May 31, 2004

Spitting image

Walsh Long Blackwood Practice Chanter
John Walsh Bagpipes Ltd.
Antigonish, Nova Scotia

Reviewed by Bob Worrall

John Walsh Shuttle Pipes have been long recognized as one of the finest small pipe products on the market. The workmanship, attention to detail, and overall quality have been widely accepted as first rate. John Walsh Bagpipes Ltd. has now introduced a blackwood, long practice chanter to their line of products. I have had the opportunity to play this chanter consistently over the last month. It is nothing short of outstanding.

Several of this chanter’s details that set it apart from other long practice chanters are worth highlighting. First, the top section is blackwood. Many manufacturers, faced with the potential of tops cracking, have gone with a blackwood bottom and a synthetic top. The new Walsh chanter has a synthetic liner inside its top. This allows for a top that will have a low probability of cracking. In addition, it has a built in water/spit trap. For this reviewer, this is a dream come true. I have truly been able to play throughout an entire workshop weekend without having to take apart the chanter and dry out the reed. This innovation effectively eliminates one of the most significant “thorns in the side” to pipers worldwide.

The chanter comes with a lovely imitation sole and has a very refined finish. The holes have been countersunk slightly, making for very easy playing. The overall weight of the chanter seems a little lighter than other long chanters that are on the market. I quite like the overall feel of the chanter.

The chanter comes with a John Walsh practice chanter reed. Its pitch and the balance of the scale are absolutely perfect. What is really noticeable is the projection that comes from the high ‘g’. While this can be a very suspect note on many chanters, it is a strong attribute for this chanter. The overall richness of tone is very impressive. In some respects, the effect is more like that which comes from a practice chanter with a cane reed. It is actually one of the few practice chanters that can produce a realistic piobaireachd high G and C natural. I have substituted a number of other practice chanter reeds with that which came with the chanter. These positive results held true regardless of the reed I used.

The John Walsh long, blackwood practice chanter is a great addition to the chanters on the market today. Not only is it a superb product from a tonal standpoint, but also the top’s plastic liner and water/spit trap give it a strong technological advantage. This reviewer is more than happy to strongly endorse such a fine and sophisticated product.

Bob Worrall is a frequent contributor to the Piper & Drummer. A past winner of the March and Strathspey & Reel at the Northern Meeting, he has dedicated the last twenty-plus years to teaching and judging piping and pipe bands. He lives in Burlington, Ontario.


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