Garvies Session Pipes

Sound clips of our bagpipes being played are avaliable on the Sounds page of this website.

We launched our Session pipes in 2003 and they have proved to be a great success. They could be described as "Mouth blown border pipes" and certainly the volume and tone is similar to our well established border pipes, and is ideal for playing with other instruments. However because the drones lie accross the shoulder, and weight is not the same consideration as it is in bellows blown pipes, we have been able to design them to give a slightly fuller drone sound. Even though we had tested them thoroughly for nine months before we put them on the market, we were always concerned that some problem might emerge which would only show up after a longer passage of time.   Fortunately this has not happened, in fact the reeds have generally lasted considerably longer than we anticipated, and many players have not come back to us for spare reeds at all, so clearly the sysytem is working well. Because of this we generally only supply one spare reed if requested. Among the many pipers now playing these pipes are established professional pipers and teachers who have certainly put them through their paces, and not found them wanting.  This is an individual hand made instrument which we do not mass produce, something that is still valued by many pipers.

Clockwise from top-left:

1: Antique style mopane with boxwood mounts and gold plated sleeves. 

2. Highland style combed and beeded blackwood with art. ivory projection mounts, nickel plated ferrules.

3. Tenor drone from feature from picture 2.

4. Drones combed and beeded mopane with boxwood projection mounts, gold plated ferrules.

 Please note we are now using mopane projection mounts rather than boxwood because mopane is a denser wood and less easily damaged. 

Three tenors! Three styles illustrated:

Left: Antique style with mounts and sleeves (also available without sleeves), centre standard, right fully mounted combed and beeded.

Middle: Fully mounted combed and beeded, in blackwood with boxwood mounts and gold plated sleeves.

 Please note we are now using mopane projection mounts rather than boxwood because mopane is a denser wood and less easily damaged. 

Right: Antique style blackwood with bloodwood mounts.

Supplied with all these pipes as standard is a spare humidity control tube, and cork grease for the blowstick tenon which is corked rather than hemped, avoiding the problem of swelling in wet hemp joints.

See our advice on Reeds And Reed Adjustment.

Our original notes written when we launched the pipes.

"For many years we have been thinking about how to make a low volume low pressure Highland bagpipe that could be used with other instruments by pipers who didn’t wish to go the smallpipe/border pipe route involving bellows. In order to keep the characteristic tone of the GHB a cane reed would be necessary, but the thinner cane blades of a lower volume/pressure chanter reed would be liable to deteriorate at a more rapid rate than the more robust Highland pipe chanter reed. It was clear that this would make it impractical to produce a set of pipes with this sort of reed because it would have to be replaced far too often. A year ago we set out to find a system to protect the reed from the excess moisture.

We decided not to use the Ross canister system for this particular type of bagpipe (good as many feel it to be for GHB) because of the build up of moisture (and various potentially harmful particles) within the bag itself. We looked at a number of other "water trap" designs, and felt that they also didn’t really fit the bill. One main consideration here was that we wanted the humidity control system to be swiftly removable and replaceable without having to unzip the bag, also the bag itself should be of a material that required no seasoning to avoid clogging up this system. The one we devised incorporates some ideas already around such as the desiccant canister, but uses them in a different way. This system would be difficult to use in GHB because the additional restriction caused by blowing through the canister before the air enters the main body of the bag would add to the playing pressure of the Highland pipes making them quite taxing to play. The thin reed needs the protection, and this particular type of system is only practical with a thin (low pressure) reed, the two are linked together.

In looking at the specifications of the sort of pipes we might want, we made measurements of three other types of Highland pipes. These were not scientific laboratory tests, but the results give a clear picture of the differences between the pipes.

Column 1 Pitch, 2 Pressure (IWP), 3 Loudness DB, 4 Chanter diameter at end in mm.

Great Highland Bagpipe Bb 25 106-108 21
Three quarter size Bb 23 96-99 21
Half size or Reel pipes Bb 21 94-97 20.5
Garvie Session pipes A 15-17 86-89 17

These readings are for comparison only. The instruments chosen were fairly typical, but there is a range of pipes available within each group. Pressure particularly, will vary within limits depending on the strength of the chanter reed. Loudness was measured in a room from a distance of four metres, readings in an anechoic chamber would be lower but show a fairly similar variation. The chanter end measurement is only broadly indicative of the different chanter bore tapers. The Half size pipes were a fine set of Macdougall’s; they were, to our knowledge, the first to advertise "Half size or Reel pipes" in the 19c. The three quarter size pipes were both Hardie’s. All of these pipes were kindly lent to us by their owners. When we first described our new pipes to pipers some said "You mean like half size/reel pipes or three quarter size pipes" and we had to explain the difference. There is a difference in the volume, the pressure, the internal profiles, the standard pitch, the available notes (the session pipe chanter is chromatic by cross fingering), and the humidity control system."

 
 
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