So you are ready to purchase your first set of pipes or want a change of Highland Bagpipe. Firstly, it is a major investment so don't be afraid to ask questions and expect to get full answers. Perhaps you are unsure about the terminology and don't know your ferrules from your ring caps. This is OK!
The company you are purchasing from should take the time to explain these terms - we certainly have no problem with this at Bagpipe Specialists. No quick sale here as we are happy to spend time with the customer explaining the different options and this can be done through our 'Ask A Question' facility on the web site or simply pick up the phone for a chat.
Most reputable modern makers make good bagpipes (read our blog on Modern Bagpipe Makers). The bagpipe world may be global but it is a small one and inferior instruments are sniffed out and news spreads like wildfire in this digital age.
It is the set up of the instrument (reeds) and the player that makes a difference. The top professionals could get any of the modern instruments like David Naill, McCallum, RG Hardie, Peter Henderson sounding like winners and indeed many do.
Primarily it comes down to what look you want and how much money you want to spend. Entry level bagpipes start from around £465. Understand that some packages are sticks only i.e. no chanter, reeds, bag, bag cover or cords. These items will have to be purchased separately. Alternatively you can get the complete bagpipe set up and ready to play with bag size, cover, cords and chanter reed strength to suit. Prices vary due to the adornment on the pipes but bore size will remain unchanged so therefore sound is unaffected from the basic model to the full silver variety. It is said that some makers will keep their best wood for the more expensive sets of pipes but wood will be purchased in
bulk and seasoned in the same fashion.
BLACKWOOD V PLASTIC
Don't think that plastic pipes are inferior and they are certainly cheper than their wooden equivalent. There are pros and cons for both blackwood and plastic pipes. Plastic pipes are easy to maintain as no oiling is necessary and will not crack due to excess moisture. They are unaffected by extremes of
temperature and are very durable. They won't however absorb any moisture like wooden pipes so may suffer from moisture build up but a quality bagpipe moisture control system would solve this. Unless you get up close it would be hard to tell the difference between plastic and blackwood pipes such is the high standard of finish. It is said that blackwood produce a richer tone but many of you would not be able to tell the difference and a number of the top makers have sound samples of both. Perhaps the traditional route is your prefered option. That's fine but understand exactly how to care for your wooden bagpipe. You will need to care for your instrument by oiling the bores and outside of the wood and make sure that the pipes are dry when you put them away. It will swell and shrink from moisture and temperature changes and care must be taken to avoid extremes of temperature. Wood is a living material that adapts to humidity and so long as you understand this you will be able to care for it.
At Bagpipe Specialists we would advise the correct length of blowpipe (very important) and make sure the bagpipe maker is advised of this. They will all accommodate on this front but must be given the correct information.
Other considerations are weight of the instrument. A full silver mounted set of pipes looks fantastic but they are heavy! If you are made aware of this there will be no surprises when your pipes arrive. We have built up a very close relationship with all the top makers over the years and can offer very good delivery times on all lines and will be able to advise at point of order exactly when you can
expect to receive your new bagpipe.
If it seems too good to be true it probably is! Ebay has been the source of disappointment for many a bagpipe purchaser. It is possible to get the odd bargin but be aware that it is unlikely that the manufacturers guarantee will be valid. You will have no choice as to the length of the blowstick, reed make, cover and cords or bag size and what may seem like a bargain turns out not to be once you have rectified all these things.
A lot of the instruments posted on Ebay are made from Rosewood which is an inferior product to blackwood and occassionally the rosewood can be dyed black to look like blackwood. Another ruse is
to include a chanter from a reputable maker and show this stamp. Be aware that the rest of the instrument may not be from this maker.
To guarantee a quality bagpipe stick with reputable dealers with a proved track record like Bagpipe Specialists. Ask lots of questions and make sure that you understand exactly what you are getting. We recognise that bagpipes are a major investment and are very happy to spend time with you to make sure you get the instrument you deserve.