Small-Pipe Workshop Update at Newcastleton Folk Festival

The progress is slow but sure, I have 6 bellows at the moment, some have been donated (one by David, the organizer of the Newcastleton Folk Club, many thanks to him) and others I have made; so there will be at least 6 sets of pipes on the day for beginners to use.

I would also like people who already have a set of small-pipes but do not play them/cant play them, but wish to do so to come along also, it is all about getting you started, sorting out the beginners problems that we have all gone through. So if you know of someone who has given up trying to play or has a set in the box at home which have been put away in frustration ! encourage them to come to the workshop.

Players who have Northumbrian sets we will be using the big drone at first (the D/C drone) this will be compatible with the sets I am making in D. Scottish Small-pipers are generally in A or D so a harmony can be achieved… all this can be sorted out, the workshop is about bellows technique, bag pressure, keeping the instrument stable, getting all parts in harmony, and obtaining a scale in tune with the drones, and if there is time left a melody

if you wish to contact me regarding the workshop or anything to do with piping can do so at


The Nayanban – The Iranian Bagpipe

The Persian bagpipe is becoming more popular, possibly thanks to the internet, this once little known instrument is gaining more interest in Europe. Generally one player popularizes an instrument…becomes a well known name and gets all the attention, concerts, fame and money!
But, it does not mean they have the final say on the instrument, music, or style… but to many it is.

Leila, visited her country and chanced upon a Nayanban musician in Isfahan, Iran. Being Iranian she could converse with the player and learn a little bit about him. This is her story really, I am just including it as i think it is a wonderful story and a chance to Ethnomusicology working both ways.

The Nayanban is a bagpipe from southern Iran, near to the Persian Gulf. The “red arrows” on the map indicate the areas where the instrument is popular: Bandar Bushehr to Abadan, along the coastal area. These are port towns and possibly this instrument was imported from across the seas or it was exported from these ports to other countries?
The area is also near to Iraq and Kuwait, big oil producing areas, and there is also a lot of oil on the Iran side of the border too. During the War between Iraq and Iran (1980-87) this area received a lot of bombing and invasion. A lot of local people (Bandari) moved north to escape the bombing and they took their culture and instruments with them. A lot of the migrants settled in an areas close to Isfahan,  especially in a town called Shahrekord (South West of Isfahan).

This nayanban player Leila met was called Behnam Rahimi, from Baghbahadoran, which is close to Shahrekord, he came to Isfahan to play on the streets to earn some money; but unlike buskers in Europe who would play on the busy streets, shopping areas, city centers, and commercial and touristic areas, Behnam plays in residential areas far from the “madding crowd”, his streets were quiet, walled enclosed, no passers-by or shop-keepers to move you on! His audience were behind their walls, inside their homes or peering from their windows.

The instrument consists of a bag, 2 chanters in a single stock, no drone. The 2 chanters have the same tuning, the player’s fingers cover both chanter at the same time and play the same notes. The music is highly rhythmic, more for dancing I imagine than for singing. Behnam, told Leila that he was later to play at a wedding where there is generally dancing; but before the wedding he was “busking”… not ‘on’ the main street of the city, but ‘behind’ the main street, in quiet roads, lanes, drive ways. People would hear his music, and like his music and come out and pay him.

you can hear him playing the Nayanban here 

Small-Pipe Workshop

I will be offering this year at Newcastleton Folk Festival a beginner’s workshop in “Learning the Small-Pipes”. The workshop will be a basic introduction into small pipe techniques. 
Too often the beginner will not take enough time to learn the basic techniques of the bag, bellows, drones and chanter, and rush towards learning melodies and then finding out later that they have to restart learning, also most damage caused to a new instruments happens in the first few days of receiving their pipes. 
The workshop will go through the basics of bag pressure, bellows technique, tuning drone and fingering styles, and reeds. The workshop is designed for people who intend to start playing the small pipes not for people who already play them.
Buying a set of small pipes can be an expensive hobby, and often there can be a long wait to get a set of pipes. It is a commitment before you can start to play, and often it can be frustrating when you get your set, and often they are put aside as there are many things to do at once before getting a good sound from them.
If you are thinking of buying a set of small pipes, or waiting for your set to be made, or just wishing to try the instrument out… this workshop is for you.
It is also for people who have already their set of small pipes, perhaps the instrument has been put aside as it was found too complicated, bring them along and the workshop can help you to get started.
I can offer a limited number of small pipes for those who attend the workshop. These will be for those interested in Northumbrian Small pipes and Scottish Small pipe players, with open and closed fingering.
There maybe is also a chance to try mouth blown examples too…
Reservations is the best way of ensuring a place on the workshop, or just turn up on the day if there are sets available, those with their own sets bring them along too.
I am trying to ensure there will be 10 sets of small pipes available on the day. I will be posting updates to confirm the number of pipes available.  

Byocycle City Speed Review

I do not normally do reviews of things I buy, but I chose this electric bike after a lot of research, but there was a lot of info I could not find online or via the shop, so I thought to add to the reviews that are currently on line.

I bought this electric bike online, I did not see it or try it out before hand, a risk? Yes, as to send it back would cost… but the reviews were promising. 
I was looking at two bikes the Byocycle City Speed and the Wayfarer, both had similar spec and both had good reviews. There was very little in the way of videos, the Byocycle Cameleon had a few videos but the city speed was poorly documented. The Wayfarer had a couple of good videos which showed durability. The Cameleon looks the same as the City Speed, in fact only a few of the components are different if you compare them, but there is a big difference in price. 

Although I have not had my bike long (a few months) I have been on long bike rides, around trip of about 25 miles to and from the boat. The trip involves quite a lot of hills and gradual climbs and the weather is not always good. Today for example I had strong icy winds in my face and heavy showers. The roads I cycle on are farm roads, tractors often produce cracks and pot holes and generally uneven surfaces, so not the ‘typical’ conditions that the info uses for getting the most out your battery. The spec say the battery will last between 20-30 miles on flat terrain with no head wind! 
I generally cycle everywhere, I do not drive a car, I have had no interested in learning to drive, and I try not to use the bus or the train if I can help it. Cycling is my chosen transportation, good for a lifestyle, fitness and low cost. The bike I was looking for had to be practical and useful to the distances I needed it for. It is not for a pleasant ride on a Sunday…
This morning the battery was fully charged and I had little luggage to carry. I learned a few years ago not to cycle up steep hills. I get off and push the bike up. This is not laziness but it saves the chain and it stops lactic acid building up in the muscles, by using other muscles it leads to a less painful experience. I only do this a few times as I cycle to 25 mile round trip, generally I cycle. 
On my way to the boat I peddle as much as I can, I use the “peddle/motor” option when I need it on gradual hills and when I get tired legs. I try and be in 3rd gear when I use this option as otherwise I am pedalling for nothing, as least in 3rd I can add to the motor.  When I am not using the peddle/motor option I knock it off. 
By the end of the 12 miles I was feeling tired… this is not because I did not use the motor enough, but I think because of the weight of the bike one is pulling the equivalent of a loaded trailer, when you come off the peddle/motor option the bike slows down, you feel the weight underneath you, and you feel your legs having to push that weight along. It is like riding through treacle! 
Coming back from the boat I try out the “motor only option”. As my legs are tired I need to rest them on certain parts of the journey. Also when you use this option you can peddle and not use the battery. I prefer this as I can have more option depending on the terrain. 
By switching from ‘peddle/motor’ option (by holding down the button on the control box) it automatically switches to the ‘motor option’, I can access the motor while peddling by slowly moving the throttle leaver next to the hand grip. This can be unsteady to achieve the right amount, so I press my thumb into the hand grip and rotate my thumb next to the throttle, I can get minute variations to suit my leg requirements.  When I release the throttle again it feels like I am cycling through treacle, the weight of the bike is apparent. You need the motor for this bike… it is too heavy to go long distances without it. 
The lights are very good, very bright and penetrating, the front light is turned on/off by the control box on the handlebars, it is connected to the battery. You need to have the control box set on ‘motor option’ mode otherwise you will be peddling all the time whether you want to or not. The back lights are not connected to the battery, but they are good lights.
I like the bike stand it is useful, I like its sturdy frame especially when I fly down the hills, there is no shaking of the frame. 
After the ride I noticed the 3 green lights indicating the battery strength was still on green (all 3) so I have not used a lot of battery to achieve my 25 miles. I will keep experimenting how to use the bike more efficiently, maybe increase the usage of motor only on this hills and give my legs more of a rest.

bunji the folded bike together it is a lot easier to transport.