This article by Martin Nolan appeared in An Píobaire III.2.

Some suggestions when buying pipes

All too often aspiring pipers set off to acquire a set of pipes, be they practice set, half-set or full set, with very little knowledge as to what they should look for. These few tips may save someone, somewhere from heartache and frustration. If so, they will have served some good.

  1. Do buy from an established fulltime maker.
  2. Do buy, when and where possible, from a maker near you.
  3. Try to establish a reasonable date of delivery that suits both yourself and the maker.
  4. Ensure that the pipes are in tune and made to your satisfaction before you pay.
  5. Both new and second-hand pipes should be reeded before being purchased. Some reeds need to be “played in”. However if a reed is badly out of tune there is a possibility that it is the chanter which is faulty.
  6. It has been suggested that if you intend to buy a full set from a particular maker you could perhaps buy a chanter (practice set) first, and if this proves satisfactory you could safely proceed with the rest.
  7. Know exactly what you want before you order. No good changing your mind about pitch and other details when the pipes are half made.
  8. Check bellows and bag for leaks and porousness, keys for stiffness and side play, and of course key leaks.
  9. Try to see other pipers who play similar sets and ask their opinion. You could ask the maker for a list of satisfied customers.
  10. Be prepared to look after on-going repairs and general upkeep activities, e.g. re-hemping the chanter top, regulator tops and drones. Key springs can become soft and can easily be re-sprung.
  11. Be sensible – buy a saxophone and play some REAL music!!!!