drones lie across the chest rather than up over the shoulder.
The drone reeds.
Reed bodies are integral structures.
Reed tongues can be easily replaced.
All fixed and sliding joints are conventionally hemped. Hemp may seem old-fashioned in the context of this high-tech pipe, but it allows a flexibility and ease in setting the pipe up to meet personal preferences that is not possible with other systems, such as o-rings, Teflon, or synthetic cork. Also - and this is an important point - the potential problems of damp hemp being in constant contact with wood do not come into play here, nor do problems of changing fits due to wood swelling and shrinking.
The blowpipe employs a conventional rubber flap valve and a threaded mouthpiece. The blowpipe stock incorporates an effective water-trap. Blowpipe length from bag to the tip of the standard mouthpiece is about 14 inches.
The bag is of course synthetic, of Gortex, and should last for years. Tie-in is conventional. Size is about like a small Highland bag. The bag cover is velvet - colors may vary.
We have two cases availabale for the John Walsh smallpipes. One is a traditional hard case, of the familiar GHB case pattern, black with metal corner irons and a red plush interior; this case is finely crafted in the US, and the price is $125.00, plus shipping. The other is a black nylon padded zippered soft case, at $40.00.
Finally, while it may not matter to some, this pipe has a very potent “Gee Whiz” factor - the reaction when pipers first see it is fun to watch! Aside from that, we here at The Universe of Bagpipes are most enthusiastic about this new pipe and expect its outstanding design, versatility, craftsmanship and durability to quickly result is its wide acceptance among both casual and professional pipers.
plus $19.00 for insured Priority Mail shipping
Please note that we can provide any of the other fine John Walsh bagpipes ~ enquires are always welcome.
Please feel free to contact us by email at email@example.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!
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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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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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