What about having other musicians at the event?

If there's little musical interaction, other than cues about when to start/stop - no sweat.  Most pipers are pretty easy going.

I personally enjoy playing with other types of musicians, but it is a serious undertaking that requires special equipment and time to modify the instrument. These combinations are usually "glorious" when well done and well worth the effort, but, they can be difficult for the piper. Hence, if you'd like a piper to play with other musicians (e.g., an organist), expect a bit of a fuss.

Personally, I've played with the Kalamazoo Symphony, Kalamazoo Concert Band, with several area organists, in a trio with an organ and trumpet and in folk bands.

The issue is that the current pitch of the bagpipe is somewhere above concert B-flat, the whole instrument, including the chanter, must be flattened to match typical concert pitch - or you can ask the organist to retune (hah!). This is not a simple task and requires several hours of fussing. To make it more reliable conversion, a piper can invest in two specially made (i.e. expensive!) chanters - as I have done.

I have a set of drone adapters so that the pipes can reliably tune both chanter and drones to concert B-flat or to concert A. However, even once the bagpipe is re-tuned, the organist may still have to play in an odd key (e.g., For a bagpipe tuned to B-flat, Amazing Grace ends up in E-flat.) (Note: Some electronic organs can adjust their pitch very easily and this works well with pipes.)

In flattening the instrument, it can tend to sound dull, may have less than ideal tone and may suffer from squealing and general instability. Because of the reduced tonal quality of the instrument, if you would like me to do both combo and solo piping at your event, I may opt to bring two sets of pipes - one tuned for the other musicians and another with the fully vibrant and robust sound that you and your guests expect.

The other issue is volume, the bagpipe is very loud has no volume control, so balanced sound with a quiet instrument such as a flute or harp is not going to happen with a the Great Highland Pipe. Flattening the instrument usually makes it LOUDER still.  Such arrangements may be done with Scottish Small Pipes, but we'd have to work that out.

The Scottish Small Pipes are quieter, more mellow instruments and would be appropriate for smaller indoor venues.  I have a "double" set of these pipes which are natively pitched  to concert A and to concert D.  They are ideal for playing with "folk" musicians as well.   I've played these at wedding receptions as a "strolling minstrel" walking from table to table to share the music more quietly.

If you'd like to know more, look on the navigation menu for information on "Music and Musical Key".

Please contact me for more information on this subject.

I'd like to openly recommend a few local groups for high quality events: Arioso,  Whiskey Before Breakfast, The Brook Farm String Band and Fonn mor, .  Each of these bands are very professional and are a joy to work with.

Copyright S.K. MacLeod 1996-2016