Ishmael's Tabor Pipe Reviews

Following are reviews of some tabor-pipes I have known. Appearing in alphabetical order. See the Pipe & Tabor page for Manufacturers information.

Quick Contents: Generation,
Sweetheart,
Susato,
Miscellaneous

Generation

The Generation three-hole pipe is consistent, inexpensive, and ubiquitous. With a plastic mouthpiece and brass tube either lacquered or nickel plated the pipes are rugged and weatherproof. They are sold far and wide throughout North America and Europe. Response over an octave and a third is easy and predictable.

I have only seen these manufactured in the key of D, however some musicians have converted their six-hole flageolets - available in keys from Bb to G - into single handed pipes by covering the extra holes with tape and (in most cases) drilling a thumb hole on the bottom.

While slightly more expensive, my personal preference is for the nickel plated pipe. Wear and skin treatments such as sunscreen or mosquito repellent remove the lacquer from the plain brass pipe so that after a long session I find metallic deposits on my fingers.

metallic tabor pipe illustration

Susato

Susato tabor pipes, as well as six-hole pipes, are made by George Kelischek from ABS plastic. They are large bore, available in Bb, C and D, and are quite loud. Both the old model, made in the 1980s with a wooden fipple, and the newer model manufactured since 1992 take a lot of air and turn it into sound that can carry through noisy fairs and streets. The upper overtones are close together and require good breath control, without which one can miss the desired one altogether.

Individual pipes can be obtained for specific keys, or one can get a set consisting of a mouthpiece and three separate pipes. Did I mention that these Susato pipes are LOUD?

All things change, and at the turn of the millenium the Susato tabor pipes have changed. The newer pipes are mellow to the point where NK considers the Generation pipes shrill in comparison. In particular, the G pipe can be played inside while conversations take place about the room. It is easy to control the overtones and thrifty with breath. If you need a loud pipe, seek out an older model.

Sweetheart

Sweetheart tabor pipes, from the workshop of Ralph Sweet, are made by hand in a variety of fine woods in keys of D, G, and low D. Due to natural variations in the wood, the hand manufacturing process, and effects of humidity and temperature on wood, each pipe is unique and suitability must be determined by the user. In general they have a more mellow tone than the Generation or Susato instruments and with a narrow windway are more sensitive to the breath. The G pipe in particular is well suited for small rooms and intimate affairs where a metal or plastic instrument would be too harsh.

As with wooden recorders they will absorb moisture and suffer from condensation if cold or played for too long a time. Individual instruments vary, but in general beyond the first full octave the notes become more difficult to hit than with the Generation pipes. I would not expect to play one for Morris Dancing at a noisy street fair, but for Country Dancing indoors they can be just right.

Example

A highly compressed MP3 file (276kB) of the Morris tune Nutting Girl played on a Sweetheart G 3-hole pipe with tabor accompaniment.

Miscellaneous

Pipe & Tabor | Ishmael's Music | Morris Dancing


Corrections, additions or comments?
Send email (if supported by your browser) to the author, ijs@mit.edu.
Original 25 October 1996
Last Modified: Oct 8 22:56 EDT 2001 / Ishmael the Fiddler