Is Your Chanter Failing You?
How old is your chanter? Do you struggle with balancing the tuning? Would an upgraded chanter improve your sound?
Carl and Andrew explain how the age of your chanter may have a great impact on your sound. Watch to see if you are getting the best sound out of your chanter.
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Okay, question one of the day from Richard, "How much does an upgraded chanter affect tone, tuning, et cetera? I know in other woodwind instruments, when you can't afford upgrading to a professional instrument, high quality, an upgrade to the mouthpiece could have a substantial difference. I play a set of Dunbar P1 Polys. Would an upgraded chanter be worth the investment?"
All right. Well, here's what I'd say on that. It depends on what you mean by upgraded and what you currently have. If they're an older set of pipes, let's leave the Dunbars out of this for a moment, but if they're an older set of pipes, getting a new chanter is one of the best things you can do for your sound. It has the single biggest influence, I think, over your quality of sound, going from an older, outdated or more difficult chanter to something that's new. Now, let's not confuse that between upgrading between plastic and blackwood. If we take the same two chanters, plastic and blackwood, there's very, very minimal difference. I wouldn't encourage that just for the sake of having a blackwood chanter.
Going from an older chanter or maybe a less reputable plastic chanter to a more reputable chanter, that would be a very good choice. I mean, it could have huge impacts over your sound. Yeah, and then generally any chanter made in the last five years is really good. There you go, that's what I would say. Yeah, it has huge impacts, your chanter does, for sure.
Yeah, that's what I would say. Regardless of what set of pipes you have, for a beginner or an intermediate bagpiper, this is the answer. If your chanter has been made in the last five years, no, upgrading your chanter will not make any significant difference in your sound, okay, whether you play Dunbar, McCallum, Shepherd, G1, whatever. There's no upgrade that would make significant difference in your sound. If your chanter's older than five years, it might possibly make a slight improvement in your sound. Then, definitely if your chanter's more than 10 years old, everybody should have a chanter made in the last five years.
Then, we can unpack that a little bit. For a beginner and intermediate, there are these things out there, blackwood bagpipe chanters. I have one. I compete soloist with one at the very highest levels. I believe it certainly has a slightly better feel on my hands and maybe it gets a slightly warmer tone. It's also kind of expected. I think when a judge looks and sees you playing, they expect to see you with a blackwood chanter. There's a couple of material reasons why I play a blackwood chanter, but the difference in sound would be so slight. The odds that we would ever actually be able to take advantage of that as a beginner or an intermediate are pretty slight, because usually as a beginner and intermediate, we're still working on steady blowing and hitting the sweet spot and mastering our tuning. Until we've done that, there's just no way. Remember the difference in price. A blackwood chanter is at least double the price of your standard Polypenco light plastic Poly chanter, as it were, right?
And isn't as durable in any way.
Yeah, right. It's easy to break.
And it can change over time.
Yeah, and it changes with the different environments that you play in and all sorts of fun stuff. If your chanter's been made in the last five years, definitely not. Now, if it's older than five years, we may find it could improve our sound to get a more modern chanter because modern reeds are made for modern chanters. That's the biggest reason, right? We might find that, no matter what we do in our current chanter that was made in the year 2010, let's say, no matter what we do, the high G is super sharp and it's really causing problems with our sound, that might be, especially if you play at higher altitudes or in dry climates, that might be something that's real. To get a more modern chanter could really pay off. I particularly personally love the G1 chanter in that way. It's so good in high G, which is great.
Then, meanwhile, if the chanter is older than 10 years, getting an upgraded one would absolutely be worth the investment, just because reeds are made for modern chanters. Those older ones are designed for lower pitch and they're not as advanced as far as all the data points that chanter makers use to make chanters now. Anyway, I think that's the best answer. Really, at the end of the day, it can be simplified down to if your chanter is made in the last five years, it won't make any difference. If it's between five and 10 years old, maybe. Then, if it's older than 10 years, definitely, which is basically exactly what Carl said, too. We're in agreement.
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