Some Thoughts About Bagpipe Pitch

Continuing my recent theme of bagpipe-related posts, one thing I don’t think I could gloss over is an issue that has bothered me for a long time now – the ever-increasing pitch of the bagpipe.

An old grad school friend of mine last night remarked to me that it seemed to her that the pitch of the bagpipe has increased sharply (pun fully intended!) in the modern time. I reassured her that it was not just her ears playing tricks on her. This trend is a real thing and it’s just not a good trend in my view.

As for why this trend is a thing, despite a lot of pipers not being happy with the trend? Well, let’s just say pipe band competition drives a lot of market trends in the industry and pipe bands (particularly at the top levels of competition where minutia can make the difference between a first place and last place finish). For whatever reason, bands tended to note that if they pitched their chanters (and subsequently their drones) just a shade higher than the rest of the field it gave them an edge in scoring, most likely because a higher pitched sound is perceived as louder (well, at least within the normal operating range of the bagpipe). As such, the stage was set for an arms race for who could produce the highest pitched sound.

This trend took an instrument that once pitched a few hertz higher than concert Bb (that’s B-flat for you non-musical people) to one that now pitches right at B (natural). In the last 10 years we’ve seen almost a half-step increase in the pitch.

So why is it a problem, so long as the instrument is tuned well? The answer is the higher up you go in pitch the more of the upper harmonics (upper partials if you will) you lose as they become inaudible to the human ear as they are now in a frequency range the human ear does not detect. What you gain in perception of volume and clarity you lose in richness of tone. In the band scene this might not be a huge issue when you have multiple instruments to fill the sound out, but a soloist at today’s modern band pitch does not sound pleasant. Hell, it’s even so high now that bands don’t sound pleasant anymore.

Let’s do some case in point here. Same band, 10 years apart. One performance from 2008 and one from 2018. The difference in pitch is absolutely shocking.

This has no doubt gotten out of hand. Alas, it’s harder and harder to find lower pitched chanters these days, which is why I was relieved to find one in my perusing of shops last night (designed by a major bagpipe making firm in conjunction with a top-level piper), and no doubt I’ll be ordering one to complete my new set of drones (and to use with my current one). My current go-to chanter was designed for a vintage pitch but along with chanters, even modern reeds are designed higher pitched than they used to be so the pitch of my chanter has creeped up in turn. It’ll be interesting to see how this one compares.

I don’t know. All I do know is that I sure hope the trend reverses soon.

What do you think? Pipers or laypeople, what do you make of this trend?

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Random Saturday Post: Wiggles + Bagpipes?!?!?

So this might not have much to do with anything on this blog, but every now and then I find something that just amuses the hell out of me and I just have to share it. This is one of those things, and my friends/followers with young kids might really get a kick out of this.

So I was listening to some bagpipe music on YouTube yesterday and came across a few interesting gems which featured none other than the Australian children’s band known as The Wiggles, and all to bagpipe tunes I absolutely love (both to listen to and to play).

The first video I came across was this one, where they did the robot to the classic 6/8 jig “Glasgow City Police Pipers.” This is probably my favorite bagpipe tune of all time.

Then we have a reel called “High Road to Linton” which features Emma’s dancing skills as well as seemingly jibberish vocals to the music, but it’s actually not jibberish. It’s a system called canntaireachd (“KAN-ter-ack”) which is a system of vowel and consonant sounds that was used to pass down bagpipe music before the days of written music. Honestly, it’s still how I learn most bagpipe music personally. I can read music just fine but it’s just easier for me to sing it to myself and learn that way.

This last one is a reel called “Itchy Fingers” which is surprisingly easy to play. Here they did something interesting though – they added lyrics to it and turned it into a sea shanty of sorts. Very entertaining. I know they say “hornpipe is a dance for you and me” but it is in fact a reel.

Anyway, hope someone found this as entertaining as I did. Have a great day!

You’ve Been Seen!

One thing trolls use to their advantage is a certain level of anonymity that the internet can account for. You can assume any pen name and get after it and nobody can track you, right?

Well, as someone who has worked in IT before (and an avid fan of the show The Internet Ruined My Life), I can tell you that’s not the case. Often times a little detective work in the form if IP tracing and comment/post logs will bring you up out of the water. Hell, even before the information age it was often easy to figure out the identity behind the pen name – think of how quickly people caught onto the fact Richard Bachman was in fact Stephen King. It was quite obvious to anyone who had ever read any of King’s works.

Well think of how much easier it is to do detective work with the internet. If some of you were former Xanga bloggers, surely you remember “LoBornLyte?” Someone did some detective work and identified this person as a guy by the name of Curtis Bell – a high school coach somewhere in Cali if I remember right.

Anyway, I digress. Honestly, I had a hunch it might have been who I thought it was, but a little detective work absolutely confirmed the identity of my little troll. How did I figure it out? You’re about to find out!

In Fall of 2017 an old classmate resurfaced and commented a few of my blog posts. How he found me I haven’t a clue, but somehow he did. He thought he could hide behind various facetious pen names like “Your ISU Buddy,” “Your Buddy” among others. However, he made a grave mistake – he used his old Idaho State University email address! I had a positive identification on him quick and as those who were following me at the time can remember I called him out on it. He went away after I did and seemingly I figured the threat was gone.

Well a year later I started getting troll comments from this “Mike Muku” guy and looking through my logs I noticed he used the pen name “Mile” before he assumed the monkier Mike Muku. I did some digging in my Idaho State email address to find if maybe he used that or another one of his recent pen names and found where he had used the handle “Mile” back in 2017, as you can see here, along with his ISU email address:

mile

I noticed certain similarities in the writing style between that Mile and the current Mile/Mike Muku, as I’m sure you do. That’s when I started putting 2 and 2 together. So what do I do? I type the name “Milan Bimali” (“Mile’s” real name) into a simple Google Search and it led to this:

bimali

There you have it ladies and gentlemen! I knew from recent IP logs that this “Mike Muku” had some association with UAMS. The very first Google search result led me to Milan Bimali, Ph.D., Assitant Professor of Biostatistics at none other than UAMS. Look at his MS citation and the year – it overlaps with my time there. This is absolutely the correct Milan Bimali; I know this is the first time you’ve seen his sorry face but I recognized the face before I even looked at the CV.

So now that I, and you all, have a face to a pen name, let me ask you this: how would you feel if you knew how a professor acted to his former colleagues or maybe even random strangers? Would you accept your professor treating you this way? Of course you wouldn’t! You’d walk out of class, never to return, and file a complaint with your institution.

I have to wonder if UAMS condones this kind of stalkerish, harassing online behavior from their faculty. If they are willing to tolerate this kind of behavior from their faculty, that is a huge stain on their credibility as an institution of higher learning and research. If they had an ounce of self-respect they’d have a zero tolerance policy for this kind of behavior and would offer up an ultimatum: clean up your act or you’re fired.

So then, Dr. Bimali, all I have to say is ball is in my court now. If you put so much as one more toe out of line I can guarantee you I will get on the phone with your superiors and let them know everything. Of course, if they choose not to take action that’s on them and I can’t control that. I just think they should know what kind of people they have molding the minds (or, should I say, poisoning the minds) of future medical professionals. This attitude is very unbecoming of any medical professional and should not be tolerated, ever. Dr. Gregory House might have been a funny character but if any real life doctor acted the way he did he’d find himself unemployed and unemployable both.

Just a friendly suggestion, good doctor: FUCK OFF!!! If you don’t, I accept no responsibility for what might befall you. You have been duly warned.

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Doing Something Nice for Yourself

First things first, you’ll be pleased to know my new tattoo has healed up beautifully as they always do when you use Saniderm/Tegaderm to heal a tattoo. I’ll of course post a healed pic on the “My Tattoos” page once I get ample lighting to take a good picture (not for a couple of days – cloudy, dreary and a chance of snow here for the next two days; yes it even snows in Texas!).

Anyway, aside from that highlight my life has been struck by a bunch of lowlights recently. Job stress, family stress, a health scare, a 30 day Facebook jail sentence, a pet’s death, learning of two close friends moving away, deailng with a punk-ass troll, you name it. When it rains it pours, I guess.

As such, I think I deserve something nice for weathering the recent storm. Just what I didn’t know, until I was browsing FB (yes, I can still browse but I can’t post or send messages) and I saw something I’ve been eyeing for awhile pop up and I’m like “I just got my tax refund, now’s the time!”

As an intermittent hobbyist piper, one thing that has always worried me with our climate in Texas is cracking and warping. Unfortunately, with it being able to go from blistering hot to freezing cold in a matter of minutes around here, this puts an undue stress on the instrument. It isn’t much issue when you’re playing in a climate controlled area, but anytime you play somewhere that it’s very hot, very cold, very wet or very dry you’re going to have problems, and lo and behold I have multiple pieces in my instrument with hairline cracks (all the “stocks” – the bits that actually tie into the bag). It’s inevitable in our climate.

A solution to this is to look at alternative materials, of course – the most popular being a thermoplastic called polyoxymethylene (most commonly sold under the trade names “Delrin” or “Polypenco”). This has been used in the construction of woodwinds for a long time and have been great for that and it makes a very good chanter, but drones are a different story – drones made of Delrin have historically had a very unrefined, loud and brashy tone. Nonetheless I’d always wanted such a set as one I could take anywhere in any climate and not have to worry about it.

Well US bagpipe maker Roddy MacLellan introduced an all-new design a couple of years ago he calls his “Revelation” bagpipe that elevates the Delrin instrument to a new level – it gives you the resiliency of Delrin but the sound of wood by lining the bores with a cellulose polymer material. This design features some other innovative solutions for moisture control, including silica gel cartridges in the drone stocks to keep your drone reeds dry and maintain tuning stability. Roddy talks about his new design a bit here:

Ever since this design was introduced I have absolutely been drooling over it – it’s so unique they actually applied for a patent on it. I already own and play a 2008 MacLellan bagpipe in African Blackwood and it is hands down the best bagpipe I have ever played. Alas, it does still have the issues that wooden bagpipes are prone to, granted it’s held up really well despite the abuse I’ve put it through. I could never part with this beautiful instrument. To have a twin in Delrin will complete my stable in every way. Of course, as with any of his bagpipes, you can choose any of his drone profiles and doll them up however you wish, as I have.

Now obviously I won’t be retiring my ABW set. I could never do that. Alas, I will probably just pop the stocks from the Revelation in and use those with both sets of drones on account of the hairline cracks in them and the moisture control built into the Revelation stocks. For practices and performances in climate controlled environments where the wooden pipe would be “comfortable” it will still be my go-to instrument, but anytime I have to be outdoors in the elements for any length of time or any time I have to travel the Revelation will be my instrument of choice as I have no desire to go through the permitting process for my now CITES listed ABW bagpipe – if caught with them without the proper paperwork they would be subject to confiscation! Of course, I have the same two chanters and blowpipe I’ll use with both sets of drones so that doesn’t change one way or another.

Anyway, it’s been a long time since I’ve gotten myself a gift so I figured it was about time. It’ll be approximately 4-6 months before it arrives but that’s OK. Quality can’t be rushed. When they do arrive I hope to finally be over a little health problem that has prevented me from playing at all recently and I’ll be ready to assemble and give them a test drive.

Until then, the anticipation begins!


PS: It looks like maybe the immediate threat of the troll has passed so I’m re-opening comments. Let’s hope I can keep them open.

Cigar Review: PCC Room 101

This offering is available exclusively from the Privada Cigar Club. You can read the description here (middle column):

The first light reveals a perfect draw putting off plentiful medium/full body smoke. Flavors of nuts, earth and leather are the prominent notes. There’s a bit of a pepper on the nose and lingering on the finish.

The flavors are much the same into the first third but we also see a semi-sweet dark chocolate enter the draw. I’m also detecting a faint vanilla extract on the tip of the tongue. Everything is exceptionally smooth and well blended together. Smoke is very thick and chewy on the palate.

Into the 2nd third the same smooth, rich flavors remain but are joined by a fleeting hint of pineapple and the pepper dialing down a bit. The final third sees another slight shift as the pepper morphs into an aromatic rose petal which is very prominent on the retrohale. I now also get more of the citrus notes described also. Ending at 1 hour flat for a solid burn time for a corona size and entering just a subtle mild/medium nicotine strength.

Absolutely flawless construction featuring a near razor sharp burn for most of it. I did have to give it a large touch up about halfway but likely due to the weather conditions. Ash holds on about a third at a time. Poor quality paper band with lots of glue though. It shredded when removing it but did not damage the wrapper.

All in all this was a beautifully crafted cigar. Smooth, rich and complex flavors. Blender Matt Booth and Brian Desind of PCC did a spectacular job with this one. Rating: 4.5/5.

Comments Disabled

All, it is with sadness that I am having to disable comments at the present time, while I work with Comcast and law enforcement to address this ongoing issue with said troll. It sucks how one person can ruin everything.

I do know a couple of change ringers from Little Rock, AR so maybe someone I know knows of this person. Shit, maybe the troll is one of the Little Rock change ringers who does personally know me but is using a pen name to conceal his or her identity. Whatever the case, I will not put up with this abuse anymore and am doing what I have to in order to shut this person down while I work with the powers that be.

I’m sorry it has come to this, but what can you do?

When Trolls Up Their Game…

I cannot for the life of me wonder why the actual fuck anyone would follow a blog that he or she does not like. Look, there are blogs I don’t like. Do I go on those blogs just to cause trouble? No way. I’ve got more productive shit to do with my time than to troll the fuck out of a blog that does not interest me or which has content that I find distasteful.

As a hardcore libertarian I am all about freedom of speech. I will defend your right to speak your mind, whether or not I agree with you. I will give you your space. That’s fine. Alas, when you intrude on my space is when the boundary gets crossed.

Look, I have occasional disagreements with even my best friends. That’s part of life. No two people are going to agree 100% on something. That’s fine. We have our say and move on. Alas, when some random asshole apparently does nothing but disagree with me, yet continues to follow and comment my blog, well let’s just say said asshole apparently has way too damn much time on his hands.

Whatever. I’ve had it. I’ve tried to put in safeguards. Blacklisting, locking comments to registered users. The next thing would be to privatize my blog but given that I have a lot of good info for passers by I really do not want to have to do that. I also don’t want to shut comments off entirely.

However, I do have another trick up my sleeve. Apparently Comcast has an abuse hotline (thanks Laina for showing me!). Surely this person’s behavior is a violation of their abuse policy. I will be writing them an email and if I don’t get a timely response then I will give them a call. They need to be made aware of the situation.

Armed with this person’s IP address and comment log, it’s time to go after the very root of the problem. This person is making my blogging life miserable.

Seriously dude, get a fucking life. Go out and start your own blog, something. If your hobby is tormenting bloggers, that’s pretty sorry. I can’t imagine what kind of life you must live if that’s how you spend your downtime.

Off to compose my email.