CORNISH PIPES HAVE A SURPRISINGLY LOUD PUNCHY SOUND WITH ENORMOUS POSSIBILITIES FOR HARMONIES, COUNTER MELODIES AND RHYTHMIC AND MOVABLE DRONE EFFECTS.
The inspiration for these pipes is a very fine carving in Altarnun Church, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall. It was carved by one Robart Daye sometime between 1510 and 1530.
It shows a piper playing a bagpipe with two very long chanters of slightly different lengths with small bell ends. At the piper's feet is his dog and behind his shoulder is surely the carrying tube that he would keep his pipes in.
From this carving I have developed a bagpipe with a very deep and wondrous tone that is enormous fun to play and is proving extremely popular.
The Cornish bagpipe has two chanters that are fingered independently. One plays the upper half of the octave, the other the lower half. Both chanters can play the tonic note and thus, using covered fingering, one can create a constant drone whilst playing the melody. This drone effect is a striking feature of the pipes. Initially, you can play tunes exactly as if you were playing on one chanter. After this you can begin to explore the possibilities of playing the chanters independently. The Cornish Pipes are also great for low, rich bagpipe accompaniments.
The chanters have wide cylindrical bores and are pitched in low D (two octaves lower than the penny whistle). They are very stable to play and have good finger spacing.
Keeping double chanters in tune using cane reeds is notoriously difficult because of the instability of cane. The secret of the stability of my Cornish pipes lies in the use of plastic reeds.
These pipes have no actual drones; a virtual drone effect can be created by using covered fingering.
These pipes sound at their best when played with ‘covered’ fingering (lifting one finger at a time). Though the pipes have no actual drones, a 'virtual' drone effect can be created by using thisfingering.
The large, upright leather bag is hand-sewn can be made in one of a choice of colours. It is possible to make these pipes bellows-blown
Teaching yourself to play these double pipes is an exciting challenge, but there is always lots we can learn from others. With this in mind Cornish piper Steve Bliven contacted most players and compiled a very impressive HANDBOOK based on their collective suggestions, arrangements, discoveries. The Double Chantered Bagpipe contains 114 A4 pages packed with helpful suggestions, articles on the history of double pipes and thirty tunes and arrangements for these double pipes.
When you order a set of these pipes you will receive a free copy of this handbook, but you can buy one HERE
Ex-York Wait James Merryweather playing the cornish double pipe
The standard pipes are pitched in D, with the ability to finger C sharp or C natural at the top; the bottom leading note is C natural. I also make a high G version, a fourth above the D.
One of the striking features of my Cornish pipes has always been their lovely deep sound. For twenty years I made them pitched in D. Recently, working in conjunction with Callum Armstrong, we have developed a low C version. It has a wondrous tone and is even more stable. The finger spacing is very comfortable and it is a joy to play.
It was always a long term ambition of mine to make one in low A, but Callum has convinced me that we should first aim for a low G Cornish pipe, and we have begun prototype work for this design in 2015.
At this stage I cannot anticipate when the design will be finalised as this sort of work is very time consuming. It is going to be a big beastie! At present I cannot quote a price, but do let me know if you're interested and I will keep in touch with you about its progress. I anticipate it will have a glorious sound and I'm longing to hear it and experiment with playing it in consort with the D Cornish pipes. I dream of three pipers playing High G, D and low G Cornish pipes in glorious harmony….
top in C; centre in D; bottom in G