Which Practice Chanter is Right for You?
You’d be hard-pressed to find a Great Highland bagpiper who doesn’t have a trusty practice chanter on-hand. Before moving up to bagpipes, most musicians learn the ropes with high-quality practice chanters. Even after becoming experienced bagpipers, these individuals frequently revisit their chanters. If you’re currently in the market for a practice chanter, it’s important to realize that one size does not necessarily fit all. When shopping around for the right chanter, there are a number of factors you’ll need to consider. Taking the time to educate yourself and make an informed decision will serve you well in the search for a practice chanter.
What’s Your Preferred Size?
Practice chanters come in a variety of sizes – most notably junior, regular and long. The long and regular chanters feature the same finger-spacing as traditional bagpipe chanters, so musicians who are eager to simulate the bagpipe experience would do well to consider these particular sizes. As an added bonus, once you make the transition to regular bagpipes, you should have a fairly easy time of it. Aside from their length, there isn’t much difference between a long and regular practice chanter. Being considerably smaller than their contemporaries, junior chanters have finger-spacings that are much closer together. As a general rule, these chanters are typically only used by young children and adults with very small hands, so in all likelihood, junior chanters won’t even be on your radar.
What’s Your Preferred Material?
Like many musical instruments, practice chanters are available in numerous materials. Wood, silver and ivory are the three primary materials used to create chanters. Sound and function-wise, there really isn’t a whole lot of difference between the different types of chanters. While it’s true that silver and ivory chanters have a much sleeker appearance than wooden ones, most musicians agree that they don’t sound much different. To their credit, with the proper care and maintenance, silver and ivory chanters can potentially last a lifetime. Keep in mind, however, that they’re considerably pricier than wooden chanters, so if cost if a major factor, wood may be your best bet. Even wood chanters can last a good long while if proper care if taken.
Are the Holes Recessed?
It doesn’t pay to cheap out when buying a practice chanter. There’s certainly nothing wrong with being frugal, but a dirt-cheap chanter is practically guaranteed to produce subpar sounds and not last very long. In the search for the right chanter, keep an eye out for recessed holes, as un-recessed holes are among the foremost signs of a poorly-manufactured chanter. You may wind up spending a little more than initially anticipated, but there’s no point in owning an instrument that doesn’t sound like it’s supposed to.
Aspiring bagpipers on the hunt for practice chanters have a fair number of options at their disposal. As is the case when shopping for any instrument, it’s important to find a chanter that flawlessly meshes with your sensibilities and personal preferences. With this in mind, remember to consider size, material and holetype when hunting for the right practice chanter.