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Thread: Harp and Dragon

  1. #1
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    Harp and Dragon

    I've been wanting to learn to play the bagpipes for some time now. I recently discovered that my friend Greg is in fact a piper, and he has offered to teach me. Naturally, the first thing I want to do is to get a practice chanter.

    I have heard enough about Pakistani bagpipes and chanter etc. to know to stay away from them. I have, however, found a store call the "Harp and Dragon" (http://www.harpanddragon.com/) which supplies, among other things, beginning bagpipe supplies.

    I was looking through their website, and the long chanters they sell seem attractive. I also noted the "practice pipes" they sell, which include: "synthetic bag, plastic blowstick, plastic long chanter, two small drones, all synthetic reeds." The blowstick and the chanter detach and join together to form a practice chanter.

    My questions are these:
    Has anyone dealt with this company or their products before?
    What do you think of their "practice pipes"?

    Also, I am a college student, and have a very limited budget, so if you recommend any alternatives, please keep in mind that I have at most $200 to invest in this, and I probably won't have much more until next semester. I would like to keep as much of it as possible until then.

    A pre-emptive thanks to everyone whom I sure will chime in on this.

  2. #2
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    I would suggest not buying pipes, not even practice pipes yet. Buy a good PC (practice chanter) and learn it well. In piping, it is vital that the finger movements be ingrained into muscle memory before trying to deal with all the joys that a bag and three more reeds can bring to your life. Some people want to spend less on the PC because they see it only as a beginner's device, like training wheels on a bicycle; this is false. You will use your PC throughout your piping career, as the tool on which you will learn new embellishments and even tunes. I always try to have a tune down perfectly on the PC before I transition it to the pipes. Buy a good PC made by a recognized maker (I'm fond of Dunbar, John Walsh or Gibson, and have heard really good things about Scott Morton's stuff, but have no personal experience with it.) and you'll have a good start on becoming a piper. I would suggest buying a polymer PC rather than wood, because it a) won't split and b) won't break when you drop it. Plan to spend between $60-100 on the PC, and pick up some spare reeds while you're at it. That (and perhaps a copy of one of the pipe tutor books) should be all you need, so you should be able to stay under budget.

    I don't have any experience with the website you linked, so I can't comment on it except to say I'm always a bit suspicious of places that sell a lot of Asian piping gear. Some of it can be quite good, but much of it is dreadful and there appears to be no quality control at all, so it's just a crapshoot what you get. I've bought stuff from Tone Czar, Song of the Sea, and Western Thunder and been quite happy; friends of mine have recommended Carolina Celt, The Piper's Hut and Aberdeen Bagpipe Supply.

    The practice pipes can be fun, but are more useful after you've transitioned onto the big pipes. I played a set that my teacher had, and it was enjoyable, but I don't see it as being a good thing until you're comfortable with playing while keeping the bag inflated and so forth.

    Good luck! The pipes are difficult, frustrating and annoying - as well as spine-tinglingly wonderful. When the sound you've been trying for comes out of them ... there's no description of how cool it is.
    --Scott
    "MacDonald the piper stood up in the pulpit,
    He made the pipes skirl out the music divine."

  3. #3
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    Well, I'm obviously going to follow the direction of my instructor and friend. I thought that the "practice pipes" might be useful in that the blowpipe and chanter can be removed and attatched to form a practice chanter.

    This would allow me to kill two birds with one stone and to save a bit of money. I get the practice chanter, and, when my teacher lets me move up from the PC, I already have the practice pipes. I figure that my savings from not buying them separate would be roughly $100 - no small amount to a starving Liberal Arts student.

    Of course, in a matter as important as this, I plan to follow the direction of my friend and teacher.

  4. #4
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    Bob C is offline Oops, it seems this member needs to update their email address
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    The Harp & Dragon is a very reputable business in Cortland, NY. I can assure you that their stuff is good.
    Virtus Ad Aethera Tendit

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    Thank you very much. I'm still sitting on it for now, pending more communication with my friend/instructer.

  6. #6
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    I've played a set before, kitchen pipes are OK, particularly if you live in a dorm or something. They're the quietest of smallpipes. If I was going to get a set, I'd get this one, with a Dunbar PC. While I like smallpipes, and do quite a bit of my practice on them (never could get the hang of circular breathing with a PC), they aren't necessary as any sort of intermediate or transitional step from a PC to the great pipes; a good PC on it's own will be fine. Personally I think you'd probably be better served by sticking with a PC and saving your pennies against the day when you "move up" not to a set of kitchen pipes, but to a good used set of GHB's.

    As for saving money, I saw a long Naill PC on Bob Dunsire's Forum for $80.00 second hand.

  7. #7
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    Quick update:

    The bit with my friend fell through (he's also in college, and lives in San Diego - doomed from the start, really); however, the university has a very good woodwinds program, and the professor in charge of it is looking into the possibility of getting a nearby instructor for me - paid for, naturally, by the college (so <i>that's</i> why tuition is so expensive…).

    Anyhow, I plan, should this work out, to get the J. Dunbar PC kitchen pipes and to keep the bag and drones aside for later use, and just use the PC until the instructor graduates me to them.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coemgen View Post
    I've been wanting to learn to play the bagpipes for some time now. I recently discovered that my friend Greg is in fact a piper, and he has offered to teach me. Naturally, the first thing I want to do is to get a practice chanter.

    I have heard enough about Pakistani bagpipes and chanter etc. to know to stay away from them. I have, however, found a store call the "Harp and Dragon" (http://www.harpanddragon.com/) which supplies, among other things, beginning bagpipe supplies.

    I was looking through their website, and the long chanters they sell seem attractive. I also noted the "practice pipes" they sell, which include: "synthetic bag, plastic blowstick, plastic long chanter, two small drones, all synthetic reeds." The blowstick and the chanter detach and join together to form a practice chanter.

    My questions are these:
    Has anyone dealt with this company or their products before?
    What do you think of their "practice pipes"?

    Also, I am a college student, and have a very limited budget, so if you recommend any alternatives, please keep in mind that I have at most $200 to invest in this, and I probably won't have much more until next semester. I would like to keep as much of it as possible until then.

    A pre-emptive thanks to everyone whom I sure will chime in on this.
    I'd leave the bagpipes alone for a bit, and get a practice chanter. You'll learn all the fingering, and build up a good set of lungs! They are really cheap (Well, they are in the UK). My chanter is wood, with a natural reed and some plastic furniture, it cost less then £10 (say, US$20) and sounds great (when I'm not playing it).

  9. #9
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    I know getting a set of pipes is exciting and all, but you really should start on PC. There is a igh dropout rate with learning pipes, and you should take it a step at a time.

    Here's what I tell everybody who's thinking of buying pipes: if you're serious, get a high end chanter. You'll be using it for the rest of your piping career (for learning tunes) and if you have a good chanter to start with, you'll be sounding better at the beginning. If you still want pipes after being on chanter for awhile, then get pipes, but I think the biggest mistake piping students make is buying pipes immediately, trying to play them, and giving up because they are too hard.

  10. #10
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    Kevin,

    I'm sure that's a decent product. If you were not a starving student, I'd probably say "go for it." Since you are, I cannot advise that you spend $200 extra when all the advice you and I have ever heard from the pipers is just to get the best PC you can get. Save that $200 for your pipes (you'll probably need it then).

    Note that the PC in this package is Dunbar---not the rest of the pipes, as PiobBear was careful to state.

    I'm NOT a piper, but I am a sometime player of capped double reeds. Looking at this setup, one practical consideration screams at me.

    Every time one changes this rig from PC to pipes, the chanter's reed is exposed and vulnerable to damage. The experts may tell you differently, but I say: don't do it. I've dealt with enough wonky reeds to avoid that scenario like the plague.

    Pipers, am I wrong?
    Last edited by fluter; 27th November 07 at 04:44 PM. Reason: fix attribution
    Ken Sallenger - apprentice kiltmaker, journeyman curmudgeon

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