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Andrew Lenz's bagpipe journeyAndrew
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Andrew's Tips: Useful Bagpiping Items

By Andrew T. Lenz, Jr., Santa Cruz, California, ©2000 - 2009
Andrew adjusting chanter Here I am adjusting the hemping on my chanter at a competition back in the summer of 1999. My son Nicholas—the smaller one in the kilt—watches attentively.

The following is a list of items that bagpipers use and often carry around with them that you may consider owning. This handy list is compiled based partially on personal experience and partially on discussions with other pipers—in fact, about a half dozen of the comments on items below are almost direct quotes from others. If you have discovered something useful that's not listed here or have comments, please let me know, I'd love to hear about it!

PERSONAL:

Musicians Earplugs. I recommend a good set of earplugs. I don't want to be a hard-of-hearing old piper when the time comes. If you've got the money, a ear specialist can make you a custom set of very comfortable earplugs. One doctor I talked to wasn't thrilled with the musician's "Sonic II" earplugs I was wearing at the time, he recommended the cheap plain sponge-like earplugs.
Insect repellant: This isn't a big issue where I live (except at dusk), but it might be where you are!
Sunscreen/Sunblock
Aspirin/Pain Reliever
Diary:
The only "diary" I personally have is online really.
Lip Balm/Ointment:
Chapstick, Blistex, etc. for taking care of dry/cracking lips.
Bottle of water
Chewing gum:
For marching long dry parades—keeps saliva flowing & helps bagpipe breathe. (I've never done this.)
Talcum Powder: To prevent sweaty/sticky fingers in the hot weather but powdered chalk—or 'magnesium' as is it called by athletes and climbers who use it—probably would be better. Just watch for it collecting in your chanter holes. I personally don't have a problem with sweaty fingers.
Tennis Wrist Bands: For soaking up sweat before it reaches your fingers, an issue for some pipers.
Moist towelette: For sticky fingers or removing tape residue from your chanter.
Bottle of waterless hand sanitizer.
Disposable Instant Heat Packets: For warming hands on very cold days.
Surgical gloves. These can look odd, but on cold days, they keep your hands warm (trap heat) and are talc-lined so your hands are all set for competition when you remove them. A word of warning: some people are allergic to the powder found in these gloves, so be careful!
Tube of "Deep Heat" linament: For rubbing into hands on very cold days.
Tube of Barrier Cream: To go on top of the "Deep Heat" to keep the water out and the smell in.

CLEANING:

Felt polishing cloth: For spucing up your pipes.
Cotton Swabs (Q-Tips): For cleaning out chanter holes, etc.
Silicon-injected sponge from the Kiwi shoe accessory people: To spruce up a pair of dirty ghillie brogues (piping shoes).
Cleaning Swabs. Used like a giant single ended "Q-tips," these look like a bottle bush. Used to wipe out your drones and chanter. Just avoid getting bag seasoning on them.
Rubber Cement Thinner. (Heptane) Such as "Bestine" brand seen in art stores. This is a solvent used to remove adhesive tape residue from your chanter. Also seen in stores under the name "Undo." Toxic stuff, avoid skin contact and use in a well-ventilated area.
Goo Gone. (petroleum distillate) An alternative to heptane as a adhesive solvent.

TOOLS:

Small Flashlight
Swiss Army Knife/Multi-purpose Tool
Scissors/Pocket Knife:
For cutting electrical tape and hemp cord.
Emery board:
For sanding chanter reeds to make them easier to blow. Careful, may take too much off!
Utility Knife and spare blades: For reed scraping/modifying.
Super-sharp professional felt cutters knife: Good weight and balance for reed work.
Craftsman Handy Cut Choppers: These are re-enforced plier like things with a heavy-duty blade on one side and a flat bed on the other. Especially handy for trimming chanter reeds. This process requires some advanced knowledge.
Leatherman tool: One of those multi-function tools with pliers, knife, files, etc. incorporated.
Deburring tool:
Adjusting the size (enlarging, moving up) the note holes on a chanter. I'm told these are available from Vargus machining in Israel or MSC machining in the U.S. This process requires some advanced knowledge—don't carve your chanter unless you know what you are doing!
Mandrel: A tapered small screwdriver like thing that is inserted into a reed to open up the throat and staple. This process requires some advanced knowledge.

MAINTENANCE:

Spare Blowstick Valves: Such as "Lil' Mac" valves.
Extra tie in cord: In case a stock gets loose in the bag.
Cork Grease: To grease the tuning pins. I don't use this personally, but hope to try it at some point. Some recommend using Vaseline, but it is derived from petroleum products and is bad for wood pipes—though it might be fine for plastic (Delrin/poly) bagpipes. Some cork greases also are made from petroleum, so be careful.
A block of violin bow rosin: Supposed to be good for anchoring hemp to joints.
Beeswax. Good for quickly fixing a loose joint by rubbing on the hemp and building it up when you don't have time to rewrap it. (Teflon tape works quickly too.) Also can be used to turn a chanter reed into a chanter stopper plug by pushing the reed staple into a chunk of wax—of course, you wouldn't want to do this with a good reed!
Sealing wax
: For sealing the end of cane drone reeds, if you use them.
A piece of a toilet sealing wax ring: Cheap way to get soft oily wax.
Plumbers tallow: Is supposed to be great for greasing slides and applying to all beeswaxed hemp used on reeds, blowpipes etc. as it does not come off or get hard like Vaseline (which is bad anyway) and it's very cheap and readily obtainable.
Cobblers' wax: For coating hemp that you want to be sticky.
Roll of Black Waxed Hemp. For wrapping connecting joints on the pipes, i.e. chanter in its stock, drones in their stocks, drone sliders. This can work as shoelaces in a pinch.
Roll of Yellow (Unwaxed) Hemp.
This is easier to unravel, good holding the chanter reed in place as it is often times raised and lowered in the chanter's reed seat.
Waxed Dental Floss (Unflavored).
Used for the "fine tuning" of the pipe joints when the waxed hemp is too thick, but you need it just a little bit tighter. (You can also use Teflon.) Don't make the joints too tight, or you can split your pipes. Some claim that traditional dental floss can be abrasive and wear out your pipes. Others say it's covered with wax, so it's not.
Cable ties.
(Plastic uni-directional, resembles a tiny pants belt.) Can be used to secure drone cords in place. Large ties can double as emergency stock tie-in cord, but use the best quality you can find.
Shoe Goo. An adhesive that dries strong and flexible. Designed to stick to leather, rubber, plastic metal & all sorts of things. Good for "Quick & Dirty" repairs of many things.

Note: There is quite a bit of debate over the best wax for various uses in piping.

TAPES:

Teflon Tape: Allow drones to slide well for tuning. Can be used for sealing joints. Avoid casual use on the chanter joint. If you insist on using it there, make sure it is very tight since Teflon—while it can seal well—is quite slippery.
1/4" Electrical Tape: For taping the holes on a chanter to reduce pitch for a given note.
Auto Pinstriping Tape: Taping chanters for tuning—not cheap! Supposed to be very good.
Self-fusing Rubber Tape: Such as "3M Scotch Rubber Tape 23" or "Tommy Tape". Can be used to temporarily seal a split drone or stock. Typically used in electrical work for making a waterproof seal around splices. It conforms to irregular surfaces, doesn't shrink, and since it has no adhesive it doesn't leave gooey residue. Most hardware and electrical supply stores will carry it.
Gaffer's Tape/Automotive Hose Repair Tape. A heavy-duty sticky cloth tape which can be used a quick fix for damaged synthetic bags. Automotive hose repair tape may be the way to go as it is designed to handle the extreme conditions of an engine compartment.
Sail repair tape. A very sticky cloth-like tape that some pipers swear by for chanter tuning.

REEDS/DRONE ACCESSORIES:

Tiny Rubber Bands. For use as bridles on chanter reeds. Make a reed higher in pitch and easier to blow. Bands designed for use by orthodontists work great.
Rubber O-rings: Can be useful for quick change of drone cords—just roll them away, then remove cords. While I have never tried this myself, some use one to dampen the chanter reed sound slightly for indoor gigs.
Clear Fingernail Polish: For keeping hemp from unwinding on PC/chanter reeds.
Clothes Pin: For sqeezing a chanter reed that's just too hard to play. This can be drastic.
Post-it Notes: Compact paper for wiping out under drone reed tongues after playing.
Dollar Bills: Durable paper for wiping out under drone reed tongues after playing.
Tincture of Benzoin: A mild skin adhesive available at most pharmacies which can be used to adhere very stubborn drones to keep them from dropping into your bag. (An alternative is to "tap"/thread your drone reed seats.)
Peg Dope: Used by violinists to keep their tuning pegs from slipping, this can also be used to help prevent drones reeds from dropping from their seats. (Again, an alternative is to "tap"/thread your drone reed seats.)

STORAGE:

Metal "Altoid" boxes: For storing different kinds of reeds.
Plastic film container: For storing chanter reeds, usually seen in black or clear.
Prescription medicine containers: For drone and chanter reeds.
"Piper's Pal": A plastic moisture-control reed housing made by Kinnard Bagpipes to keep reeds not too wet or too dry.

Be sure to have padding when storing reeds in any kind of container that doesn't secure the reeds.

MISC.:

Hackey Sack: Keeps music sheets from blowing away when playing the PC outside.
Stress Ball: For exercising your hands, fingers, etc.
V-shaped hand exerciser or DigiFlex/Gripmaster hand exerciser.
For stronger fingers.
Metronome
Tuner:
Usually for the individual responsible for band tuning.
12" Surgical rubber tubing:
Helps get a grip on the chanter if it swells to fit too tight.
Tune List: The human brain seem to have a limited capacity to remember known tunes!
Cable/Wire Ties: To hold the drone cords in place. (I personally use hemp or thread.)
Pens & Notebook
Small Sewing Kit:
As provided by a hotel.
Drone/Stocks Stopper Plugs:
Used for plugging a drone to reduce air pressure required to play the pipes, i.e. when breaking in a new reed. Also plugs for sealing the stocks when seasoning the bag.
Short piece of PVC pipe:
Makes a really good chanter cap for a practice chanter so that you can take it apart and let the hemp dry without your reed getting ruined by banging around in your case.
Shrink tubing, 1/2" diameter: Can be used as a teeth guard for your blowpipe or practice chanter mouthpiece.
Plastic grocery bag: Holds miscellaneous things that come up.
Shoe accessories:
Extra laces and toggles (those tassels things at the end of the laces). Handy if you have a gillie brogue problem at a performance.
Super/Crazy Glue (cyanoacrylate):
Good for repairs.
Fingernail Polish Remover (acetone): Solvent for super glue.
Safety Pins. Used for holding on kilt number sheets assigned for competitions.
Tape recorder (with extra batteries and tapes)
Or MiniDisc recorder and extra discs.
Snacks:
Nonperishable food, ideally.
Bore oil:
For oiling your practice chanter or oiling that birl pinky. Or removing tape residue. Get "woodwind" bore oil. (Depending on your technique and the quantities of your natural facial oils, a quick swipe along your nose may be enough to lubricate your pinky.)
Seasoning
: For sealing/conditioning your bagpipe. You wouldn't normally carry this around with you.

If you have comments or suggestions, please contact me.

This page last updated Monday, September 6, 2010.
Page first created in June 26, 2000.




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