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Technique & Instrument Related to techniques, to the instrument, to the components, to maintenance.

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Old 06-22-2019, 06:07 PM   #1
MacTallanambeann
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Default Picking the right reed

Hi all!

Over all the years I have been piping there has been one thing that I always battle with and that is getting the 'perfect' reed strength. I have tried easy reeds numerous times as I would rather I didn't have to work as hard at keeping the pipe going but I always end up with them squealing on the low A and low G when I start to get really into my playing as I probably push the pressure up a bit. On the other hand, if I go for hard reeds, I don't get the squeal but I can't really concentrate totally on what I am playing as I am working hard to keep the chanter playing and the drones steady. Have I just been using the wrong reeds? I can't deny that, being a poor boy I have never had a great many chanter reeds around at any given time to find that perfect one.

Basically what I am looking for is an easy(ish) reed that doesn't mind if you raise the pressure a little without squealing like a stuck pig when you drop fast from high notes to low A and G.
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Old 06-22-2019, 08:10 PM   #2
Patrick McLaurin
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Default Re: Picking the right reed

Itís tough. It sometimes seems that there are 3 strengths of reeds: easy, hard, and impossible.

Good advice I reckon is thereís no harm in screwing up an impossible reed by scraping it down because if you mess it up, you werenít going to play it anyway.

Thatís all I got. Would be nice if medium strength reeds were more common but I have a hunch that, as currently designed, most reeds come out as easy or hard depending on the cane.

Iíve been playing the same Husk, Sound Supreme, and Gilmour for a while. Might try those if you havenít already.
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Old 06-23-2019, 06:10 AM   #3
MacTallanambeann
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Default Re: Picking the right reed

Easy, Hard and Impossible..... I can agree with that. Back in my pipe band days I always seemed to get the worst monsters going with an "It'll be great once it's broken in" from the PM.

What would be real nice would be a reed that has a wide pressure range without either stopping or squealing now that would be heaven!

I may pick up a few of the reeds you mention to see how they work. It's never been a cheap business trying to find the right reed. One of these days I might just try making my own
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Old 06-23-2019, 07:17 AM   #4
Green Piper
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Default Re: Picking the right reed

I have only really begun being so chanter reed critical in the last year. My current reed preferences are for either Troy or MacLellan, both molded reeds.

When I purchased my latest batch, I ordered six of each in medium as I play in the range of 28-30Ē water which Iíd rank as easy-medium.

My teacher has suggested taking a poker to each one to open them up, which seems to balance top and bottom hand. Then begin carving, taking each reed slowly to a playable pressure.

I have a number of nice sounding, steady reeds. My preferred competition reed right now is a MacLellan which is nicely balanced with a stunning high A and a good steady lowA that forms a great ďlanding padĒ for piob parts that end there. E is a little sensitive to pressure, but tolerable. Got good comments on reed/chanter combo at Pikes Peak.

My #2 reed right now is probably a Troy. It is a tad harder than my #1, but it has better overtones. High A is not as good. However it is steadier on all notes. It is still a work in progress and will get played more often than my #1 in the weeks prior to competitions.

My #3 is a MacLellan, which shares many properties with #1, but is in the process of carving.

It seems that my teacher has encouraged me to think of reeds more as ďliving, changing thingsĒ that need regular attention.

Charlie
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Old 06-23-2019, 06:20 PM   #5
EquusRacer
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Default Re: Picking the right reed

Pick a medium strength reed and get someone who knows how to shave it gently, working it in slowly. I've never been a believer in a gut buster, handed out with two Exedrin. Some reeds (e.g., G1, Troy) function well with a proper shaving to your ideal strength. But it takes someone knowing what they're doing.
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Old 06-23-2019, 06:37 PM   #6
Patrick McLaurin
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Default Re: Picking the right reed

Which is odd because you think that person would be the reed maker. But these days itís all machine made for many, so the only determining factor for strength between reeds would seemingly be the cane, as the dimensions are going to be the same for all their reeds.

No?
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Old 06-23-2019, 08:23 PM   #7
Doug Walton
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Default Re: Picking the right reed

Husk Reeds.
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Old 06-24-2019, 05:29 AM   #8
gisahag
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Default Re: Picking the right reed

I found that the "number of bars" process on Donald Macphee's website https://macpheereeds.com/products/ma...-chanter-reeds
worked really well as a way of getting reeds specific to my strength requirement when ordering direct from the him. Not sure if other makers offer a similar degree of strength specificity.


Generally in my experience the less you mess with a reed the better it will perform, and these days very few reeds need the amount of re-working you had to do 30 years ago.


Neil
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Old 06-24-2019, 09:31 AM   #9
Green Piper
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Default Re: Picking the right reed

Quote:
Originally Posted by gisahag View Post
Generally in my experience the less you mess with a reed the better it will perform, and these days very few reeds need the amount of re-working you had to do 30 years ago.

Maybe for ridge-cut reeds ordered with a specific strength in mind. However, given that the reed material is organic, it will change over time based upon the amount of moisture it receives, temperature, and pipe chanter.

I have had Husk reeds (ridge cut) that needed very little work, if any. However, all Troy-MacAllister reeds (molded) that I have received needed carving and/or poking. When I got a batch of molded MacLellan reeds, I did very little with them, but they were not playable for me until I started carving and poking. Now I have great sounding MacLellan, a couple that are very close to great-sounding and a number of Troy reeds that sound very good. With a bit more playing-in and work, Iíll have at least two or three #1 reeds with a few more serving as back-ups. In my eleven years of piping, I canít say that I have ever had that many working reeds.

It could be a common myth, but I have heard that when Roddy MacLeod gets a new reed, heíll carve and poke it from the outset.

Charlie
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Old 06-24-2019, 10:42 AM   #10
Greenpipe
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Default Re: Picking the right reed

I see that Patrick lists Gilmour as one of his preferred reeds. FWIW I have played easy/medium Gilmours for years and have usually damaged them somehow before they gave out. I've been playing one in my 470 chanter for three years and it plays well and without trouble even if untouched for a few weeks. I don't think I've had to adjust it since last fall. I wish the band used them, but there we have 480+ reeds which can be heard for a mile, and, though produce a superb sound, are like dealing with teen age daughters: hard to handle and always needing attention.

Last edited by Greenpipe; 06-24-2019 at 10:45 AM.
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