What bag is the right size for me?
Getting the right size bag is important. Too large a bag can cause slipping and result in your arm/hand going numb. Too small a bag will result in doing the blow/squeeze cycle more often than is optimal with detrimental impact on blowing tone.
Most people will tell you to play "the largest bag you are comfortable with." While a lovely idea, at $140-$225/bag, it gets expensive to do trial and error.
To make matters worse, many manufacturers describe their products as small, medium and large - and some will even provide a measurement of the distance across the tallest part of the bag (from near where the drone stocks go in down to the bottom of the bag just below the drone stocks) - but two bags with the same measurements will not fit/feel the same.
The "cut" of the bag is overwhelmingly important. The sweep of the underside of the bag from the chanter back to the largest part of the bag (below the drones) impacts on how the bag hits your forearm. The fore-and-aft placement of the holes (on a leather bag ) or grommets (on a synthetic bag) will also have a similar effect. The height of the chanter in the stock impacts finger placement and comfortable angles for wrists.
In the table below, I've tabulated some "sizes" for various brands. Note that the Ross Medium and Extended Small are the same dimension at the widest part (to accept the plumbing bits), but have totally different cuts. The Extended Small is a lot narrower below the blowstick than is the Medium. There are (were?) two different cuts of L&M bag: a straight neck and a swan neck. The Bannatyne has a very narrow "neck" compared to, say, the Canmore. Many people rave about the cut of the Gannaway.
In general, most vendors will rely on your height and weight for your "first" bag. If you are 5'10" to 6'2" and of moderate build - a medium bag will be "close". However, if you are a shorter and/or large in the chest, you might be better off with a smaller bag - say 9 1/2"-10" (or to move the drones slightly forward on a hide bag). If you are thin, a little larger bag might be acceptable (or you move the drones back a bit on a hide bag).
Because we are all built a little differently, before you get your "next" bag, make sure you do a few experiments. In addition to the obvious option of trying someone elses pipe bag, you might try raising or lowering the chanter stock in the neck of the bag you have and you might experiment with different length blowsticks. You may find tremendous improvements in hand position and accuracy - long before you need that "new" bag.
Bag Size Table:
The table below is a listing of the distance across the tallest part of the bag (from near the drone stocks down to the bottom of the bag just below the drone stocks). While a convenient measurement, it is only part of the story in how you and your bag fit together.
Approximate sizes are:
|Size/Height (+/- 0.25")||L&M||Gannaway||Bannantyne||Ross Canister||Canmore||Shepherd|
|10.5||Medium||Medium, Ext. Small||Medium|
Note: Highlighting indicates my own measurements. Other data is from people like you. I'm filling this table in as I get info. If you can help fill in or correct it, please contact me!
Copyright S.K. MacLeod 1996-2016