Monthly Archives: September 2013

Robertson bagpipes with Robertson Rocket drone reeds

Today’s post is the first installment of a series that will cover a set of Robertson bagpipes on loan to me from David Murry (NY). I’ve played these pipes once before but they were shipped up to Dunbar to be refurbished, but now they’re back in my hands again. If I recall correctly they’re ebony with a few bits showing the lighter brown sapwood. They’re button mounted, nickel ferrules, and yellowed imitation ivory ringcaps that don’t quite look like anything I’ve seen before (not chalky like casein (which also doesn’t turn yellow), not celluloid as there’s no grain, not that stuff you find on Hardies as it isn’t shiny enough, so I dunno). David is offering the pipe for sale so in the interim I get to play them (they have sold). There’s no blowpipe or chanter but the drones are complete along with the complete set of stocks. I could also provide these carbon fiber Rocket drone reeds, though I’ll think you’ll find Cannings better suited once I get around to recording them. I’m playing them in my Henderson stocks so only the drones are being playing currently as I don’t have a spare bag to tie them into.

I was hoping the Robertson spec Robertsons would go a little better than the recordings indicate. The bass is big and the tenors mellow and with where I put the recorder (same spot as usual) you get a lot of bass without much tenor. There are spots in the recordings where you can hear the blend as for the most part I’m usually just meandering around the room, so they’re there, you’ll just have to wait for them. The tenors can be made bolder as I have the bridles as far down as they’ll go without shutting off for the sake of stability, though they are on the verge of being outside the normal operating range as indicated by the marks Mark Lee puts on the reed bodies to indicate bridle positioning. Live and in person, the blend was very nice, but I’m a tenor man so Cannings are in next.

Sorry about the fingers, digging up and lifting the ugly concrete landscaping in my front yard yesterday left my forearms like jelly.

Leaving Port Askaig, Angus MacKinnon, and Ellenor – A few band tunes out of order and in the wrong sets

74th’s Slow March, Donella Beaton, Braes of Melinish, and Rakes of Kildare – I’m about tired of hearing top notch players playing wussy versions of Rakes!

Hector the Hero, Cork Hill, Glasgow City Police Pipers, Clumsy Lover Jig, Troy’s Wedding – These jigs are a new band set except Clumsy.

Kanatare to El Arish, Susan MacLeod, and Lochiel’s Awa to France – Da MSR

David shipped some original Shepherd drone reeds (not SM-90), ya know, the black ones with white tongues cause he says the tenors sound fantastic. I don’t believe him (lol) but I *might* try them. For sure, next in the pipe are Cannings. Cannings have a great ring on the tenors that will really bring out the harmonics and the bass will blend a little better, I think.

Typical of Robertson bagpipes, the bottom joint on the bass is almost as exposed as the top joint. This poses some problem with reliable strike in with this Rocket bass, so hopefully I can find a bass (Canning carbon fiber or polycarbonate, or maybe low-pitch Genesis Kinnaird) to allow me to pull it down just a tad. I don’t like hitting the bag too hard because I’m afraid I’ll pop off the tenors.

For the drummers, with a metronome this time!

This post is a continuation of my initial post about helping drummers by providing recordings for them to play along with.

My “band” has no active drummers. Last time I played in a band with drummers was 2002.

Let’s just say I’m wholly ignorant of all aspects of solo drumming competition.

How often do solo drummers utilize a recording of a piper to play along with in competition (allowed in EUSPBA, maybe not elsewhere)?

If there was a repository of tunes played at band tempos specifically made available to assist drummers just so they could have something to play along with, would it be helpful to anyone?

Long story less short, my piping blog has been devoted to bagpipe sound research for a while and it still will be but in an effort to expand my website’s usefulness and connect with the broader piping and drumming community at large I’m toying with the idea of making a website with tunes played in ways that help or assist (or what have you) drummers.

What I get out of this is how to play for drummers. My first experiment was recording tonight’s practice session with a metronome going through my ear phones as I recorded one tune after another. For each tune I provide some sort of count and stay true to the metronome the best I can.

A little research showed that 80 bpm was common for 2/4 marches, though I’m a bit clueless as to strathspeys and reels (I went with 120 and 80, respectively). What are standard tempos?

Things I’ve learned so far:
1. It’ really obvious when you’re trying to speed up to catch up with the metronome.
2. An 80 bpm 2/4 is fast! (for this solo piper)
3. Phrasing is harder and easier with a metronome clicking away.

Warning, some of these down right suck, in my not so humble opinion, haha.

2/4 Marches:

Angus Campbell’s Farewell to Stirling

Highland Wedding

Hugh Kennedy


Jeannie Carruthers

Jimmy Young

John MacColl’s March to Kilbowie Cottage

John MacMillan of Barra

Mrs. Duncan MacFadyen


Bogan Lochan

Dora MacLeod

Susan MacLeod


Charlie’s Welcome

Would continuing this be a valuable contribution? I’m not the greatest piper in the world by any means, but I see this as another way to grow.

So, there it is. I’d love for other pipers to join in and contribute. I always said I’d play for a drummer if they needed me to in competition, but I rarely get the opportunity (as in never). I’d love the challenge of recording a specific tune for anyone to use, just give me the tempo and a specific setting if need be.

I got really tired of playing with a metronome. The band is picking up the tune Cork Hill which the score has taorluaths in. We took them out and put in just GDE. But, to make up for it I figured I would put some taorluaths into:

Troy’s Wedding

just for kicks, you know.