I frequently hear from serious pipers that they won’t spend money on “gadgets” for their pipes.
Now, I understand that people get really into their opinion when it comes to art (yes, piping is an art), it’s important to remember that they are simply opinions. Certain things will result in different sounds. Louder, quieter, buzzier, mellower… The list goes on. These are facts. “It dampens the sound” is an example of a fact. I like facts. “It makes the sound better” is an example of an opinion I would be quite quick to ignore. “It dampens the sound, and I like the mellowness it creates in my pipes” is an example of a well thought opinion.
Though I feel there are many useless, or dated products we can throw our money away on, I don’t feel like a penny spent on searching for your sound is a penny wasted.
When I hear of a new gadget that’s hit the market I get very excited. I want to try it. I want to hear the effect it has on my overall sound. I want to feel the effect it has on my playing. I want to see if it helps my goal of being a better musician.
Often, of course, it does nothing. Every now and then, though, it makes a difference. Those hard earned, easily spent, dollars have resulted in the sound I produce today, and I can give an honest opinion on what I like or dislike about a lot of tools on the market.
Top “gadgets” I consider money well spent for my solo sound:
Modern Solo Pipe Chanters. I have spent enough on pipe chanters over the years to fund a new set of bagpipes. I have found one that works awesome for me , and my bagpipe (RJM Solo Chanter, and I like it for it’s rich, sweet sound, with a hint of a buzz).
Synthetic Drone Reeds. Every bagpipe, and every bagpiper will likely need to spend and spend until they find the right combo to achieve their sound (Canning Tenors, and Kinnaird Evolution Bass, and I like this combination as I find the tenors produce quite a rich sound in my Naill drones, while the bass reed provides a bit of presence that my bass drones seems to normally lack).
Drone Moisture Control. Lots of options, I’ve spent lots. I’ve found one that works for my sound (Drone Dry Stocks, which I like as they do not dampen the sound, and hinder the hard work, and money I spent searching for the right drone reed combination)
Zippers on Pipe Bags. My favorite bag maker may not have done this yet, but I’ve got options from other bag makers until they do (Currently using Gannaway Sheepskin with the zipper, which I feel comfortable enough with the shape. I like the zipper for too many reasons to list inside a parenthesis).
Chanter Tuners. Again, I have spent a bit on these awesome little gadgets. I found one I like (Blair iPhone/iPad tuner app, which I like for the inexpensive price tag, the convenience of having it on a device I’m likely to always have with me, but mostly for the ease of use, and tremendously high quality).
Tablet. I’ve got all my sheet music in one place, self organized, and it’s easy to transport (iPad, which I purchased as I am most comfortable using Apple products).
So, there you have it. And if you have it, don’t be scared to spend it if it means you will eventually find your sound.