Taming the reed with a rubber band


Well, I should have thought of this earlier, shouldn’t I. If the reed is too hard and licking and squeezing it doesn’t have much of an impact, then take one dental rubber band ( used for practice chanter reeds) and roll it onto the chanter reed, as high as necessary to the tip of the blade, and PRESTO the reed is finally playable!

This is now day two of using the rubber band and I was now able to take it off altogether. Will do the same for me backup reed.

So, it’s been a good two days of practising my tunes on the pipes.  The next major challenge is the tuning process. Will do as much as I can, and then take it to the local pipe band to do the rest for me.

After that, I’ll be on my way to being a not to trashy piper for the next 6 to 12 months.


Back to those drones!

In the last few months I’ve been awfully busy with work and study. Now that the study part is temporarily out of the way, I can devote a little more time to my pipes, rather than just paddling along in maintenance mode.

I really need to learn to tune those pipes. Back to square one.

Frist, I tuned the tenor drones to each other.  Then, I made sure that the two drones shut off at the same time when I apply maximum air pressure. That’s the easy part. The first recording below starts with the drones already tuned to each other, then I move them out of tune and back in. The change in sound from in-tune to out-of-tune to back in-tune is very noticeable.

Next, comes the bass drone. It is the most difficult for me. I have set the top section to expose about 10mm ( or 3/8 inch) of hemp, and the lower section started off with the being about two finger widths apart.

Does that bass drone still sound flat?

Don’t drown your chanter reed!

The Royal Society for the Protection of Chanter Reeds (RSPCR) have given me a serious talking to: do not drown your chanter reed! It is bad for the reed and will make it very very hard to play, and possibly ruin it for life.

Another lesson  in the life of the beginning piper :-/  Fortunately, I was able to find one last low pressure reed in my collection of drowned, chipped and mouldy reeds, otherwise I would have had to suffer the medium pressure reeds.

Three new low pressure EZeePC reeds are on order. I hope that these will survive me a bit longer.

I am still limping along on just two tenor drones because of lack of time for tuning the bass drone. Once my assignments and exams are over, that will be my next challenge, which I am actually looking forward to!

Balancing drones part 2

And on goes the battle of the drones!

First, two tenors being tuned. They are clearly out of tune  during the first part of the recording, which is evidenced by a distinctive beating sound, then they come together as the beating sound becomes less distinctive and ultimately disappears, then I bring them out of tune again and then back into tune.

Next, I have followed the advice provided by the fine folks at Bob Dunsire’s Bagpipe forum. Plugging the middle tenor, I moved the top section of the bass drone to just show two lines of hemp. The lower section has been adjusted to accommodate just the breadth of two of my fingers.  Leaving the top section alone, I moved the lower section up until I thought the beats disappeared.  In the recording below, there is a subtle beat becoming apparent at about 22 seconds. That beat disappears at about 1.02 minutes.  At this point the lower section is very low on the tuning pin, leaving just a finger’s breadth of space.

Balancing drones

Tuning those drones has been an ongoing battle for me. In the end and out of sheer frustration, I just plugged the bass drone and decided to live with the tenors only until I can sort the matter out.

I had a bit of spare time today, between studying and practising with the practice chanter, and so I decided to address that bass drone again.  No matter what I did to the thing, I didn’t like what came out of it. As a last resort, I replaced the reed with my spare inverted reed which is quite new  (I have ordered a set of new drone reeds to make sure I am starting  afresh).

That changed the sound a fair bit, as well as in relation to the other tenor drones. At least it did sound a bit better, although it seems to me that the tenors are slightly overwhelming the bass drone.  Comments, please!

About drone reeds

I am learning more and more about the care and feeding of the many parts of the bagpipe. I want to store this wisdom here and add to this treasure over time.

In a conversation I’ve read on the Bob Dunsire forum, I need to remember that as a drone reed is made easier (i.e. bridle moved away from the blade) the drone sound may become sharper. To counteract this, it is necessary to flatten the pitch of the reed by unscrewing ( or lengthening) the screw on the reed. This will also mean that the drone will tune lower on the pins. Another way of flattening the reed pitch is to hemp it so that it is seated further out of the drone.

This is a very good article on the subject of drone reeds.

Blowpipe stock replacement surgery

I ordered a new blowpipe stock to replace the cracked one. It duly arrived today. Then came the scary bit: extracting the old stock and replacing it with the new indestructible plastic stock. Tools used:

  • liquid dish soap
  • nail file
  • hypodermic syringe

Next, fill the syringe with some soap. Prise open the grommet around the stock by wedging the tip of the nail file between the stock and grommet to create a gap to inject the soap. I went around the grommet injecting a tiny bit of soap. Finally I pressed hard against the stock to push it into the pipe bag. It popped out without much complaint.

Since the collar was already greased with soap, it was ready for me to insert the new stock and push it through until the grommet made a clear plop sound when it popped into the groove on the stock. Done!

I am now ready to get back on to the pipes!