Ceol na hÉireann / Irish Music, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 7

Ceol na hÉireann / Irish Music, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 7
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periodical Publisher
Na Píobairí Uilleann
periodical Editor
Chairman, NPU
periodical Title
Ceol na hÉireann / Irish Music
volume Number
issue Content
4Ceol na hEireann Irish Music5desolate and the Ennis defiant. Using a constant drone of D throws a cast onthe music. This pipers are used to and not much affected by it. Other musicians, hearing tunes they know played with a drone for the first time, can bedeeply effected by it. One very experienced accordion player said to me after asession that it was like listening to the music in a different language.So where is all this leading? We do not want really to limit the pipes toplaying solo but we want them to sound best when we do, and how do we avoidclashing notes when exact pitches could differ as much as a quarter semitonebetween instruments. We cannot expect other musicians to bend to our ways byretuning their instruments. Well maybe in sessions it would not be noticedoften and many would ignore it anyway. But we can have our chantersorganised so that we can choose between these sweet harmonies and ones thatwill blend with equally tempered instruments. How? By tuning the chanter insuch a way that these problems can be minimalised by adjusting fingerings. Sowe need to maximise the chanters ability to produce a range of pitches for manynotes. Now it must be said that there are limitations for this, but there is muchthat can be learned from the old masters of playing and making. The way thatnote pitches can be adjusted whilst playing is by changing the number of fingersleft on, cross fingering, which everyone knows for such notes as C Sharp to CNatural, where the top front hole is opened and we get C Sharp. If we then openthe top hole of the right hand the note drops to about C Natural and if wechange the right hand to the middle two fingers off then the C is likely to flattenstill further. So by opening a second or third hole lower down the chanter wecan modify the note produced by the highest open hole. All holes, chanters andnotes react differently, so how do we control this to best effect?To best appreciate the controlling effect of cross fingering we need to knowwhy it works. For this we need to understand what is happening inside thechanter. So, we have a conical tube with holes venting the tube space to theatmosphere, which has a reed or sprung valve attached to one end and apressure vessel which the reed valve sits in. The pressure vessel is there to feedthe reed when it requires air and the bore shape demands this action from thereed due to pressure balancing actions. So as air passes through the reed due tothe air in the bag having been pressurised, its pressure drops due to meeting airthat is not pressurised in the chanter because of the fact that the chanter bore isopen to atmosphere. When the chanter is closed the reed stays open becausethe pressure on both sides is similar, and the reed closes by being sucked shutfrom the chanter. When the reed closes it effectively sends a time-measuredpulse of slightly higher pressure air down the chanter. If you imagine this air astravelling down the chanter bore like a wave coming in onto the beach it reachesthe open hole where the pressure drops suddenly. This wave will react to theopen hole and send a pressure ripple back up the chanter to the reed. Thepressure under the reed is thus increased and with the help of the springiness ofthe reed blades, opens again. So the pressure pulse measures the distance andthe time it takes to reopen the reed and start the cycle again and so sets thepitch of the vibrations, the note. This creates a fixed pattern-wave shape in thechanter. Now some of the pressure pulses energy travels to the bottom of thechanter and sets up a sympathetic wave that joins with the top wave andmodifies it. There is also a third, back, reflection wave created into the bag bythe fact that the pressure in the chanter head changes as the reed opens andshuts, dropping slightly when it opens and rising again when it is shut. Thisalso has an effect on the wave in the chanter but can be ignored unless thechamber, the chanter head, is changed or its method of air supply altered. Themost important part for us to understand is the manipulation of the lower wavein the chanter. It must be remembered that these waves are standing still andonly change shape when the note is changed so the sound is transmitted as theair pulses pass through areas of low and high pressure. Now if you pick a noteon the chanter and play it with your normal fingering, then lift the chanter offthe knee, does the sound of the note change? If it is a note for which the lowerwave has a pressure at the free end which is about the same as atmosphericpressure the note will not alter much. But if it is a note for which that lowerwave has a pressure at the free end very different from atmospheric then thenote will change, possibly in pitch or tone or in both. Try each note of thechanter in this way and see that the result of lifting the chanter is not the samefor every note.Some chanters react more positively to changes in the state of this lowerwave form, they cross-finger more usefully. Which chanters then react best,and how can we use them to give us a more positive control of pitch, tone andvolume? If we examine a chanter which has large finger-holes, and by large Imean where the hole sizes approach the bore diameter at the hole position, weusually find that a note played from that type of hole reacts similarly to the openend of the chanter. The pressure drop at the hole is so complete that the effecton the air column is the same as cutting off the chanter at that length. Thelower wave is too weak to make any effect on the upper standing wave. As theholes get closer to the bore diameter the usefulness of the lower wave isdiminished to the point where it does not cause any reactional changes to pitchand tone. All the volume comes out of the highest hole open and little or no
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Ceol na hÉireann / Irish Music, Volume 1, Issue 1

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