Practice Chanters

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Many pipers play their practice chanters more than they play their pipes. This is not necessarily a good thing, but it is a fact.

Yet all too often pipers accept a level of tuning and tonal quality with their practice chanters that they would never tolerate with their pipes. I am a stickler for practice chanters that are in tune and tuneful. With this in mind, I have settled on practice chanters made by just one craftsman: John Walsh, a fantastic piper who won the World Pipe Band Championship as Pipe Sergeant of the 78th Fraser Highlanders in 1987. A Yorkshire native, John now resides in Antigonish Nova Scotia, where he makes pipes, smallpipes, piping supplies and of course practice chanters.

I have played John’s practice chanters — both polypenco and wood — exclusively in my high school band since 1998 and have found no reason to change.

John Walsh Practice Chanters

John Walsh practice chanters – both delrin and blackwood – are among the best quality and value in the business. Once you become accustomed to the watertrap installed in every model you’ll never want to be without one. (You simply turn the chanter upside down to empty it, though I also recommend that after a long playing session you take the top off the chanter to let the reed dry out thoroughly overnight.)

John Walsh polypenco practice chanters, from left to right, “Long,” “Regular” and “Child’s” size.

John’s polypenco practice chanters are very affordable, bright, and in tune with proper reed placement in the reedseat.  His wooden chanters sport the same traits, but with an extra level of resonance and vibrancy.

Recently, the CITES organization has begun to regulate African blackwood. Though it is not illegal to cross borders with it, importing and exporting it requires an additional level of administration that makes it more expensive and bureaucratic to acquire and ship.

As a result, John has discontinued use of African blackwood and is making practice chanters out of Katalox, also known as Mexican Royal Ebony. It comes from southern Mexico, Central America, and the northern part of South America. It is extremely hard and high density, and is more and more being used to make instruments that were at one time exclusively made in African blackwood or ebony. It makes beautiful pipes and practice chanters.

John Walsh practice chanters in Mexican Royal Ebony (Katalox), from left to right, full nickel ferrule and ring, nickel ferrule and wood sole, full imitation ivory.

John’s practice chanters made in this wood are elegant and display the same superb tone heard from his African blackwood chanters.

John threads all of his reedseats so the reeds don’t fall out, and installs a watertrap in every practice chanter except the child’s size, which is too small to accept one.

I recommend a John Walsh practice chanter reed in John’s chanters. I carry John’s practice chanter reeds exclusively and have played one myself for decades. Every practice chanter comes with a reed.

  • $115.00
    John Walsh Long Polypenco Practice Chanter with Watertrap

    This is my best-selling practice chanter. All plastic, it is bright, perfectly in tune, and has long finger spacing to match that of a pipe chanter. It has a watertrap, a threaded reedseat, and is eminently affordable. This is a great starter model before you move on to wood. Or you may play this chanter for the rest of your piping life! To empty the watertrap you just turn the chanter upside down.

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  • $95.00
    John Walsh Regular Length Polypenco Practice Chanter with Watertrap

    This is a traditional practice chanter design: a slightly shorter chanter with short finger spacing, the way all practice chanters were made prior to the 1970s. Some people like to buy these for younger children and then graduate up to the longer version once they grow.  Some people like them because they are a little more comfortable to play while resting the end on a table. Again, it has a watertrap and a threaded reedseat. To empty the watertrap you just turn the chanter upside down.

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  • $85.00
    Child’s Polypenco Practice Chanter

    For the very young piping enthusiast – children in the 6-9 age group – here is a chanter with the same finger hole spacing as the regular, but with a shorter top. Unfortunately, the chanter top is too short to accommodate a watertrap.

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  • $285.00
    John Walsh Long Mexican Royal Ebony Practice Chanter, Imitation Ivory Ferrule and Base Ring

    A step above the tone of the polypenco chanter, with beautiful workmanship, this chanter sports a non-chip imitation ivory ferrule and ring around the base, the usual Walsh watertrap in the chanter top and a threaded reedseat.  This is an eco-friendly wood. To empty the watertrap you just turn the chanter upside down.

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  • $285.00
    John Walsh Long Mexican Royal Ebony Practice Chanter, Nickel Ferrule and Base Ring

    My favourite, this Mexican Royal Ebony long chanter has a nickel ferrule and a nickel ring at the base. It has a threaded reedseat and a watertrap in the chanter top. This one is a beauty in my opinion. To empty the watertrap you just turn the chanter upside down.

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  • $285.00
    John Walsh Long Mexican Royal Ebony Practice Chanter, Nickel Ferrule and Wood Sole

    This is a lovely design for those who like a sole at the base of their chanter. The ferrule is nickel. The Mexican Royal Ebony sole will not chip. Again, it has a watertrap and a threaded reedseat. To empty the watertrap you just turn the chanter upside down.

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  • $238.50
    Complete Tutor Package with Poly Chanter

    Start with everything you need in this complete tutor starter package:  The College of Piping “Green Book”, the National Piping Centre Highland Bagpipe Tutor Book, and Rhythmic Fingerwork, along with a John Walsh long polypenco practice chanter. (Regular price CAD $253.50)

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  • $408.00
    Complete Tutor Starter Package with Wood Practice Chanter

    Start with everything you need in this complete tutor starter package:  the College of Piping “Green Book”, the National Piping Centre Highland Bagpipe Tutor Book and Rhythmic Fingerwork, but upgrade to a John Walsh long wooden practice chanter.  You will be asked to specify whether you want the bottom of the chanter to have an imitation ivory ring, a nickel ring, or a wood sole. (Regular price CAD $423.50)

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  • $170.50
    National Piping Centre Highland Bagpipe Tutor Book with Polypenco Practice Chanter

    You can get your piping career started pretty inexpensively with this combo beginner pack. (Regular price CAD $178)

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  • $338.00
    National Piping Centre Highland Bagpipe Tutor Book with Wood Practice Chanter

    Upgrade your National Piping Center Tutor package with a John Walsh long practice chanter in Mexican Royal Ebony. You will be asked to specify whether you want the bottom of the chanter to have an imitation ivory ring, and nickel ring, or a wood sole. (Regular price $348)

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  • $146.50
    College of Piping “Green Book” Tutor with Polypenco Practice Chanter

    You can get your piping career started even less expensively with this combo beginner pack. (Regular price CAD $152.50)

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  • $310.50
    College of Piping “Green Book” Tutor with Wood Practice Chanter

    Upgrade your College of Piping “Green Book” tutor package with a John Walsh long practice chanter in Mexican Royal Ebony.  You will be asked to specify whether you want the bottom of the chanter to have an imitation ivory ring, a nickel ring, or a wood sole. (Regular price CAD $322.50)

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  • $205.50
    College of Piping “Green Book,” National Piping Centre Highland Bagpipe Tutor Book with Polypenco Practice Chanter

    Add a John Walsh polypenco practice chanter to these two classic tutors and save some cash. (Regular price CAD $212.50)

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  • $350.00
    Rhythmic Fingerwork, Piobaireachd Fingerwork, Wood Practice Chanter Package

    If you’re ready to upgrade your playing using the two Fingerwork books, maybe you’re ready to upgrade your sound to a Mexican Royal Ebony practice chanter from John Walsh.  You will be asked to specify whether you want the bottom of the chanter to have an imitation ivory ring, a nickel ring, or a wood sole. (Regular price CAD $361)

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