The construction of the chanters and the sound of the Musette.

The grand-chalumeau of the musette has an "open-ended" system like other wind instruments, i.e. a double reed is mounted at the top end and the bottom end is open.
On the other hand, the petit-chalumeau is the "close-ended" system, whereby a double reed is also mounted at the top end, but the bore is plugged at the bottom end, and all six holes on the petit-chalumeau are closed by keys. Therefore, even while the air is being supplied, the petit-chalumeau does not sound unless a hole is opened by operating a key.

The fingering system of the grand-chalumeau is the "closed-fingering" system, in which each note is executed by opening a single hole. (As far as I know, this chanter system had not been adopted any other instrument before the musette).
This closed-fingering system has also been adopted the contemporary Northumbrian smallpipes, however, Northumbrian smallpipes adopted the close-ended chanter as well.
This fingering system enables the bagpipe to make articulation and staccato.

The execution of the separations between the notes.


The closed-fingering system of the musette's grand-chalumeau works as follows;

The basic fingering position is that all of the finger-holes on the grand-chalumeau, except the lowest hole (which is a double-hole), are covered by fingers, and all of the keys are also closed.
In this state, the grand-chalumeau makes the sound g . But the petit-chalumeau does not sound at all, because it is a close-ended chanter and all keys are also closed. (which has explained above).

The note g is included in the drone of the C and G modes.

When the fingers are set at the basic position, the note g sounds on the grand-chalumeau. At the same time another g sounds on the drone.
Which means that the sound g of the grand-chalumeau seems not to be sounding because it melts into the sound of the g in the drone as an unison.
This can be described as below.

Notes are executed on the grand-chalumeau by lifting a single finger (or a key). When the lifted finger is put back to where it was, the note g sounds again. Here again this note g on the grand-chalumeau is not recognised clearly by melting to the g on the drone. Consequently, by repeating such movements of the fingers (lifting a finger and back) separations (articulation or staccato) are created between the notes.


For example, the music above would sound on the musette as below.

The notes g on the grand-chalumeau (top part) are sounded between the melody notes.

Let's use sound to understand the system of the articulation, staccato and the rests on the musette.
At first, listen to only the melody (1), then the drone G (2) together with the melody (1), and finally listen to all; the drone C (3) and the drone G (2) the melody (1), together.

1. the melody (in the music)

2. drone G (petit sol)

3.drone C (Bass)

Thus, musette players have to let the note g on the grand-chalumeau sound between notes in order to make articulation, staccato and the rests.

While the notes on the petit-chalumeau are being played, the grand-chalumeau is sounding the g note .

For example music : Preludio from "Il pastor Fido (Sonata II) ";
The music is written as shown;


The actual sound from both the grand-chalumeau and the petit-chalumeau can be described as below. While the notes on the petit-chalumeau are being played, the grand-chalumeau sounds the g .
The red notes are executed by the petit-chalumeau.

The sound of both the grand-chalumeau and the petit-chalumeau.

The drone

Old styled drones

As seen above, the drone settings for the keys of C and G include the note g , so in these keys the notes C and G cannot be discerned from the drone sound. Borjon also says that the C and G modes are suitable keys for the musette in his method of 1672 . These are obviously the most suitable keys for the common type of musette .
In the old styled drones however where the keys of A, B flat and F were employed, the note g was not included in the drone setting so it would only serve to create dissonance with the grand-chalumeau. In order to avoid these unwanted dissonances, the player would have had to play without articulation, and it is thought that musette players possibly did this in Borjon's time.
By the beginning of the 18th century however, the complicated shuttle-drone design had been simplified to the extent that it supported most music in the keys of C major/minor and G major/minor.

(The end of part one)

Naoki Ueo
(Revised by M. Spencer and P. Spencer)

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Copyright: Naoki Ueo 2000