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Old 11-03-2020, 11:07 AM   #1
MariaF
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Default Chanter tuning struggle, the high notes

Hi!
Maybe someone can give me a hint on this. I would be so happy and grateful!

I am struggling to get my chanter in tune, and decent-sounding overall. This is a challenge in all kinds of ways of course, not least because I donīt have very trained ears yet. So I donīt always really know what to listen for.
I have tried some different reeds, as well as some different reed strengths. To have a chance at all, I am always ending up with “easy” reeds. Fair enough, I plug these reeds into my chanter and I basically do everything I read about that one should do in order to tune it. But I always end up with the same problem: After adjusting the reed so that my high a and low a are in tune, I notice that most of the other notes are flat. So I push the reed in further to solve that. This unfortunately also leads to my high g and high a turning very sharp. So I tape them. But I have to cover a little more than half, usually more, of the holes to make it work. And I figure this canīt be good for their sound overall. They do sound horrible, although my tuner says they are in tune. I donīt have the words to describe the sound, I only know it is not pleasant.

Why does it seem so impossible to tune my chanter? Could it have anything to do with my week/easy reeds? I have been at this in my pandemic-loneliness for many many months now, without finding a solution.
I guess a lot of the horribleness comes from me not being able to blow steady enough yet, and it is more prominent on the high notes. But still.. Canīt be the only issue here?
But then again, I never really liked the sounds of the high bagpipe-notes, even when played properly by someone skilled..

Ah, confusing, any ideas about what could be causing this are so very welcomed!

When I google tuning problems, I never find anything about this in particular..

Cheers,
Maria
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Old 11-03-2020, 12:02 PM   #2
CalumII
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Default Re: Chanter tuning struggle, the high notes

Can you tell us what kind of chanter and reeds you have, and what pitch you're trying to tune to?



For a very easy reed, it is quite common for the top notes to be a bit "out of control" and to need a lot of tape like you describe.


First of all, when it comes to pitch remember your target pitch is simply the pitch that the chanter "wants" to play at, because when we play solo we don't have to match with anyone else (for band/ensemble playing it's trickier, but one thing at a time!). So don't be afraid to adjust your tuner up or down to make life easier.



> After adjusting the reed so that my high a and low a are in tune


My approach is slightly different - I seat the reed "correctly", which isn't a hugely helpful term, but the tip of the reed should be perhaps 30mm from the end of the chanter. From here, we can take the tuning of every note, and each one will be a little flat or sharp. Now if we simply take the flattest note, and call it "correct", that means all the other notes are sharp, and we can simply tape down the other notes to match.



Of course of the scale is grossly distorted, then the reed needs to be adjusted in its seat, or possible discarded altogether, but I find this process pretty straightforward and easier to work with than trying to match the As.
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Old 11-03-2020, 12:04 PM   #3
Green Piper
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Default Re: Chanter tuning struggle, the high notes

Maria,

I assume you’re referring to the pipe chanter rather than practice chanter.

There are a number of good apps that’ll help with pipe chanter tuning. I use one called Braw tuner. I have it on my iPad and iPhone and am sure it works on other devices too.

Here are some things that may help:

With Braw, this is what I would do:

1. Set it to chanter mode
2. Play a tune with drones. Green Hills is pretty good as it has all the notes of the scale in it. DO NOT LOOK at the app, just play. If you look at the app, you may over- or under-blow notes to get them to tune.
3. After playing the tune, calibrate Braw using the “average” note value.
4. Play the tune again. Don’t look at the app while playing.
5. Get low A and high A tuned to each other initially by raising or sinking the read.
6. Reset the note values in Braw and play your tune again.
7. Re-calibrate Braw if necessary.
8. Now begin adjusting the tuning of the chanter using tape.

The whole process is iterative and you may take a few playing sessions to get it closer. Remember your reed warm-up time is also important.

The advent of these apps / tuners has been a real help with chanter tuning. They’re not perfect, but do allow a solo Piper without a perfectly-tuned chanter for reference to adjust and tweak their tuning. Over my few years of solo competing, I get good comments on chanter tuning plus, I am developing an ear for what my chanter sounds like when notes are not in tune.

Good Luck.
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Old 11-03-2020, 12:50 PM   #4
olypiper
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Default Re: Chanter tuning struggle, the high notes

Hi Maria,

Have you seen this article from Chris Apps?

https://appsreeds.com/pages/dealing-with-a-sharp-high-g

I, too, struggle with a sharp high hand, especially G and A, and I found this article helped me make some sense of it.
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Old 11-04-2020, 10:00 AM   #5
MariaF
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Default Re: Chanter tuning struggle, the high notes

I really appreciate the effort, folks - so many helpful answers!

CalumII,
I have a Wallace chanter, and the reed I am using now is a Shepherd. The former one I am not completely sure of, perhaps MG (it was the default when I ordered my pipes). I also have a G1 but that is slightly hard for me, so I havenīt used it much yet. I donīt target a certain pitch, just trying to find whatever works on my chanter, as you say. Usually I seem to end up around 475 Hz. I will try you suggestion about taping notes to match the flat one!

Green Piper,
I think that is basically what I am doing, except that I donīt play a tune, I just play the scale. If I play a tune I will have to deal more with the fact that I am not that good at blowing steady, and that makes the tuning process more difficult no? I can be more focused at steady blowing if I donīt have to focus on a tune. Yes, I use the Braw app too, very helpful I think.

olypiper,
Maybe I should open the blades a bit, the mouth does look small and the sound is perhaps "thin". But I do fear doing these things, since I never have before. Letīs see if I dare!
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Old 11-04-2020, 04:25 PM   #6
Pip01
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Default Re: Chanter tuning struggle, the high notes

A Very Partial
Quote:
Originally Posted by MariaF


But I do fear doing these things, since I never have before. Letīs see if I dare!


Greetings, MariaF,

Most happy to have you with us!!... and don't worry
too much about... possibly... making a bollix of it...
and... the reed(s)... :)

All just part of... The Great Waltz-About... with The
Great Beast... and learning what to do... and what
not... to do... next time...

It has been the observation... and of more than one...
bedeviled... and bedraggled piper... that the road to
playing... is cobbled... and deeply... with the remains
of dead and dying... and broken... and cast off... and
cast away... reeds... and of every make... and of every
description...

And... 'twas ever thus!! :)

Just sit ye down... and give it a go... and... win... loose...
or draw... you shall learn... and be the better for it!!... :)
(We've all... been there!!... one thing... or another!! :)

Wishing for you and your present project...All the Best!!

Pip01






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Last edited by Pip01; 11-04-2020 at 04:31 PM.
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Old 11-05-2020, 05:14 AM   #7
uther
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Default Re: Chanter tuning struggle, the high notes

If you check out Matt Willis on youtube, he's done a few videos on chanter tuning, one with the Braw app.
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Old 11-05-2020, 07:01 AM   #8
el gaitero
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Default Re: Chanter tuning struggle, the high notes

[QUOTE=MariaF;1349290]I really appreciate the effort, folks - so many helpful answers!

I have a Wallace chanter, and the reed I am using now is a Shepherd. The former one I am not completely sure of, perhaps MG (it was the default when I ordered my pipes). I also have a G1 but that is slightly hard for me, so I havenīt used it much yet. I donīt target a certain pitch, just trying to find whatever works on my chanter, as you say. Usually I seem to end up around 475 Hz. /QUOTE]

You’ve got all the right stuff....use an instructor or good online guidance to set it up. Confirm what pitch range the chanter was indeed designed for.
If you don’t target that range you’ll forever be chasing yourself. Good luck.
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Old 11-05-2020, 10:21 AM   #9
EquusRacer
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Default Re: Chanter tuning struggle, the high notes

Hi, MariaF. There is more than sufficient information above from very experienced pipers. That said, I would cut to the chase on one level, and that is the chanter/reed combination.

Yes, there will be variables; some of which you pointed out (e.g., reed strength, blowing, etc.). However, most of us go through a number of reeds to find one that "scales" well; meaning, in part, one where taping is not as severe (and one might even have one with little to no tape. Don't believe those who say that they never, ever need tape! But it is nice when it's at a minimum).

In my band, even when we have a good combination (e.g., We're currently using G1 Platinums with McCallum Mk2), it never hurts to experiment with others. It's not just about pitch, scale, balance, etc.; but also brightness, longevity, and so much more.

Good hunting! Cheers, Michael
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Old 11-08-2020, 08:23 AM   #10
MariaF
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Default Re: Chanter tuning struggle, the high notes

Thanks again folks, for all shared information! I tried some new things but I seem to end up with the same problem. So now I am seriously looking into the scary topic of reed manipulation..

Quote:
Originally Posted by olypiper View Post
Hi Maria,

Have you seen this article from Chris Apps?

https://appsreeds.com/pages/dealing-with-a-sharp-high-g

I, too, struggle with a sharp high hand, especially G and A, and I found this article helped me make some sense of it.
So.. Since the mouth is very thin, the reed is really easy, the sound is thin and the top notes are kind of out of control - it is tempting to try the mandrel-maneuver. Since I donÂīt feel like waiting 2 weeks on an ordered mandrel, I attempted making my own (based on some threads on this forum) from a screwdriver. But just to be clear- am I attempting to open up the upper part of the staple? The staple as in the metal thing inside the reed? That will take some force, no? Should I be able to see the difference when the mouth opens up? Any other hints on this to make a novice if not successful, but at least not a catastrophe?
At first I thought I was supposed to work on the wooden part of the reed with the mandrel. But after further reading I guess not? But then again, I did found some information stating that the same thing can be achieved by just pressing the outer edges of the mouth, is that perhaps a better way? Seems less violent than widening the metal staple.
Anyone who can help me sort this out?

And another thing: When tuning your chanter, do you always plug it into your bagpipes? Or is it okay to play for a while just using the chanter and the reed? Maybe too much moisture..?

Thanks,
Maria
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