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Old 01-16-2018, 04:04 AM   #1
Michael Ufford
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Default Middle drone SSP in A

Have been working on my three-drone A SSPs for several weeks now and I need some info about tuning the middle drone. Started out with just the chanter, added the A tenor drone and now I am eager to get some nice drone harmony going. As I understand it, the middle drone is tuned to E for tunes in the key of A ... and to D for key of D tunes.

Can some kind person tell me the approximate difference in drone length between the E and the D pitches? I think if I had a ballpark idea, I could make the fine adjustments by ear. Thanks, Mike.

Last edited by Michael Ufford; 01-16-2018 at 04:12 AM.
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Old 01-16-2018, 04:34 AM   #2
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Default Re: Middle drone SSP in A

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Originally Posted by Michael Ufford View Post
Have been working on my three-drone A SSPs for several weeks now and I need some info about tuning the middle drone. Started out with just the chanter, added the A tenor drone and now I am eager to get some nice drone harmony going. As I understand it, the middle drone is tuned to E for tunes in the key of A ... and to D for key of D tunes.



Can some kind person tell me the approximate difference in drone length between the E and the D pitches? I think if I had a ballpark idea, I could make the fine adjustments by ear. Thanks, Mike.


This is difficult to answer, there can be lots of variables. Not all baritone drones are capable of doing both E and D (I believe), in which case, you'd need to pick one key, and shut it off for the other.

I suggest getting out a tuner, and manipulating the reed so that half position on the tuning pin is Eb, which is halfway between the notes. Then, if the tuning pin is long enough, youd be in the best setup to hopefully get E tuning down the pin, and D tuning high on the pin.

Where are the pipes from? If the maker is around, it would be good to ask them.

Good luck, let us know how it goes.

Cheers,
~Nate


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Old 01-16-2018, 04:39 AM   #3
Klondike Waldo
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Default Re: Middle drone SSP in A

It really depends on your particular set of smallpipes as to how much of a shift, but on my Kinnears if I set the baritone drone reed so that E tunes at about 3/4 of an inch from the bottom, then D is out at or near the hemp line. What I found works better for me is a plug-in extender I made with some brass hobby tubing and a piece of Macassar ebony. The OD of the tubing just fits the ID of the drone bore and extends it just about 3/4 inch.


I've also found that if I remove the middle section of the Bass drone, and put the top section on the bottom section, I can tune that to D as well. I'll be working on a G extension for the tenor drone next.
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Last edited by Klondike Waldo; 01-16-2018 at 04:42 AM.
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Old 01-16-2018, 06:08 AM   #4
Michael Ufford
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Default Re: Middle drone SSP in A

Thanks, Nate and Bob. Good info.

My A pipes are from McCallum. In his on-line video description, Fred Morrison clearly refers to the middle drone as an E drone.

After working on the drones a bit more, I have concluded that it's not possible to get the middle drone down from the E to a D without making the reed adjustments or drone extensions you suggest, which I haven't tried yet.

But I have discovered that I can get a nice D to sound on the BASS drone with the middle joint removed, as suggested by Bob Cameron. .

Thanks again,

Mike
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Old 01-16-2018, 08:34 AM   #5
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Default Re: Middle drone SSP in A

Right on. Some smallpipe makers have been industrious enough to make a drone "switch" on the top section of the baritone drone. Bascially, it's a hole in the side of the drone, nearly halfway down the top section.

Assuming that the drone is designed to be a D drone at full length, opening the hole on the side effectively shortens the drone to be now an E drone. My first set of smallpipes featured this. The hole on the side had a ring of imitation ivory that would be turned to either open or close the hole.

Plenty of solutions out there, but that's definitely one of the more elegant ones I've seen.

I like Bob's suggestion of making up an extender.

If you don't feel so handy though, many/most makers are kind professionals, who are willing to work with people and what they have. Maybe you might ask if someone with proper experience could make up an alternate drone top for your set?

I see that you're in Toronto? If so, there's a fellow named Wayne Fisher who makes smallpipes. I've not dealt with him, but I've heard good things. He's out in Watford, ON, so he'd be the closest. (http://www.fisherbagpipes.com/bagpip...sh-smallpipes/)

Also, as it happens, I just met a really cool maker named Robert Flensberg, who is based down in Pittsburgh, PA in the States. Great guy, makes excellent pipes, and I'd bet he'd be a good person to try if you need some work done. (http://www.thequietpiper.com/)

Also, Michael MacHarg in Vermont is worth contacting. One of the most revered names in North American pipe making, and I know he does plenty of restoration and service work various pipes. He's top notch. (http://www.weepiper.com/)

Chances are, you'll be able to get anything you need from one of those. But do keep in mind these guys almost invariably backed up with orders. So expect to pay a little bit of a premium, as you'd probably be taking them away from working on their queue, and it'll probably take some time for them to fit you in somewhere.

Hope some of this helps.

Cheers,
~Nate
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Old 01-16-2018, 09:48 AM   #6
Michael Ufford
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Default Re: Middle drone SSP in A

Thanks, Nate, for all the references. I aspire to one day owning a set of your pipes. Mike.
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Old 01-16-2018, 10:17 AM   #7
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Default Re: Middle drone SSP in A

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Originally Posted by Michael Ufford View Post
Thanks, Nate, for all the references. I aspire to one day owning a set of your pipes. Mike.
Right on .. though I will say, those McCallum pipes are really quite nice. They make good instruments.

So long as they're bellows-blown. If not, that's fine, but I'm one of those folks who really feels that these are instruments that are really at their best when using bellows.

Cheers,
~Nate
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Old 01-16-2018, 10:26 AM   #8
Steve Bliven
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Default Re: Middle drone SSP in A

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Originally Posted by Pppiper View Post
Also, as it happens, I just met a really cool maker named Robert Flensberg, who is based down in Pittsburgh, PA
Solely for clarification, Rob's surname is Felsburg on the chance that someone might be Googling him...

Best wishes.

Steve
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Old 01-16-2018, 10:29 AM   #9
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Default Re: Middle drone SSP in A

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Solely for clarification, Rob's surname is Felsburg on the chance that someone might be Googling him...

Best wishes.

Steve
Thanks for that.
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Old 01-16-2018, 05:06 PM   #10
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Default Re: Middle drone SSP in A

I will comment that in all my years of playing smallpipes around other musicians, not one has ever told me off for playing an E drone in the key of D.

And before anyone suggests they're being polite, I've been told off for plenty other things!
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