We were very excited to get a hold of this latest electronic practice chanter. You might think that there’s not too much new under the sun with these gadgets but it seems piping really does get the electronics nerds excited…
What’s in the box?
The brainchild of Erik Solda from Bonn, the p²chanter (p-too or p-squared, take your pick) presents as a practice chanter-like object and arrives in a black glossy cardboard packing tube. Inside the tube is the unit itself, a lanyard for securing the chanter and a 44-page instruction manual in German and English. We also ordered the optional anti-slip ring and the unique pressure kit – more on this in a later review.
The chanter looks like a long practice chanter with an additional bob at the bottom. For those familiar with a model 1 Deger, you will get it straight away. The electronics in this chanter though are at the bottom including the battery compartment (2 x AAA) and two built in speakers! Other electronic chanters have taken the easy and space-saving route of relying on a 3.5mm jack to get sound out and the p2chanter has one as well for private playing (or even connecting an external speaker come to that). Control of the device is via four switches: Menu, Volume+, Volume- and Power. As with other similar chanters, pressing these in specific combinations allow for a rich set of commands and operations. There are two LEDs to let you know what is going on: a status light that can be either red, yellow or off and a green power one at the bottom.
Removing the battery compartment cover is simple enough and after putting in the required two AAA batteries, the cover returns home with a satisfying click. The anti-slip ring is a great idea and we would recommend purchasing one with every unit. It’s easy to fit on but has to be removed again when changing batteries.
The chanter has a pleasing conical shape – no where near as pronounced as on a real pipe chanter and less then a model 1 Deger but it does lend a quite natural feel to playing. The faux mouthpiece screws out shortening the unit by about 9cm. It is recommended that it is removed when using the included lanyard which attaches around the middle of what would be the reed housing in a real practice chanter. Total weight with anti-slip ring and two batteries is 256gms. It has a pleasant heft for an adult player but may be tiring for a child – the lanyard would be useful here.
Playing a Tune
The finger contacts on the chanter are a single size but concave to imitate the feel of the larger pipe chanter holes. A bit like the counter-bored holes on larger wooden practice chanters. We’ve found this quite comfortable when playing for extended periods of time and the accuracy of playing is improved. On the back are three contacts: the thumb hole at the top, a chanter on/off contact in the middle and the drone on/off contact at the bottom (adjacent to the Low A contact at the front). With both the chanter and drones running, a single tap to the chanter contact will silence the instrument.
The unit is turned on with a simple press of the Power switch and touches to the drone and chanter contacts in order get you going. Pressing the power button for a couple of seconds shuts it down and it will auto power off after a few minutes if you forget. The sound of the GHB chanter and drones is sampled and quite accurate with a single tenor drone at an octave below Low A. The small pipe sound is a little nasally with a single drone pitched at Low A and the whistle has no drone and sounds a bit more bagpipey than a normal whistle should. All of the sounds though are pleasant to listen to and pass the spouse “not too annoying” test.
So, just another electronic chanter? We think there are some really great features that make this product worth consideration:
- On-board speakers for playing at home and band
- Hole-shaped finger contacts for a genuine playing experience
- Continuous monitoring of skin conductance via self-calibrating contact electronics
- Integrated USB port for direct MIDI connection and self-service software updates
- GHB, practice chanter/smallpipes and D whistle instrument sounds
- Optional pressure sensor module for use with analogue set of bagpipes
What’s next? In Part 2 of this review, operating the chanter. Coming soon…