My frustration with Border pipes is something that has developed over the last few years. I love the sound of borders, and their ability to consistently play chromatic notes, enabling for navigation round more complex music. The overall functionality, and practicality of borders are what drove me back on the hunt for A highland pipes. If you play more instruments than just pipes on a gig, you may find that there are logistical issues with borders that can be restricting. The problems I’ve been finding recently are the constant strapping, and unstrapping of bellows. This consumes a massive amount of time during a gig, and causes unnecessary distraction. Especially when going between instruments. If you don’t want to play whistle whilst remaining strapped to your bellows then you must build in time within the musical arrangements to allow for a smooth changeover. This can be detrimental to the shape, and dynamics of the music. I’ve also found recently that doing full gigs with bellows, in fact doing month long tours can be very tiring on the arm. This sometimes causing discomfort to my right hand. One of the other reasons I’ve moved away from using borders is that if anything goes wrong with them when you’re far from home, they’re not easy to pick up supplies for. The chanter reeds are not commonly found globally. It’s much easier to find highland bagpipe supplies most places these days, especially in the US and Canada (unless Trump takes a disliking to the pipes next).
So, I decided to pursue the elusive A highland bagpipe. This isnt made by many bagpipe makers. It is however catching on at the moment because of the interest shown by pipers performing outwith pipe band, and competitive circles. There aren’t many companies making and developing these pipes.
At last years piping live I met a father and son, Burgess and Scott, who were very new to the bagpipe making business. They are the loveliest of folk, and are very enthusiastic about the making and development of bagpipes. Their company name is Burgess Bagpipes. This is a two man, family run operation based in Forres. These guys are incredible. For such a new company, the quality of their instruments are of a very high standard. The build is quality, the look is unique, and the sound rivals any of the other top modern bagpipe makers. Their border pipes in particular sound amazing. Made from the finest Blackwood, with titanium mounts. The tuning is spot on, and fully chromatic. They have a very sweet, direct sound. Over the last year or so I’ve become pals with these guys. They’ve been very supportive of my career and I’m very grateful for that. They were very understanding when I moaned about my recent border pipe issues. I mentioned to them that I was very keen on getting A highlands but that there weren’t really many good solid builds out there. This is something that they had been thinking about for sometime also. So, they set to work, becoming intensely involved in the development of these pipes. Which when you run a company based on making instruments to order, this can be a bit of a distraction. But, definitely a distraction that is going to pay off! After several months of research and development, the guys have made a couple of sets. I travelled to Forres yesterday to pick them up for myself and Ross to try! I have to say, they are sounding great. The drones are steady, the chanter volume is well balanced against the drones, they have a nice highland pipe sound, without being too loud. There are a few tweaks here and there but watch this space. These are going to be a necessity for any piper who plays with other instruments.