During the late 1990's he showed ways to make traditional cane reeds for any pipe that would be more dependable, even in radical climates. He also showed how pipers and even learners can build a performance-quality chanter or practice set for very little cost, without needing special knowlege or equipment.
A more complete list of David's contributions to uilleann pipe- and reedmaking include:
David began uilleann piping in the early 1980's after having become a fluent Highland bagpiper in the mid 1960's. In those days, however, uilleann pipe making had been in severe decline for generations. All the best pipemaking shops of history had closed leaving no apprentices fully trained in the details of the designing and adjusting the finest instruments. Modern pipes were infamous for being difficult to find, set up, maintain and play to performance standards.
Almost from the beginning David had had contact and occasional lessons from touring pipers such as Tim Britton. He attended weekend and week-long pipe gatherings for instruction in playing and reed making by Tim and others including Matty Connolly, Eugene Lamb, Jerry O'Sullivan, and Benedict Koehler. Of course he often had tips and assistance from other professional and amateur pipers. Still, he continued to struggle with the equipment despite numerous purchases, and was troubled by the disparity between a few expert pipers and the very low level of accomplishment of so many learners he met in North America.
David's job in computer technical support made him one of the earliest and very few uilleann pipers on the Internet in the 1980's. This put him in the unlikely position to question others far and wide, to share his growing body of experience, and eventually to collaborate internationally on experiments with pipes and reeds. Finally an inquisitive bassoon player, helping with some reed adjustments, posed the question few pipers had seemed prepared to consider: "Are you certain that the instrument itself is in proper adjustment?"
In 1996 he met Carla Dundes at Irish Week in W. Va., USA, who asked him to check the quality of a used David Quinn uilleann chanter she had recently bought. Most the reeds made or bought for his various chanters played better in the Quinn than in their intended pipes. This answered the question about David's and many of the available modern chanters. Indeed the well-known US piper and tutor author Pat Sky had published an open letter in the 1990's stating that in 25 years he had "never" seen an uilleann pipe delivered in operating condition.
With David Quinn then retired, and not having any pipe making equipment himself, he measured the chanter carefully. Within a few months he had produced and published design data for his radical experimental variant built from cheap thin brass tubes and plastic plumbing pipe. He dubbed it the "Penny-Chanter."
The Penny-Chanter debuted in early 1997 and, with internet support from Craig Fischer of Australia, David developed it into a practical product and began selling it in small quantities. David and Craig have collaborated remotely on numerous tests of reed and pipe construction. Craig, who was already one of the best traditional pipe makers, has gone on to conduct the first measurement survey of surviving antique pipes and the first-ever detailed scientific studies of uilleann pipes. He has become unquestionably the world's leading expert in the acoustic principles of uilleann pipes and is presently busy compiling measurements and scientific study results for publication.
When laid off from his computer support job in 1998, David went into pipe making full time. He and his wife Beth Ann relocated to Whidbey Island in Washington in June 2000 where he continues to play, experiment and expand his pipe making to add the drones and also the antique or flat-pitch styles of pipes, all based on the Penny-Chanter and budget concepts.
Despite numerous new or radical contributions, he remains enthusiastic for the most traditional style playing and pipe making when properly understood and executed. He is presently developing fully traditional wood pipes of his own design.
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