Monday, July 29, 2013

Inverters and Electrics on a Small Boat.

I bought a new inverter for the boat, a sign perhaps of my change in function for Sadaf, not the ocean traveler i thought i was, but more of the stay at home kind and snuggled up in a warm bunk with a few home comforts. I bought a 500w 12v inverter to charge up my rechargeable batteries for my radio and mp3 player, and to recharge the computer; I have 3 car batteries and a solar panel which used to be for an electric motor.

The worst thing about the inverter is the noise from the fan, not comfortable. When everything is plugged in the wires are everywhere, and when i recharged the computer battery it must have taken a lot of power as the inverter shut down as the battery got near to the empty mark! I think it would be ok for emergencies but as a thing if relaxation and leisure it did not pass the test. 

I think I will stay with my rechargeable batteries and my speakers, there is no much volume (no amp with them) but it does OK if, like today, it is raining heavy.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Home Recording Distrbution

I started a new page of Facebook called “Home Recording distribution”, it is a page to help artists like myself who are fed up with multinationals distributing music at inflated prices, and over loading us with their narrow choice of musical genre. 

Everything is 'packaged' from the CD to the recording, even the type of reverb they use on the final mix; there is nothing original they can offer. We are so used to it, to get the plastic wrapper in a plastic CD cover which is given to us in a plastic bag!

A new 'Cottage Industry' that once had so much promise and hope - the internet has been high jacked. To produce one’s own music and getting it ‘out there’ to the world, either for profit or for interest is not easy. Controls are everywhere. 

I listen to people/music I know, people who have spent their time and energy composing, writing, learning, producing, recording, editing, re-editing, designing their CD; so much time and effort for what? For it not to be listened too? For it to be put away while people just go to the multinationals and buy something that they have ‘heard before’. I do not think I have bought a CD from a shop in years.

I have made my own recordings for years, I sold them on the streets, I have sent them through the works! I also listen to recordings I made of other people, 'field-recordings', ethno recordings, of local bands, people, in the UK and around the world. They have more life and originality; they have new ideas and passion than any mass produced run-of-the-mill factory production. 

Today I listened to a Cumbrian flute player called Rob Rynn, who produced his own CD with his own money by paying studio time, and working on his own CD design etc. it is good, it is original, sometimes it is not accurate in tempo, sometimes it is like a live recording...but it is good and it is different and it stays in my is personal. I encourage people to record and upload their music to the Facebook “Home Recording Distribution” page, and try and sell your work, or interest people in it. Here is the link and logo:

Friday, October 5, 2012

Nyckelharpa in Bingsjöstämman

In July there are 2 music festivals I love to go to in Sweden. The first is the Sackpipa meeting in Gagnef, Dalarna; and the other is the Nyckelharpa and fiddle festival at Bingsjo, Dalarna. Both festivals are in the 1st week of July.

"I have admired the Swedish Nyckelharpa since 1991, and the interest has never gone away. I have been lucky enough to attend the Bingsjöstämman music festival (Dalarna, Sweden) for the past 2 years, and seen and heard the Nyckelharpa being played by many good musicians. Here are a collection of photos I took from my 2012 visit, and I recorded the music too. Sadly, I do not know the group of Nyckelharpas who were playing on the recording, nor the name of the melody being played, but I hope it is a homage to the many names of contributors to this amazing instrument and musical tradition".

The nyckelharpa is a keyed fiddle, it comes in many different variations, but most of the photos here are of the chromatic variant which is relatively modern instrument. I am also interested in the Moraharpa and the Silverbasharpa, which are not chromatic.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Moving the Earth

As winter is coming I was surprised to see a new mooring close by to my own. When I say "close by" it was too close for Sadaf's comfort. The new warp and the boat would have intruded into the area of Sadaf's swing. As Sadaf's keels are shallow she would have lifted first with the tide and slammed right into the stern of the new boat. I had asked in the village if the new owner could move the mooring away from my own, and as it was in my line of getting away from the mooring, could be positioned quite far away. Nothing happened. So today with some very kind help from Jerry, we dug up the new mooring and positioned it some distance up-tide, still in line with my boat (so not loosing any depth) but far enough away so the boat's stern does not leave a nasty dent in my hull. I will eventually move my boat further up-tide away from the harbour and away from our new visitor, but for now I can be at peace that I will still have a boat to go to. I am playing with the idea of sailing in the winter, Jerry also gave me 3 sails which are a lot lighter and smaller than my present ones. It is much easier to reef and easier to handle, so I might chance a winter's season, as I have done so little sailing this summer...what summer eh?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Galician and Border Fingering - Cross Fertalization

Often when we learn an instrument we learn 'patterns' for our fingers to use on the instrument, this is an aid to learning an instrument and memorizing tunes. We become accustomed to these patterns and form them into a 'tradition' which develops into a certain regional or national style. But, what is important is the 'sound' to play the melodies as they should sound and achieving the sound should be more important over technique.

Finger Chart for the Highland, Scottish Small-pipes, & Border Bagpipes
I have deviated from the normal 'tradition' on the Border pipes, I am adopting a different tradition of fingering the chanter. This mainly concerns the top A note which is fingered traditionally with the bottom hand oxxx and with the top hand xoo o (oxxx xoo o) this is a Highland bagpipe style, which in my opinion is a different style of music to the Lowland piping tradition. 

I have been playing Border/Northumbrian melodies using the traditional fingering for a number of years it suits it well, but there are characteristics of the Lowland music which make this fingering of the top A note cumbersome and problematic. There are many 'jumps' in Lowland music from a high A down to a lower register, and this can cause a lot of hand 'waving' on the chanter (The Highland bagpipe style uses a closed finger technique that lifts multiple fingers off and on the chanter) as the top hand opens so closes the lower hand. It can be messy, especially if the melody demands a quick run or semi-quaver 'jumps'.

I have been learning the Galician bagpipe for 3 years and they use a different fingering for the high A note, (oxxx xxx o) all fingers closed and only the thumb hole open. It is this technique I have been adopting for the high A on the Border pipes.

At first it was to put the chanter in tune with itself as it was a bit sharp on the top A, so instead of taping or gluing the hole I changed finger technique. Another reason why I used this Galician fingering was I fitted a Galician Bb reed to my Border chanter. I scraped the reed so it was softer to play and could sound a top A in the traditional Lowland fingering, but I found it gave a good high A in the Galician style too.

There are a lot of quaver notes in the Lowland repertoire that 'jump' in quick succession e.g. AaAbAcAd. This could mean playing oxxx xoo o for the high A then playing ooxx xxx x for the low 'b'. I have found it easier to play these notes by using the Galican style oxxx xxx o for the high A then ooxx xxx x for the low 'b'. this makes life a lot easier.

If you know the fingering style of the Northumbrian Small Pipes then you will know that this style of playing uses a totally closed finger technique, one finger is lifted off then replaces before the other is lifted. So jumping from a high to a low note is not a problem. This Galician high A position is similar in style to the Northumbrian as only the thumb is removed while the rest of the fingers stay on the chanter.

Of course there is no evidence that this finger style was used in the tradition of Border piping....but there is no evidence to prove it was not used either. The music certainly allows for an easy way of playing these 'jumps'. and the Galician high A is one solution. In practise, I tend to mix these 2 finger styles, depending on the melody, some runs require it others do not.

In the Border/Northumbrian tradition at least there has always been a healthy innovation, without it the Northumbrian Small Pipes would never have evolved. It is easy to imagine these innovations coming about by influences from outside of the Borders through the numerous ports, commerce and migrants/visitors/travellers, as well as closer to home though journeymen, after-all tunes travelled and it is said that the Northumbrian Small Pipes were influenced by the French musette. .

There are numerous bagpipes which use the 'closed fingering' style as the Border pipes, some more closed than others...but this style is not wholly a Scottish fingering technique. The Asturian Gaita uses a crossed/closed fingering not unlike the Border pipes. Both are conical bored chanters and a 2nd octave can be reached by the same technique of the Galician high A fingering position.

Friday, May 25, 2012

New Pipe/Concertina CD

It has been nearly 5 years since I made my last CD on the Bagpipes, but I have begun to make another one quite recently, not surprisingly it is made up from the environment I have been living in for the past 3 years...Spain and Sweden and of course the Scottish Borders. I became aware that a lot of the melodies I have been learning, listening too and practicing have not been melodies from my own region (I guess this is why I made a effort to learn new Border Pipe melodies - see "New Melodies for the Border Pipes" blog post below).

This new CD are mainly melodies from Northern Spain (Catalonia, Sanabria, Galicia) and these reflect the contacts I have had during my time there, they are not only notes or notation, but memories and people, places and times.

Another group of melodies are from Sweden, a country I like very much and have spent time kayaking and enjoying the nature, Their music fits very well into the Northumbrian Small Pipe fingering and scale range. Some of these melodies I learned from a harpist I play with in the UK, we play only 'non-British' melodies from France, Sweden and Spain and these will also be included on the CD mainly Scottisches and bourrées.

A few Belgium/Nederland tunes will be there too, I got these melodies when I lived in Amsterdam in the 1980s and I remember my time there through these tunes.
And of course there will be a few Northumbrian melodies with a 2nd voice/harmony to accompany the pipes. I will also include the English concertina  on some of the melodies either to accompany the leading melody or to add a 2nd harmony. Since the Northumbrian Small Pipes are 'somewhere' between a F and a F# I have to correct the pitch of the concertina!

The Cd is enjoyable to do but it takes many hours work, and this is only with the recordings...not to mention the mixing, production, CD design and printing...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Making a Scottish Small Pipe chanter

Turning the drilled piece of red wood after it has been bored makes it "chatter" (vibrate) especially in the center, so care is needed to steady the wood with the hands as one turns down the wood to the thin diameter. I am trying a different design with the reed stock so I went away from the traditional measurements. The reed end of the chanter fits into a "reed stock" so the chanter can be removed while the reed is still in the bag/stock.
I do not have a metal work lathe yet, so I turned the form down with the chisel then finished off with rough sandpaper to get the thickness even along the chanter, this helped to reduce "chatter". The bottom end of the chanter is a little thicker to the top by a few millimeters.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Making Swedish Sackpipa (1)

I completed turning the chanter down to a workable size. I turned the bottom for the chanter so it would be able to fix a sliding part so I can tune the bottom E note exactly to the drone (1st getting it tune with the middle A - the root note). I saw this idea being used by Bors Anders, a sackpipa maker in Sweden. I used Beech wood to contrast the white Damson wood.
 The drone I had already made years ago, I think the wood was Lime wood with a nice grain. It is only temporary, used for quickness to test out the chanter. It is the same length as the chanter which is what is required and the same bore size.

Next is to make the bag and reeds...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012