Saturday, July 7, 2012

How to get started n Medieval Bagpiping

So you want to play medieval bagpipes? You probably have questions, like "where to start", and others. So this, in brief, is what to do to make everything easier.

There are 2 ways you can go about it.

The first way is to actually find a Bagpiping instructor, and learn the traditional way. The Second way is my suggested way, which will attempt to leave you less frustrated.

When I started Medieval Bagpiping, my goals and desires were essentially strictly to learn and play Medieval bagpipes. I had no desire to learn Highland piping, or play Highland music, or play anything Scottish at all. I just wanted to learn Medieval Pipes, and nothing else. Eventually I wanted to buy a set of Medieval bagpipes. I was on a budget. I didn't want to spend the bulk of my money on Highland pipes. I wanted to jump right in.

One thing that you need to know ahead of time is that Highland Bagpipes and Medieval Bagpipes, while very similar, have significantly different fingering (what hole you have to cover with your fingers to get a certain note). Highland pipes are specialized instruments -- they are designed and tweaked specifically for playing Highland music, and when you learn them, you learn Highland fingering, rhythmic finger work, and music that is all specially tailored for the instrument. After accomplishing music on the Highland pipes, you will have one disadvantage -- you will be an expert Highland piper, and will have to learn a totally different style of piping, different fingering, etc. Though most of your skills can be transferred, you will have to un-learn a lot of what you learn. Highland piping is very hard. It's highly technical, and to be good at it requires a lot of practice -- not just playing melodies, but practicing rhythmic fingering techniques. You may not have what it takes to become a highland piper, if you want to play medieval music, but you may be cut out for medieval piping or other period instruments, and not know it.

If you don't want to get frustrated and quit Highland piping, because your reflexes aren't quick enough, and you can't master certain playing techniques, my method might be a good alternative. Also, I have nothing against Highland piping. It just may be too hard for someone who is not interested in Scottish music. It's also not good for someone who is impatient, and wants quicker results

Step 1: learn how to play the recorder

First of all, get a good plastic recorder. I highly recommend the Mollenhauer Dream Flute line of recorders. The Plastic "Medieval style" recorder, with the single holes, is an excellent instrument, and

Note the double holes on the lower section of this Mollenhauer Dream Flute. Most recorders have double-holes on the lower notes, like this.

Below is the Medieval-style Mollenhauer Dream Flute. Note the large single-holes

Though the fingering is the same, you will find that the medieval-style recorder is closer to a bagpipe. You don't have to get the single-hole version. Both cost about $20 - $30, and will last forever, barring accidents. Sure, you can get a $5 plastic recorder. It won't be different, but the Mollenhauer one is an excellent sounding instrument compared to the majority of plastic recorders.

I'm not going to write about how to play the recorder. Every recorder has a fingering chart (if you buy it new, and in a box). Learn it well. Practice it. I have found that practicing your recorder in your spare time for just 10 minutes a day is all you need to be able to get the hang of it.

The reason for learning the recorder is simple. Most medieval instruments, including medieval bagpipes, have nearly the same fingering. If you can master a recorder (Or at least become Intermediate at it), you can play a medieval bagpipe. By learning the recorder, you will develop the skills needed to play a variety of instruments -- Rauschpfeifes, Conamuses, shawms, oboes, clarinets, and various other woodwinds. Focusing on this simple, inexpensive instrument will prepare you for making music on nearly anything.

Did I mention that I still do not really know how to read music? This is because I have a well developed ear for music. This gave me an ability to figure out how to play songs accurately that many people don't. Don't worry -- if you learn how to read sheet music, you will be a better musician. It just wasn't for me.

A little background, now. When you learn Highland piping, you learn on a "Practice Chanter", which is softer-sounding, easy to blow, and has the same fingering as the Highland piper's chanter. By using the practice chanter, you eliminate the need for waking your neighbors up when you try to practice your pipes, plus you can play indoors, or anywhere, for that matter. I used to practice (and still do) on the toilet. Seriously, When you have 10 minutes to dump a load, it's perfect time to practice. Essentially, using the recorder to practice is going to accomplish the same task -- you will learn how to play songs and learn the fingering required to play most bagpipes.

Step 2:What to practice

You should pick some actual medieval songs to practice, preferably your favorites, preferably simple songs. My first song was Herr Mannelig. It's a very simple melody, and very short. Other simple songs to learn are In Taberna, and some of the Cantigas De Santa Maria. The important thing is to learn some short, easy songs. When you can play a few songs without mistakes, you are ready for the next step.

Step 3: Mimicking a Bagpipe

One thing that is different about bagpipes, is that once you get them going, you don't stop. The noise is continuous. To make breaks in your playing, especially when you play the same note several times in a row, you quickly lift the finger on the note just above the note you're playing, and put it back down again. Try blowing your recorder without stopping, while playing a tune. Use this technique to mimic what a bagpipe sounds like. You can also practice circular breathing. Most of the music from medieval times is made of short segments. Breath after playing one segment, and before beginning the next. Eventually, you can practice inhaling through your nose, while using your cheeks for storing breath (like a bag on a bagpipe) and blowing. It's a tricky thing to learn, but if you get the hang of it, playing bagpipes will be easier.

Eventually, you will want to be able to play several songs through without stopping, and without making mistakes. If you can accomplish this, you will be ready for playing bagpipes. What bagpipes to buy is detailed in my other posts.

Step 4: Your first set of pipes

If you have made it this far, and think you're ready for buying a set of medieval pipes, the one piece of advice I have is this -- Get a professional quality instrument, and avoid cheap pipes from online music stores.

Cheap pipes are exactly that -- they are cheap, crappy, and will make you yearn for something better. Plus, there really aren't any cheap medieval style bagpipes. Mid-East Musical instruments sells a loud medieval and a soft medieval bagpipe, and they both are under $200, and both, as of late, have been plagued by quality control problems. I got the smallpipes years ago, when quality control was better, but I haven't seen new ones that were as good, lately. Plus, the ones that I got took a lot of fussing to get working.

The best thing for you, is to contact a bagpipe maker, and order a professional quality instrument. It will cost you over $1000, on average, but it is an investment that will eliminate spending more money on a series of poorer-quality instruments over time. When you get these instruments, they will treat you nice almost from the start, and will last for decades if you treat them nice. They are not just instruments, they are works of art. But most importantly, they are manufactured with such precision and from such quality components, that playing them will be easy, even for lesser accomplished musicians.

Step 5: Going Droneless

When you get your instrument, you should not play it fully assembled. You need to go in stages. Plug up all the drone holes with corks so that only the chanter is connected. Essentially, this is to get you used to playing with the bag -- to practice breathing, controlling the bag, and so on. Basically, you will play the tunes you've learned with the bag and chanter, so that you can be used to when to breath into the bag, and when to squeeze the bag. When you can play all of your tunes correctly without making mistakes, and without getting stuck breathing out of rhythm, you can add the bass drone. You will need to blow more to keep the chanter and the drone going at the same time. Just using the chanter was a stage to help you build up your ability to keep the bag full while playing. When you add the drone, it's essentially going to take more breath, but you will already have a sense of when to breathe from that stage. By adding the drone, you will only need to adjust your breathing a little bit, and it will be a small step to add drones, if you have more than one.

Of course, I leave out a lot of details here. This is an overview. There are lots of details on the care and use of the bagpipes that are difficult to convey in a short blog posting. I intend to cover those things in more detail later.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Goats -- For food AND music instruments...

Behold the wonder of GOATS!

First, you can milk them, and use the milk for drinking, making butter, and cheese.

While alive, the goat acts as your garbage disposal, eating all the food waste that you have (along with paper and other materials that they probably shouldn't eat). Their feces can be used for great fertilizer.

When they're at the end of their lives, You can cook their meat, which is among the tastiest of the meats of the world.

Using their entrails, you can make the famous Scotch meat pudding known as "haggis".

Few people, however, are aware of the musical properties of goats.

Yes, that's right. Goats are musical. How so?

Well, for millenia, the Jews have used their horns to make the Shofar; the goat's horns are turned into "musical" horns. In fact, this is how the class of music instruments known as horns, got their name.

The epitome of musical goatiness, however, is that goats make great bagpipes! The Ancient Greeks made bagpipes out of goats. Goat-bagpipes are still made today, in Balkan countries.

After watching this video of a goat-bagpipe being played, don't you just want one?

It doesn't stop there. Early Greek Theater often had music. The word for a Greek play in which someone suffers was called a Tragedy. The Etymology of "Tragedy" comes from ancient Greek. The Greek word "tragōidía", made up of trágos (goat) + "ōide" (song). So since Greek bagpipes were literally made from the skin and bones of a dead goat, by playing them, you were playing a "tragoide'" or "goat song"!

Of course, when a goat bagpipe is played by an inexperienced musician, it really is a tragedy to hear them being played!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Steffen Fischer, Instrument Craftsman

After months of waiting, a birthday present I bought for my girlfriend and fellow medieval minstrel, finally arrived, care of Steffen Fischer, an instrument craftsman whose instruments are well known to the German Spielueter (minstrel) community.

Initially, issues of language and the postal service used to send the instrument had me worried that I'd either not see the instrument, or that we wouldn't get quite what we ordered. After all sorts of delays, mostly the month that the instrument spent in Customs at a New York City Airport, the instrument arrived, and well, we were simply amazed!

Out of the box, the instrument was beautiful. It was made of Cocobolo, which is a very pretty hardwood with interesting grain. The bell and cap of the instrument appear to be pear or maple.

What was most surprising was the ease of playing the instrument right out of the box. Most reed-cap instruments have a limit, where, if you breathe too hard or too soft, the reed will let out a nasty shriek, or be out of tune. This is especially true of plastic reeds, because the plastic tends to be more sensitive -- the price to be paid for ease of care and playing. This makes playing staccato (playing each note separately, with a brief silence betwen them, as opposed to playing fluidly, from note, to note in one breath) Though this instrument has a plastic reed, it didn't squawk or shriek at all when I played it.

I played several tunes in staccato without running into the shrieking problem. I was totally amazed at how easy it played, and how in perfect tune it was. I am putting Mr. Fischer on the top of my list of Instrument Craftsmen to consider when I plan on purchasing future instruments. All of the waiting, and the struggles between my lack of German and his lack of English were worth the price, which was actually a very reasonable price considering the average price of similar instruments on the market. I only hope I can let my girlfriend use her birthday present... I am fighting the urge to grab it and play it constantly! The idea was to let her be a new melody player in the band, and I have to let her play it... but the urge...the urge....

Anyway, I stole the instrument, just long enough to record a couple of sound-clips. Here they are:

This is the High-C Rauschpfeife all by itself:
Cantiga 1 Sample

This is the High C: Rauschpfeife joined by my Soprano Rauschpfeife from Moeck:
Andro Sample

Oh yeah, did I mention that it's really loud?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fun with recording software

This will be a quickie.

I recently got a Soundblaster X-Fi Elite Pro, that $300 sound card and audio interface box that is tailor made for music creation. I saved up and debated if I should get it for months, then I just went and got it. I now had the power to run pretty much any sequencing and sound mixing software I wanted.

One of the problems I faced when I switched over to Windows XP was that the software I learned everything on was never meant to run under XP. The old version of cakewalk was written for Windows 3.11, and under XP, there was a lag when using a MIDI keyboard. I'd record, but everything was delayed by a 1/2 second, making it difficult to record.

Of course, now that I purchased all of these accoustic instruments like bagpipes and other wind instruments, I faced a new problem. I don't need MIDI equipment to record them, but I never had anything but a small audio-in jack on my PC to input sound. It worked okay for most stuff -- most of the samples of my old blogs were done with a PC headset mic hooked into my computer's built-in audio.

So I now have this box that lets me plug in real recording equipment like we used in the studio, but I needed some modern software to use it.

I tried Cakewalk's Sonar program, and I could not figure out how to do anything, even after reading the help filesa and quick start guide. For some reason, the creators decided to make their product only for people who were already audio engineering professionals, as opposed to the earlier incarnations of the program which were intuitive enough to figure out without reading the instructions. I tried demos of other programs, and they were all made for people who were already experts. In other words, I needed to take a course to figure it out (the music stores offer them too, because they can make more money that way. Piss on them! I threw away the demo discs I got, and went to the internet to download some old outdated software that a friend recommended.

The piece of old mixing software was Cool Edit Pro 2.1 -- no longer made, and a shame, too, because Adobe Audition, which is what it's replacement was, is not intuitive, and not so simple and quick to use that I can make my own CD-quality recordings with in minutes. I literally had Cool Edit Pro 2.1 on my PC for only about an hour before I put the sample below together. That's me on the drums, me on the tambourine, me on the bagpipes, and me on the recorder, in a "church" (one of the ambient settings you can add), playing Cantiga 100:

Cantiga 100 Sample

Saturday, November 21, 2009

My Band's First Album!

I should have mentioned this a few months back, but we just came out with our new CD, Vibrabimus! Click on the CD-Baby image above to hear samples from it!

We worked on this for about a year, and had all sorts of issues with recording various instruments, discovering how to use recording equipment, what the best microphones for each instrument were, and so on.

In the end, we came out with a CD that not only we all were happy with, but which most people who have listened to it seem to like as well.

What follows are my notes on each of the songs on the album.

(1) Quen Amoroso -- This song is Cantiga 353 "Quen Omagen" (See the online tribute to The Cantigas De Santa Maria) with Amoroso, an Italian love song. There is a break with a more modern song that is sort of a joke that developed when we were working on this. Basically After playing Quen Omagen dozens of times, I noticed that it sounded like the theme song from an old popular TV show, so I played it for a laugh, and the rest of the band liked it, so we kept it in. See if you can tell what it is!

(2) Ravensballade -- This medieval song made it all over Europe. There is a version of this song in nearly every country. The "Olde English" version of the song is in a dialect of English that has too many words that nobody knows anymore, and part of the reason for my revamped lyrics was to make the song totally understandable to the people we were playing it to (at renaissance festivals). In every language, the story is about 3 Ravens who see a dead knight on the ground, and want to eat him, but are thwarted by the Knight's dog, his hunting falcon, and finally, his wife who comes to bury him. In my version, this is still the same story, but I throw in a twist at the end. In the original song, the wife dies after burying the Knight, and the Ravens all exclaim "Such Devotion.. Such love..." In my version, the knight wakes up and says "I'm not quite dead..." as an homage to Monty Python.

(3) Douce Dame Jolie -- A French Love song, played very romantically, very tenderly, on several large drums and a Bagpipe! This song is pretty traditional, and we play it like many other bands do. We decided to make it interesting by changing the instrumentation on the B-part of the melody. We have My German Dudelsack start off the song, then it's joined by recorders and a shawm.

(4) Vibrabimus -- Vibrabimus started out as a joke. I originally heard In Extremo play "We Will Rock You" on bagpipes. Jocelyn had translated the entire Queen Lyrics into Latin for her Latin class to have fun with. Originally, we were going to sing it in Latin, but we realized that not everyone could handle the foreign language, and it wouldn't sound good as a solo. We really wanted to have the song sung in a medieval tritone to give it that authentic medieval sound, but ended up just repeating the "Vibra, VibraBimus" in tritone. We added a famous Breton Andro to it, and out came our song.

(5) Herr Mannelig -- I always wanted to do this song differently than everyone else does it. Absolutely every other band I've heard sing this ancient Swedish Ballade does it the same way -- a slow heartbeat rhythm, and the song us sung slowly and sadly. We toyed with a "wind up monkey-band" version of it where we'd play it fast and furiously, but it never worked out, so we do it just like everyone else. We added in one of the cantigas to fill in.

(6) Song #23 is a song we heard a band called Patrask play. They call it Tretaktslaten, which is Swedish for "Song in 3/4 time". It's a pastiche of Turlough O'Carolin's songs from the 1600s, and their execution of it was interesting. We don't have 3 or 4 shawm players in the band, so we had to use different instrumentation. We used to play it with one Rauschpfeife, but the instrument I had at the time was difficult to blow, and tempermental. So I insisted on playing the Sopranino recorder for practices, so I wouldn't strain myself, and the other band members liked it much better. This is a very pretty song, but we don't play it at most faires, because audiences seem to prefer the louder music.

(7) Platerspiel -- Platerspiel is a traditional Bagpipe tune that was borrowed from the A-part of Cantiga 77. Bagpipers usually play it as a duet, with the A and B melody played at the same time, on 2 or more bagpipes. We only had one bagpipe, so we decided to do this song as a rauschpfeife and hurdy-gurdy duet. We're pretty sure that our version is significantly different from most others. After all, in the dozens of albums, and hundreds of MP3 files of medieval music I've listened to, I don't believe that there are any Hurdy-Gurdy duets with Rauschpfeifes. Many medieval instrument players and music buffs say that Gurdies and Rauschpfeifes go great together, and we kind of agree -- but I think we're one of the very few bands that do it.

(8) Tourdion -- The quintessential Medieval Drinking song. Tourdion is a 15th century drinking song, written by Pierre Attaingnant. It's a rather short and simple song. It's about all the French I ever learned. The song is so short that I decided to translate it into English for American audiences, because I've never heard an English version before. I decided that I'd do a literal translation, because the lyrics don't rhyme in French or in the German versions I heard. I also wanted it to be as close to the original meaning as possible. I think I managed to not only get the meaning of the song accurately, but I think I also got my lyrics into the correct meter, as well.

(9) Agni Parthene -- Agni Parthene is actually a 19th century Greek Orthodox chant, which is written in medieval style. We thought of many different forms of instrumentation, from Hurdy Gurdy and Rauschpfeife to several Rauschpfeifes, to a whole ensemble of recorders, crummhorns, violin, and even shruti-box. In the end, it became a bagpipe solo, with no tritone harmonies at all. At the end of the song, we added a clip of us poking fun at the song, by showing that it's actually a perfect dual-use song. When sped up, it sounds like a celtic dance tune!

(10) The ballade Of Brother Gryppeweade -- I heard a medieval song called Falkenlied which told the story of a man who trained a falcon only to have lost it, because he didn't train it properly. Then he loses his girlfriend, and his wife, presumably because he wasn't nice to them. It certainly wasn't a happy song, but the melody was. I hijacked the meody, and kept the bit about the Falcon, but tried to craft a funny story that matched the tone of the original. The result was an attempt at a backstory for one of our band's characters.

(11) Chiftitelli in "B" -- This is a song written by Black Bart in the key of C. The "B" is for Brian, which is Black Bart's real name. This song evolved as an improvisational jam around the basic melody. Chiftitelli is a specific rhythm played on a doumbek in middle eastern music.

(12) Fuertanz/Totentanz -- Fuertanz is German for Fire Dance, and Totentanz is German for Death Dance. The actual name of Fuertanz is a medieval German melody called Mailied, or "May song". There are many variations on this tune. Since it's a short tune, we paired it with another tune that has the same 3/4 time. Totentanz is a very old and very popular tune in the Medieval music circles of Europe. It's usually played as a funeral, but like many of the "dual use" songs or the time, if you speed it up, it makes a great dance tune, as well.

(13) Anatolya -- This middle eastern song exists in many different countries throughout the Mediterranean, and has many different names. We call ours Anatolya because after researching it, we found that both the Armenians and Greeks agree that it originated in Anatolya, which is now part of Turkey, and it matches many similar Ottoman military marches. The Armenians even say that it was called Anatolya, before they added their own lyrics to it and gave it a different name.

(14) Nonesuch -- Nonesuch is our signature tune. It is a 17th century English Country Dance. Before the band started, I was playing this, and a friend of mine even recorded it as a Rock-n-roll bagpipe number. We really liked it, and turned it into a medley after the band formed and we had more instruments. We originally wanted to include as many different instruments in the song as possible, to give audiences a taste of as many different sounds as possible. I used to just play random songs in the medley, but we eventually settled on the 3 that now make it up. Nonesuch starts the number, then we do the Saltarello, a medieval Italian dance. The last tune in the medley is Dödet, which is part of a collection of tunes that accompany the Macedonian Skudrinka dance. There is a group of Skudrinka songs that became part of a collection that made it's way around Europe, and can be found in the traditional music of many countries.

Please have a listen to the samples of our music, and buy the CD if you like it. People who have bought it at faires and in the SCA have loved it, and well, keepig the instruments going can be expensive. Thanks for all of your patience waiting for posts, and if you saw us live at King Richard's Faire, or at an SCA event, let us know!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I've been silent for a while!

Well, I know it's been a while since I posted, but I have good reasons for it. Work picked up a lot, and I've been working non-stop at my job for months. It's tiring, but feels good.

With my band recording our music for the last year, all of our home improvement projects had to get pushed aside, because weekends are the only time we have to get them done, but the band consumes our weekends.

So I've just not had time to write anything of substance. But there is good news to report.

The Band will soon be releasing it's first CD. My next post will be notes on the tracks, plus samples and info on buying it. It sounds really good, and isn't just another ren-faire busker's crudely made recording. It ended up sounding much better than we anticipated. Oddly, I appear singing on more tracks than I do playing the bagpipes! Don't worry -- my voice is excellent, from what I've been told.

Be patient, and I'll reward you!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Rebirth of My Hummelchen

After I learned to play bagpipes a few years ago, I decided I needed to get myself a quality instrument to play, as opposed to the cheap Pakistani ones that I learned on. Truth be told, the cheap pipes were great, and they served me very well, as they taught me everything I needed to know to play and care for bagpipes, but because of their cheap quality, they were a little high on maintenence, and the lack of precision is identical to what musicians who play recorder know -- it's better to get a high quality recorder with a sweet voice, that will keep it's sweet voice and literally play perfectly in tune every time, whenever it's picked up. With cheaper instruments, you have to constantly tune them, or find that they don't quite get along with other instruments from time to time. The same is true with Bagpipes, as with any other instrument. Cheap pipes make you spend a lot of time not playing them. So found Sam Coulter, a craftsman in the USA who made Medieval bagpipes. He had a selection of pipes based on medieval designs, and I thought that since he was in the USA, that it would eliminate a lot of the expected issues with foreign currency exchange, and so on. So I contacted him, and ordered a Hummelchen. What I didn't expect was that he'd as me questions like:

  • What key do you want them in?
  • What kind of fingering?
  • Do you want A=440?

The key of the instrument can be summed up as what is the first note on the instrument, and what is the range it plays in. The Renaissance saw the creation of a standard in music -- instruments were divided up into Sopranino (Key of F), Soprano (Key of C), Alto (F), Tenor (C), and Bass (F). From the renaissance on, you would only see these instruments in C and F, with the occaisional descant D.

With bagpipes, since most of them were not chromatic, they were available in a variety of different keys. What I didn't know was that a Hummelchen is a chromatic bagpipe by design, and it was usually available in the Key of C and D (You would get the instrument in C, and could tune the drones to D. Luckily, since my problem was that I couldn't play with recorders, I asked for them in C, which was pure serendipity.

A=440 Explained
See, since I knew nothing about music prior to learning the pipes, and was pretty much self-taught, these questions didnt' mean anything to me. A=440 is "modern tuning", where the A above middle C equals exactly 440 Hertz, which is a measure of audible wave frequency. See, in medieval times, before we had electronics and sensitive tools with which to gauge the construction of instruments, all tuning was done by ear, and the tunings were more like A=315 or A=385, which, to an untrained ear, can sound almost identical, except when you play them together, ahd hear the slight wavering sound of dissonance. Since the main reason I had for getting a real instrument was to play with other people, and I knew that most people had A=440, I decided on A=440.

There are several types of fingering in simple wind instruments -- Highland, Recorder, German, French, and others. Many different instruments have unique fingerings, meaning covering different holes with your fingers produces different notes. There is closed fingering, such as in Highland pipes, where you keep the holes of unused notes covered. OPen fingering, like on a recorder, has most notes below the one you're playing left open. Cross fingering is a technique that you use on some instruments to produce half-tones (sharps and flats). Highland fingering only allows for whole notes, while cross fingering on a recorder offers a complete chromatic range. With Highland fingering, you just have "a-b-c-d-e-f-g-a-b" (this is an oversimplified example), but on an instrument with recorder fingering, you have A-A#-B-B#-C-C#-D-D#, and so on. The advantages of recoder and cross-fingering is that you can play a much larger range of music. WIth Highland fingering, you're limited to Highland music, or having to adapt music to the instrument's range. Since I had only used Highland fingering, I decided on Highland fingering. This was a crucial mistake on my part.

Asking for Highland fingering sort of made my instrument a hybrid, and totally inappropriate. Unfortunately, you cannto blame the craftsman, because he builds pipes for all sorts of people with all sorts of specifications, and he cannot tell which ones are making bad choices, and which aren't. He has no idea if a customer is a genius or a total novice, if they want a set of pipes like I asked for for convenience, or for a special project, or whatever. PLus, the customer is always right -- if you ask for a set of pipes with characteristic A, B, and C, he is obliged to deliver those things in his instrument. So I got this set of pipes that sounded really great, but they still played in a highland scale, and were sort of still not compatible with other instruments. I played them occaisionally, but for the most part, didn't touch them a lot. I started thinking of new pipes -- actually buying a real German-made Hummelchen, but then thought "Why not just get a new chanter for the one that I have?" So I contacted Sam again, and asked if he could make a new chanter for me. I told him that I needed the following things on the new chanter:

  • Key of C
  • Chromatic
  • Recorder fingering
  • It needs to get B flat, and E flat (common required notes in a lot of medieval music)
He said he could do it, so I sent him my hummelchen, and in a few months, the newly reborn instrument arrived at my door. It works perfectly.
Above is a picture of the original highland-fingered chanter on my Hummelchen. Note the large holes.
This is the new chanter. Note the Double-holes. These allow it to play chromatically, almost exactly like a recorder.

I have included sound samples of it in it's different modes (C and D-minor). For more versatility, I crafted a leather drone-plug, which allows me to turn off the baritone drone for easier tuning, or to just shut it off when less drones are required. I will eventually make a second plug for the bass drone, because I discovered that the new instrument sounds great with the Hurdy-Gurdy, but we have to shut the drones off, because the gurdy already drones loud enough, and more drones means that nobody would hear either instrument's melody. So for some duets, I need no drones to work at all.

Here is a sample of my Hummelchen playing in C, with the drones tuned to C anf G. The song is a German folk tune I heard from favorite band called Spectaculatius. The good thing is that My hummelchen sounds exactly like theirs, which means that I have an authentic instrument now.
Here's the same pipes playing in D-minor, with the bass drone set to D, and the Baritone set to A. This tune is one I heard Wolgemut play. This also demonstrates the chromatic nature of this bagpipe, as there is a ubiquitous B-flat in this tune.