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What things cost: Misc. Accessories

Among the many random things pipers absolutely need, I can assure you that stilts, fake beards and wigs are not among them. These are very much optional. =) This photo was from a rather fun outing with Cu Dubh, at the Maryland Renaissance Festival.
Photo: Liquid Lindy Photography

Misc. accessories

$250 – $300, approximate total, over time

Hemp twine for making joints nice and tight, waxes to keep things from turning or rotting from moisture, caps for the chanter when it’s not in use, metronomes for practicing your tempo control, the list goes on and on … oh, and of course a good case to keep your pipes nice and safe.

From time to time, there’ll be all kinds of “little things” that you’ll need to have on hand, and there’s no way around that. It’s kind of like your car … you can spend all you want on the vehicle itself, but if you want to keep it looking and running nicely, you’re still going to have to shell out here and there on things like Armor-All, washer fluid, engine oil and those little pine tree thingies for your rearview. =)

This will by no means be a full list of every-little-thing you’ll ever have to look at grabbing … but I’ll do my best to try and think of most items.

Pipe case: $100 – $250

Without a doubt, this is one of the bigger, and most important purchases you’re going to have to consider. It’s essential that you use something to help you keep/transport your pipes safely. These can be hard, stiff shell cases, or softer “gig bags.”

There are plenty of ways to go about it, including a number of unconventional options. Expect a separate article or blog post on this subject pretty soon.

Anyway, here are a few examples of what I consider to be good case options:

This is fairly typical of most softer cases that are available, and I think it’s a pretty good option for those who don’t want to spend a fortune. If you’re the type who uses a robust canister system though, this case might be a little tight for space.
(Image from an Amazon retailer)
Definitely not a cheap option, but a good one if you want good protection, and the ability to carry a lot of stuff. I do personally use this bag. I actually posted a Youtube review on it that you can watch.
This really carries a lot, and really keeps your instrument safe, with lots and lots of room for a variety of gear. This works well for me, but I can definitely understand some feeling that it’s just a little too much (room, money, etc).
Image: Mixware
Good example of a more traditional-style case. Straps inside to help prevent the pipes from jostling around, and good padding as well. Otherwise, hard on the outside. If you don’t like the backpack style of the others, this is a good option from a good company.
Image: R.G. Hardie
One more from R.G. Hardie, simply to illustrate the case type—the flight-friendly option. These sorts of cases are good if you’re traveling a lot via air. Convenient for getting around the airport, and normally they’re designed to adhere to TSA-regulated size.
Image: R.G. Hardie

Bag Cover & Drone Cords: ~$50 – $75

Quite simple really, this is a specially made, decorative fabric cover for your pipe bag. Some players (like myself) actually prefer not to use a cover, but it’s a bit frowned upon, depending on where you’re playing.

To look a little more professional, it’s a good idea to throw a cover on your bag.

As for drone cords, they are essential, but generally inexpensive. All they do is keep your drones in the right position as you play, in a semi-decorative fashion.

I really like the products from Highland Gear Pipe Band Products, though there are plenty of other providers out there.

Here’s a good view of me at a show where I remembered to throw my bag cover on. Those cords are looking mighty dirty and nasty though—they were soon replaced following this photo being taken.

Photo: Liquid Lindy Photography

And here’s a show where I didn’t have my cover on the bag. You can easily see the zipper that’s built into the back-left side of the bag.

Photo: Andrew Lesny Photography

Chanter Cap: $15 – $75

This used to be a really simple item. But modern innovation has prompted the creation of all sorts of variations of this device.

It’s bad for your chanter reed if you leave it sitting in your pipes for extended periods after playing. It’s best to separate it from the instrument, and throw a “cap” over the exposed reed section. This keeps the reed away from all sorts of moisture that will often collect inside the bag. People who neglect to do this often have trouble with mold showing up on their reed.

Here’re a few examples of chanter caps you can find/use.

A simple cap for your chanter when you have it out of your pipes.
That’s it. Nice and simple.
Image: McGillivrary Piping

A slightly newer take on the standard chanter cap. This one will tighten on all sides when you twist it, instead of using a thumb screw. Not essential, but neat all the same.
Image: The Piper’s Hut
One of the newer and more clever innovations out there for this type of product. This cap is made to house both your chanter top, and a Boveda humidity packet. The packet will help keep regulate the humidity inside the cap … neither too wet or too dry. The very top of the device also has a simple hydrometer, which will let you know when the packet needs to be replaced. Pricey thing, but it’s a clever little product all the same.
Image: bagpipelessons.com

Maintenance Items: ~$50 – $75, total

This is all the little stuff that you should always have around. If you don’t you’ll be that person who’s always mooching it off of the other pipers around you. Don’t be that piper … have this stuff onhand, and keep it in your case.

PLAIN YELLOW “HEMP” … aka, linen thread: ~$10 – $15
This is what pipers usually use to keep the pieces of their pipes together. Add some when things get loose, and take some off when they’re too tight. It’s called “hemp,” as long ago, pipers would use actual hemp thread—until it was prohibited by the British military. Since then, bright-yellow linen thread has been used. The term “hemp” remained though. I’ve been told that the bright yellow color was used on purpose so that it was visually distinctive from real hemp, thus avoiding trouble easily.
Image: www.thepipershut.com

BEE’S WAX: $5 – $10
This is commonly applied to the hemp threads, in order to help it repeal water, and thus discouraging rot. No matter what, hemp needs to be replaced, but applying bee’s wax as hemp goes will definitely help it last longer, and keeps your pipes in better shape overall.
Image: piperssupply.com

BLACK WAX: $5 – $10
This is another wax that should ALWAYS be applied to ANY hemp thread on your pipes. This wax is REALLY sticky stuff, and it’s only applied to the first foot or so of thread. This will force the thread to “stick” to the wood, and keep it from turning. Nothing is worse than a bunch of hemp that starts turning in-place on the joint—makes it seemingly impossible to move or separate the joint.
Image: piperssupply.com

PREWAXED HEMP: ~$15 each
A product that’s intended to combine the linen hemp above, and the two waxes mentioned. Nice idea—in practice though, while relatively convenient, they don’t effectively replace the products above. More to come on this later, when I can get an article together on the subject. At the very least though, these can be cool to have/use in a pinch.
Image: www.thepipershut.com

Very controversial material for pipers. Some swear by using it with or without hemp on their joints, while others insist that it’s wildly destructive to use. Personally, I don’t like using it instead of thread, but I DO feel it is a good, quick solution if you encounter a loose joint when you’re about to go play somewhere. So I always keep a roll in my sporran, ready to use at a moment’s notice.
Image: www.thepipershut.com

Yup … times are a-changing. As such, actual hemp thread is no longer taboo. In fact, many folks (including myself) find it highly preferable to linen hemp, as it’s less prone to swelling and rotting from moisture.
Image: piperssupply.com

Lots of folks don’t bother with this, but if playing wood sets (especially vintage) it’s a really good idea to try and limit tons of moisture collecting inside of the pipe bores. A simple and cheap brush set like this is good to have around. Simply shove these through the various pipes after long playing sessions, and you help limit the stress of excessive soaking and drying on the wood. Each piece has different diameter bores, which is why there’re a few sizes in the set.
Image: www.thepipershut.com

BORE OIL: ~10 per small bottle
Related to the above, it’s a very good practice to not allow the wood in your pipes get too dry. The less oil content in the wood, the more moisture will work into the wood (and out afterward) every time you play. The wood doesn’t like constant changes/stresses to it, and this often leads to cracking. Oils such as this product, Bore Doctor, will help keep the wood in the pipes nice and stable. In most climates, the bottle shown above would easily last you a year or so.
Image: doctorsprod.com

Simple device that will sound out a beat for you at a predetermined tempo. Lots of people HATE playing to these, but it’s a seriously under-rated tool that every piper should use. Note, there are plenty of good phone apps for this as well.
Image: www.guitarcenter.com