Friday, April 8, 2011

De-Mystifying Bagpipe Setup and Maintenance



I recently had the opportunity of acquiring “The Bagpipe Instruction Manual “ by Brett Tisdswell. Not to be confused with the more comprehensive “Complete Piper’s Handbook”, this smaller, 32 page, manual was designed to provide as much useful information on bagpipe setup and maintenance as possible into a small, portable, booklet that can be thrown into the pipe case and reviewed at a moment’s notice.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a complete nut when it comes to bagpipe maintenance. I have always felt that there is a special relationship and connection between the piper and his/her instrument. The time and energy one invests in learning and caring for the pipe will be returned many times in the form of a pipe that sounds great and is reliable and dependable every time. I have long been a fan of Brett’s schoolofpiping.com site and have found it a great resource for anyone who is interested in bagpipe care and maintenance.

I was actually very surprised with how much information Brett was able to cram into so few pages. Although similar in appearance to the old classic “Piper’s Handbook” by Pipe Major John MacLellan, I found the “Bagpipe Instruction Manual” to cover more topics and to be much more in depth. There is no time spent covering history or other topics. The book is 100% focused on providing clear and helpful information. It also contains many helpful photos, including detailed instructions on tying hemp bridles for cane reeds, diagrams of how to alter chanter reeds, and many others.

I think this book will become required reading for all of my students. The bagpipe can be an intimidating beast for a new player. This book provides a clear list of all the “must haves” for your pipe box, instructions on drone cords, bags, bag covers, valves, moisture control, reed basics, and many other topics. All very helpful for the novice player. Having said this, the book also contains enough valuable information to make it very much worthwhile to the intermediate to advanced players. The largest portion of the book is dedicated solely to reed trouble shooting and manipulation, both for drones and chanter. Pretty much every possible problem is addressed, and simple, helpful solutions are provided for each. It certainly goes well beyond the basics and is probably the best I’ve seen in the form of a small, comprehensive maintenance and setup guide. Certainly a worthwhile resource to have available for any piper. There is also some mention of matters of refinement, pitch, tone, and tuning positions, but readers are referred to the “Complete Piper’s Handbook” for more in depth discussion on these issues.

I appreciate this book because it helps take a lot of the mystery and superstition out of bagpipe setup. Certainly some these techniques take time to master, but many other tips can be applied immediately and become a great help to the player. There is no reason in this day and age that pipers of any ability cannot have a well set up, reliable, and pleasant instrument to enjoy. For those looking for a compact, clear, and comprehensive guide to “de-mystifying” bagpipe setup and maintenance, or simply looking to learn a few new tricks to have a better sounding bagpipe, this book is a must for the pipe case.

1 comment:

Mike Page said...

Hey John, I'm right there with you in terms of being a nut about how careful I am with my pipes. I kind of cringe when I see others (not naming anyone) just haphazardly take their pipes apart, and toss them in their case without even so much as swabbing out the drone tops. I've actually had judges come to me after playing and say how much they liked how my pipes were set up. I can only attest this to taking good care of my instrument before and especially after playing.
Mike Page