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Old 07-29-2014, 06:54 PM   #1
venom462
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Default Chanter tuning help

id like some advice on chanter tuning for a beginner, basically, im not 100% sure what im listening for, mostly regarding low and high a, if anyone has any resources to give that would be much appreciated.
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Old 07-30-2014, 07:20 AM   #2
bob864
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Default Re: Chanter tuning help

The hardest part for a beginner is that you can't really tune until you can blow steady.

But -- you want your low and and high a to be in tune with each other. So with the chanter in your bagpipe, cork or tap off your drones and play your high-a however you like to play it. Watch a tuner to see where the needle points and then switch to low-a the needle should not move. If it moves, then move the reed as necessary until it doesn't move.

When high-a and low-a are in tune the chanter is said to be balanced, and you can tune the drones to the chanter and then the other notes.

You will want to learn what it sounds like when the As are in tune with each other. The tuner is just a tool you can use to help you learn what it's supposed to sound like.

Some people suggest that high-a can be tuned a little flat, and it's definitely better a little flat than a little sharp, but listening to the top pipers of today it does not appear that many of them tune with a flat high-a (on the CD's I have bought recently they all seem to be perfectly in tune, but on some CD's from the 90s sometimes you'd hear the high-a just a hair flat.
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Old 07-30-2014, 07:59 AM   #3
Tom MacKenzie
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Default Re: Chanter tuning help

High A is twice the frequency of low A.
On a tuning metre low A will be in tune when the needle is at 0 and the light is green. Say this frequency is 480.
High A will be in tune when the needle is also at 0 and the light is green. Although as noted above high A is tuned just a bit flat to give it a nice ringing sound.

Here is the chart for the other notes, assuming the frequency of A is 480.



The columns are

Ratio is the simple fraction to multiply the base frequency by to get the target freguency.
Freq. Hz is the frequency in cycles per second of the target note.
Chanter Note is the name of the note.
ET Hz. is the closest frequency of the Chanter Note in the equally tempered scale. The ET Hz. is what the tuning meter measures.
Cents Diff. is the number of cents sharp + or flat - the chanter note is of the equally tempered note.

On a tuning meter it looks like this



On a tuner it looks like this



for about $30 or you can buy a Blair Bagpipe Tuner metre for a lot more which does all this math for you.

I use both a Blair Tuner and a $30 Korg tuner and a Korg clip on contact microphone on a spring clip to hold it onto things so it stays put when I am tuning on the pipe.
I usually use the Korg tuner in noisy environments since I can use the clip on contact mic. I've memorized the offsets by now so I can go between the Blair and the Korg at will.
Also I can blow drones with the contact mic on the bass and then blow the chanter into the Blair, without a mic, so I can see if I am blowing the drones true and thus the Blair will be a true indication of the note being in tune. This might be overkill, but there it is.



I set the frequency of A in the tuner by sampling the chanter playing low A and adjusting the frequency until the light is green and the needle on 0.
Then I tune my drones by moving the contact mic from drone to drone and finally back to the chanter.
I then tune all the other notes on the chanter using the offsets in the table above and moving the tape on each hole to get that note to come into tune.

Finally I listen to each note against the drones, but it is usually pretty sweet and ringing like a bell.

After years of doing this every weekday several times in a practice session you realize the importance of steady blowing and you naturally become a steady blower and also your ear becomes attuned to a well tuned pipe and you naturally know when the notes are in tune or not.

Now the challenge is to hear the beat frequencies of the chanter note against the tenor drone. You can hear beats when two drones, say, are very nearly in tune with each other and there is a wah-wah sound. For the chanter notes against the tenor drone the beats will be

Beats Against A3 (the tenor drone)
G4 = 1
A4 = 0
B4 = 5
C#4/Db5 = 3
D5 = 3
E5 = 0
F#5/Gb5 = 7
G5 = 5
A5 = 0

So when you blow A and E in tune you will hear no beats at all, just the ringing of the overtones.
When you blow low G you will hear one beat per second.
When you blow C# and D you will hear 3 beats per second.
When you blow B and high G you will hear 5 beats per second.
When you blow F# you will hear 7 beats per second (good luck with that).

I am just starting on this so it will be a few years yet I expect.

tomm
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Last edited by Tom MacKenzie; 07-30-2014 at 08:48 AM.
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Old 07-30-2014, 08:08 AM   #4
Texas Gael
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Default Re: Chanter tuning help

When I first blow in a new reed, I try it in the chanter outside the bagpipe to see how true it is, making adjustments (sinking the reed or taping holes as needed). It then goes into the bagpipe to check again. After I've played it a bit, making adjustments, I hook up my HBT2 tuner and check each note. Periodically, I'll again check the chanter outside the bagpipe, first by ear, then using the tuner. I mainly tune by ear, but the tuner is a good aid. I also record using a Zoom H2 stereo recorder to check my tuning. My system works well for me and others may have a better system of tuning.

Cheers -

Wes
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Old 07-30-2014, 08:26 AM   #5
Rojellio
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Default Re: Chanter tuning help

I have my suspicions that the "pre-historic" flat High A, was just playing a reed too strong below full pressure. It obviously sounded better to the Piper doing it, to say they like the HA a wee flat.. rather than admitting they were under pressuring their Pipes.

Pipers now are more aware of playing at full pressure, playing at the same pressure on ALL notes, that it takes to sound a clear HA. It is more possible to accomplish this pressure on all notes, if the reed is on easier side of strength, and of course if the reed is FREE & Vibrant.

The way I look at it, if the thought of holding a HA, for the amount of time it takes to play "Amazing Grace" makes you want to pass out.. then maybe your reed is too strong.

As for Tuners, the Blair Smarty phone app is like $15, and it has the Bagpipe Scale or Temperament programed in. I happen to prefer Peterson Tuners, and will only use a Peterson regardless of which Instrument I am tuning. The new strobo HD, and strobo clip both have GHB temp or scale programmed in.

Some Tuners produce an Audio Tone. (I use my Body Beat metronome for this) which allows you to practice Chanter Tuning (the old fashioned way by ear) with your Practice Chanter. The Tuners audio tone is like having a Drone. PCs tune at around Bb 3rd octave (one octave below Pipe chanter, same note as Tenor Drone), or A 466 (if you are outsmarting the meter into saying the note is an A) Another way to do this, is to record yourself playing a LowA on the chanter, and play that as a Drone sound, then go about setting HA, and taping the other notes just like you would a PIpe Chanter using the Drones as a Reference note.

Last edited by Rojellio; 07-30-2014 at 08:28 AM.
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Old 07-30-2014, 09:27 AM   #6
bob864
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Default Re: Chanter tuning help

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rojellio View Post
I have my suspicions that the "pre-historic" flat High A, was just playing a reed too strong below full pressure.
Ewan Macpherson's analysis of the 1996 Piping Center Recital series showed that six of the six pipers he analyzied, including John D. Burgess, Jack Lee, and Angus MacColl, all played with a slightly flat high-a. I'm sure all of those gentlemen were playing appropriate reeds I'm also sure that their pipes sounded how they wanted them to sound, just like today's top pipers.

So I think maybe it's a matter of changing tastes. And it's not much of a change in the first place.

http://publish.uwo.ca/~emacphe3/pipe...anterdata.html
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Old 07-30-2014, 10:42 AM   #7
Rojellio
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Default Re: Chanter tuning help

Quote:
Originally Posted by bob864 View Post
Ewan Macpherson's analysis of the 1996 Piping Center Recital series showed that six of the six pipers he analyzied, including John D. Burgess, Jack Lee, and Angus MacColl, all played with a slightly flat high-a. I'm sure all of those gentlemen were playing appropriate reeds I'm also sure that their pipes sounded how they wanted them to sound, just like today's top pipers.

So I think maybe it's a matter of changing tastes. And it's not much of a change in the first place.

http://publish.uwo.ca/~emacphe3/pipe...anterdata.html
When I say "pre-historic" flat HA, I was talking '56, 66' , '76 and whatnot. The ones people sometimes complain about hearing on Band recordings from eras way previous of 1996. With a big, thick Crow that "leaks" all the way down to LG and maybe even F. The HA craw that doesn't even sound like a note, so much as a screech. And definitely not the HA "vibrato" / taste of craw a good reed will do, by slacking off the pressure ever so slightly.

A big screeching HA of course can be done in the modern era, by simply playing under pressure, and not "blowing though" the screech to a clear bell tone.

I prefer an "old timey" HA, that sings a little, and maybe its a bit flat so it comes up to pitch later. I aim for a free and vibrant reed that makes its own chattering sound in the stock... if it does that, and sounds like "Lord Voldemort's missing Horcrux" is hiding in my chanter stock.. the reed is a keeper.
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Old 07-31-2014, 01:47 AM   #8
venom462
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Default Re: Chanter tuning help

i mean, i know the low a is what you are tuning to, but how important is the the high a compared to low, in terms of importance?
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Old 07-31-2014, 09:10 AM   #9
Rooklidge
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Default Re: Chanter tuning help

Quote:
Originally Posted by venom462 View Post
i mean, i know the low a is what you are tuning to, but how important is the the high a compared to low, in terms of importance?
Exactly the same importance.
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Old 07-31-2014, 09:15 AM   #10
bob864
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Default Re: Chanter tuning help

Quote:
Originally Posted by venom462 View Post
i mean, i know the low a is what you are tuning to, but how important is the the high a compared to low, in terms of importance?
For me high a is equally important. I can tolerate any of the other notes being a little out but if my high-a is not in tune I stop and change it. B and G might be the least important. Ultimately, you want everything pretty much in tune all the time, but realistically it's a tradeoff. Since the individual notes go out of tune as you play, keeping them in tune requires constant attention that takes you away from other issues, like learning to play the tunes.

Fortunately, if you play regularly, once you get a chanter set up it will stay generally in tune while the playing conditions are generally the same. I play in my basement, where the playing conditions are pretty constant for months at a time, so my chanters don't take much work day to day.

I guess when a note is bad enough out of tune that I notice it I stop and fix it.
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