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Chris C. 09-14-2018 04:22 AM

Dumb Question: Drones vs. Chanter Reed Strength
Recently, after a two month layoff on the pipes due to an eye issue, I restarted playing again. I used a super easy reed.

Playing wise, it sounded OK. I had re-started pipes over a year ago (after a several year lay-off) and was using a super easy read to start with, before graduating to a medium easy. The super easy reed sounds pretty good in my chanter.

But over time this past week or so I noticed that my middle tenor double-toned more than usual. With the usual vagaries of bagpipes, stuff like double toning can happen. It's a given sometimes -- your arm perhaps isn't as steady as it should be from a spate of lack of practice. But this went beyond that.

I.e., when the air pressure drops a bit, the double tone would kick in. I'd 'punch' the pressure back up with my arm and it would be normal for a while, and then it would do it again. I know some of this can be attributed to arm steadiness, but it went a beyond that.

I popped in my medium easy chanter reed and the issue went away.

I am still getting re-used to the medium easy which I had been using for much of the past year. But the center tenor reed issue I was having has disappeared -- it only reappears when my arm steadiness is definitely in play.

So my question is: is drone performance really that connected to what the chanter reed is doing, or chanter reed strength? In a way it makes sense, but you'd think after years of playing these things I would have known it by now.

el gaitero 09-14-2018 04:40 AM

Re: Dumb Question: Drones vs. Chanter Reed Strength
The efficiency setting ( bridle position) will allow each drone reed to be Ďpressurizedí up to the h2o strength of the warmed up chanter reed...or shut off when reaching it if the tongue is too short. If the tongue is too long ( inefficient) the reed will likely very easily double tone if not just sound poorly.
Get the tenor reeds settings maxed out for best efficiency based on rock hard bag pressure....if you canít chanter screeching...use a slightly stronger chanter reed. Hopefully the bridles are still doing their job...but if fatigued and not holding the tongue strong enough...inefficiency, decreased tone,and double toning will result you can of course swap reeds in the drones to assess if itís the reed or the drone...or try an appropriate tight O ring to augment the bridle.
If considering new reeds..the new Mccallum/ Grossart ( MG) White Mamba reeds got my attention recently.

Patrick McLaurin 09-14-2018 07:07 AM

Re: Dumb Question: Drones vs. Chanter Reed Strength
You need to set the drone reeds to operate at the pressure required to make the chanter reed sound. Your tenor is set to play too “hard”. You need to make the tongue shorter by moving the bridle. Teeny weeny itsy bitsy yellow polka dot bikini movements are all that is needed during this trial and error process. If you saw it move, it might have moved too far. Ideally, once you move to a stronger reed, the drones would start cutting out meaning you would need to make the tongue longer again.

I think large diameter bushings in the drone tops also lead to this issue, but pipe makers generally know what they’re doing and your case is cut and dry.

piper Q 09-14-2018 08:04 AM

Re: Dumb Question: Drones vs. Chanter Reed Strength
Chanter Reeds vary between manufacturers, and also the Bridles can be quiet different. Check your drones out closely if you use Balance Tone as I do the bridles may be starting to tear. Either replacing the bridles or reeds are options if that is the case. Other reeds such as Rockets use what are apparently O rings for the bridles. these too can weaken with age and may actually harden with the rubber cracking.

So while attempting to balance the drone reeds to reduce air flow so you can achieve a clear over pressure shut off is fine in regards to the chanter reed you play. If there are other problems with the drone reeds you may find yourself with double toning as you've expressed.

Examine the drone reeds, look to see if they show signs of age or are reasonably intact. Afterwards, seek to remedy the double toning.

pancelticpiper 09-14-2018 08:22 AM

Re: Dumb Question: Drones vs. Chanter Reed Strength

Originally Posted by Chris C. (Post 1331170)
...when the air pressure drops a bit, the double tone would kick in.

I popped in my medium easy chanter reed and the issue went away. drone performance really that connected to...chanter reed strength?

You've answered your own question, in truth. As you observed, when the pressure is too low the tenor falls back to its doubletone, when the pressure is maintained high enough the tenor stays at its normal tone.

As Patrick is saying you have to have the drone reeds adjusted to play correctly at your specific chanter reed strength. Personally I want my drone reeds as efficient as possible, so I have my tenors adjusted so if I blow a bit too hard they cut off. If your tenor reeds are too closed they can cut off at normal playing pressure, if too open they can doubletone at normal playing pressure. In other words there's a window, fairly narrow, that I aim at. (Bass reeds are more forgiving.)

I think it's more challenging to set up pipes to play at an unusually low pressure or an unusually high pressure than it is to set up pipes at a middling pressure. At both pressure extremes difficulties can arise with drone performance. (I've seen setups at so low a pressure that the valve would malfunction.)

Now that I'm in my sixties I keep my pipes at the lower end of what works well. But a friend who used to compete in Open tried my pipes a while back and found them too hard for his liking! His pipes sound great, and he plays at a lower pressure than I feel works well for me.

Chris C. 09-14-2018 03:02 PM

Re: Dumb Question: Drones vs. Chanter Reed Strength
Thank you all for your kind input.

I will keep working with the drones and see if I can improve it.

I may try a different brand of drone reeds also.

I know some of it is arm steadiness... but some of it is the drone setup.

You know, I hated cane. But I never had a double-tone problem like this with cane -- the only problem with cane was they'd swell and cut off after an hour or so of playing... :-)

I don't think I'll go back to that any time soon... Just never had a persistent double tone before. Luckily, if I really get my arm steady, it disappears... mostly. :-) But obviously it is also reed set-up so I shall take all your input into consideration.

Thanks to all again.

PS -- "if you saw it move, it might have moved too far." That's a very good thing to know.

el gaitero 09-14-2018 03:46 PM

Re: Dumb Question: Drones vs. Chanter Reed Strength
To move a ( flat band) bridle in the oft required split nanohairs ...a couple of the big boys showed me years back how they would scuff the leading edge with their finger at the compass points and In microscopically make the bridle ‘inchworm’ forward or back. This can be tedious depending on how many atoms you need to move it ...and then a trial mouth blow ( in the drone) to see when/ how easily or too quickly it shuts off.. give it a good strong blow...looking for about 2 seconds as it’s coming up to max pressure to shut off. You might more of an interval....but no so much less ..that you’ll shut off the reed when striking in or comfortably playing.

Dan Bell 09-17-2018 10:53 AM

Re: Dumb Question: Drones vs. Chanter Reed Strength
No part of your instrument should require any more air than necessary. It definitely sounds as though your drone is far too open. IMO, it's really important to understand that synthetic reeds very often DO NOT come out of the box set to the right strength FOR YOU. Having to adjust them is quite normal. It's also normal for them to drift out of adjustment over time, both due to climate conditions, and because of the pressure imparted by airflow through them.

Piping Potential 09-18-2018 05:24 AM

Re: Dumb Question: Drones vs. Chanter Reed Strength
I have this problem with my < year old Ezeedrone reeds (which are anything but easy to set up). When there's a nice comfortable easy reed in the chanter the middle drone will double tone at the slightest change in pressure. I fiddled around with it for about an hour yesterday and gave up. Gonna try a set of Selbies and see if that helps. Not sure what else to do.

MichiganGaidar 09-18-2018 06:52 AM

Re: Dumb Question: Drones vs. Chanter Reed Strength
With Ezee, you don't even really push the bridle - all I ever do is scuff the leading (or trailing, if I'm closing up the reed) edge of the bridle with a fingernail in the desired direction.

It is inescapable that Ezees are definitely past their service life within a year of regular use, but the bridle and tongues can fatigue earlier than that, depending on climate and intensity of usage.

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