Description of the Uilleann Bagpipes
Bagpipes are classified as aerophones. They are reed instruments that utilize an air reservoir. The Uilleann pipes differ from Traditional Bagpipes in the method by which the reservoir is filled with air. In the traditional bagpipe the player blows directly into the bag through the mouthpiece. The bag reservoir of the Uilleann pipes is inflated by pumping a bellows. It is believed that the bellows was introduced sometime around the end of the 17th or beginning of the 18th century. The term "Uilleann" translates as elbow; which refers to the player pumping the bellows with his/her elbow. Today Uilleann Pipes are also known as Irish Pipes.
A complete Uilleann Bagpipe set includes the Bellows, Bag, Chanter, three Drones and three Regulators.
Origin of the Uilleann Bagpipes
Some Pipers believe that once Penal Law classified the traditional Bagpipes as an instrument of war, that they were no longer available to be played by the general public at non-military gathering. Others believe that the new style, with the bellows, was designed for a wider appeal. The Uilleann pipes, with its bellows, is played sitting down and so can not be used in military marches. It is also much quieter and lends itself to inside events, such as dances, weddings, wakes and the like. Also, the Uilleann Pipes' tonality and scale was better suited to the newly emerging dance music, and may explain its non-military popularity.
Minor differences in reeds can have a dramatic effect on how your pipes sound. Therefore, we include 2 reeds with each Chanter.
The Uilleann Practice Chanter (UILP) is made of rosewood and comes in two pieces. The body has 7 front holes and 1 back hole. The top Blowcap has a Plastic Mouthpiece that can be cut to the length that is comfortable for the player. The rosewood Practice Chanter comes with two reeds (ULRC) and plays two octaves from Low to high D.
The Blackwood Uilleann Chanter (UILC) is designed to be played with the Starter Set (UILS). The Blackwood Uilleann Chanter comes with two reeds (ULRC) and plays two octaves from Low to high D. It has 3 brass keys which provide additional C, G# and F notes. The Blowcap with Plastic Mouthpiece from the Practice Chanter (UILP) can be used to play the Blackwood Chanter by itself.
Uilleann Starter Set
The Uilleann Starter Set (UILS) includes the Bellows, Bellows Connector, Reservoir Bag, and Blackwood Chanter Stock. This Set Requires a Chanter (UILP or UILC sold separately).
The Uilleann Drone Set (UILN) comes with the Valve that fits into the
Valve Cup our Starter Set. The Tenor Drone is in the Key of D above Middle
C, the Baritone Drone is D below Middle C, and the Bass Drone is second
D below Middle C.
A Note About Reeds
Suppose you were lucky enough to find a Uillean Bagpipe from the 1800's that was hand made in Ireland by one of the old masters, such as Moloney, Kenna, Coyne, Flanagan, Harrington, Ryan, or Egan. Or even a set by the Taylor's from New York City in the late 1800's. The sound of these well crafted sets would be greatly hampered or sweetened by the quality of the reed. Every Chanter, regardless of manufacturer, is different. A reed that sounds sweet in your friend's Chanter may not sound good in your Chanter. Likewise a reed that sounds sweet on the first octave may not sound as good when being over-blown in the second octave. If you have some skill, and a decade or two, you might perfect the art of reed making. Or, when you need a new reed, remember to purchase a few reeds at a time and then select the one that sounds the best.
How to Assemble the Uilleann Bagpipe
Select Your Chanter
The Practice Chanter (UILP) is made of rosewood and comes in two pieces,
the Body and the Blowcap with Plastic Mouthpiece. To play the Practice
Chanter without the Starter Set, place the Uilleann Plastic Chanter Reed
(UILC) in the top opening of the Practice Chanter Body (the end with the
hemp). Slide the Blowcap over the reed and the hemp end of the body. To
connect the Practice Chanter to the Starter Set, slide the Blackwood Chanter
Stock over the reed in the top of the Practice Chanter.
Prepare The Starter Set
The Starter Set (UILS) includes the Bellows, Connector Tube, Reservoir
Bag with three fittings, Blackwood Chanter Stock, and Hemp. The Chanter,
Reeds, and Practice Chanter are sold separately.
Now buckle the bellows around your waist with the longer strap and around
your right arm with the shorter strap.
If any of the connections seem loose, simply wrap the ends with more hemp. Wrap evenly and wrap only enough to make a snug fit.
When disassembling your pipes be especially careful to hold the parts near the joints. Never twist from the mid-shaft of the Chanters, Connectors, or Drones while disassembling, as they may crack.
Add The Drones
Only after you feel accomplished at playing the Starter Set with a Chanter should you ever consider adding the Drones (UILN). It takes four times as much air to play the Pipes with Drones as without the drones. The large brass fitting on the Bag is called a Cup, or Valve Stock. To add Drones you must remove the plug from the Valve Stock. The Drone set comes with a Valve, and it slides into the Valve Stock fitting on the Bag. Then the Drones slide into the Valve.
Add The Regulators
Again, when ready, add the Regulators (UILR). The Tenor and Baritone Regulators slide into the Valve face, just like the Drones. The Bass Regulator slides into the fitting on the side of the Valve.
Learning to play the Uilleann Bagpipes
It is not necessary, and indeed not practical, to start playing with a complete set. Most people will begin with the Starter Set (UILS) and one of the Chanters (UILC or UILP). It is even possible to begin with the Practice Chanter (UILP) alone. If you have never played the pipes before, you should begin with the Practice Chanter alone. Learn your scales and a song or two before attempting to play the Chanter with the Bag and Bellows.
= Open Hole = Closed Hole
Our Reeds are designed to play the First Octave well. The sound of the Second Octave may or may not be enhanced by custom made reeds (see above: A NOTE ABOUT REEDS above).
Bag and Bellows
Once you have mastered the scales and a song or two, you can advance to the Starter Set with Chanter. Now you will learn to play the same scales and songs by pumping the Bellows with your elbow. Uilleann Pipes are played while seated. When playing with the Starter Set, the large strap buckles around your waist. The smaller strap buckles around the right arm. Place the Bellows between the right elbow and your waist so you can pump it easily. The Connector Tube runs across the front of your chest and the reservoir Bag rests under the left arm. Hold the chanter with both hands. Your left hand plays the top three holes and the back thumb hole. Your right hand plays the bottom four holes. When not playing, rest the end of the Chanter on your right thigh. You can tie a leather Popping Strap around your leg if you wish. You can conserve air in the reservoir and illuminate the sound of the Pipes while resting. To do this, hold the Chanter opening down against the Popping Strap, engage the Stop Key on the Drone Valve, and place your fingers over the Chanter holes. In this way you can rest between songs without losing air and without the pipes droning.
When you are ready to try the Drones, add only one at a time. Each time you add a Drone or Regulator you will find that you will need more air, and more pumping. Each time you add a Drone you will need to tune the Drone. Pump up your pipes and sound an A above Middle C on your chanter. While playing the A, adjust the Tenor Drone slide until you obtain the fifth of A (D above Middle C). Each time you add a drone you must repeat this process. You should not try to tune the Drones without playing the Chanter. The Tenor Drone is D above Middle C, the Baritone Drone is D below Middle C, and the Bass Drone is second D below Middle C.
The notes of the Tenor Regulator are from C above Middle C down to F#
above Middle C.
Here are 3 suggestions to make it work properly: 1) Make sure
the reed is seated properly in the bottom section. 2) When putting
the top section (blow cap) on, be careful it doesn't touch the sides
of the reed. 3) Cover the back hole with your thumb or you won't
get other notes to sound.
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