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

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Old 05-30-2020, 01:41 AM   #1
macdaddy65
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Default Tuning to High A

Hi, Team-

I just want to make sure of something: that harmonic you hear when you are tuning the drones to High A...if that is not steady, you are not in tune, correct?
And...if it is steady, then your drone should be in tune with Low A...or? I am not talking about some "flat by design High A" either...just straight up balanced Low A vs. High A.

It is interesting to read in various instruction books on ceolsean that tuning a drone to E was recommended in the days of yore...

Thanks!
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Old 05-30-2020, 04:56 AM   #2
Tom MacKenzie
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Default Re: Tuning to High A

I have been wondering the same thing. Why tune to High A when High A is typically flat by 10 to 20 cents.

I was told by my instructors that you tune to High A because that sets the blowing pressure to tune the drones to, then to ignore High A while tuning the drones by repeatedly testing against Low A, to get a sense of where you are, then High A to re-tune, then Low A to test, etc. It was exhausting.

Now I when am playing in an environment with fixed temperature and humidity (which nowadays is always) I use a Peterson Strobotuner with a Korg clip-on contact microphone and just blow High A while tuning to the frequency of the Low A on the chanter, once that's done, I test against Low A and make fine adjustments while playing a tune.

I also use Braw Bagpipe Tuner to continuously sample the chanter notes while I am playing and then to re-tape as necessary afterwards and before the starting next set of tunes. I re-check the drones with the Strobotuner then as well.

Playing inside I can choose the frequency I want to play at and then set the pipes to that frequency. A bit like bands I suppose.

However, playing outside I don't use the tuners, and I don't have control over the pitch of Low A. I have to reply on whatever the pitch of the Low A is on the chanter to tune the drones. In that case I use Jim McGillivray's technique of variable pressure to determine flatness/sharpness of the drones against Low A, make adjustments while blowing, but ignoring, High A, then re-test against Low A, vary pressure, and so on. The variable pressure technique is to blow Low A, ease off on pressure a bit, listen if the drones come into tune, if yes, sharpen the drones, if no flatten the drones.

tomm
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Last edited by Tom MacKenzie; 05-30-2020 at 05:02 AM.
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Old 05-30-2020, 06:47 AM   #3
magsevenband
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Default Re: Tuning to High A

If your chanter and reed are balanced, low A and high A set properly and in my case as I play a b flat chanter, both notes reading 466, it shouldn't matter which one you tune to..you should be able to play low A then high A back and forth with equal intonation effortlessly with the same pressure..if not then tape comes in or the reed is not performing at optimum level...could be a bit stiff and in need of more break in to get the sweet spot.
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Old 05-30-2020, 07:49 AM   #4
el gaitero
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Default Re: Tuning to High A

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom MacKenzie View Post

The variable pressure technique is to blow Low A, ease off on pressure a bit, listen if the drones come into tune, if yes, sharpen the drones, if no flatten the drones.

tomm
What drone reeds do you play? Another variable to Ďassistí steady tuning.
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Old 05-30-2020, 12:28 PM   #5
William McKenzie
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Default Re: Tuning to High A

It is my opinion that anything flat is not in tune, i.e. it is incorrect and sounds awful. Both A's should be balanced and 1 octave apart, however you prefer to achieve this (taping down other notes including LA, sinking the reed, etc).

You tune to High A as Tom mentioned, because your blowing strength is based on the pressure where HA is clearest/cleanest/most vibrant. But that doesn't mean it isn't in tune! It absolutely should be in tune. It's not always easy to do, I personally work at it a lot with a tuner and a manometer, but the HA should match the drones you are tuning to. Along the same lines if you have every note in tune down the chanter from HA to LA then you can adjust your drones to an open HA and bring your hand back to go between HA, E, C, LA. E has a clear ring to it usually which makes tuning more obvious.

Hope this helps.
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Old 05-30-2020, 12:49 PM   #6
Patrick McLaurin
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Default Re: Tuning to High A

I more often tune on an open D, but will occasionally find myself moving the drone while playing high A. I find it easier to hear on a D than high A. But, I don’t use any of that information to determine whether I’m in tune. I always check against low A once I’m back in playing position with both hands on the chanter.

Of course, if one is still in the process of finding the correct chanter reed seating depth, that’s another scenario entirely.
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Old 05-30-2020, 04:31 PM   #7
macdaddy65
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Default Re: Tuning to High A

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Originally Posted by Patrick McLaurin View Post
Of course, if one is still in the process of finding the correct chanter reed seating depth
So that is determined when the As are an octave apart, right?

Good information all. I was just getting frustrated listening to that High A harmonic. It seemed to me that if you can get it smooth, that would/should be the point at which you are in tune with the Low A, too. Doesn't always seem to be that way for me...
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Old 05-30-2020, 06:13 PM   #8
DamhCabrachPiping
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Default Re: Tuning to High A

Quote:
Originally Posted by macdaddy65 View Post
Hi, Team-

I just want to make sure of something: that harmonic you hear when you are tuning the drones to High A...if that is not steady, you are not in tune, correct?
And...if it is steady, then your drone should be in tune with Low A...or? I am not talking about some "flat by design High A" either...just straight up balanced Low A vs. High A.

It is interesting to read in various instruction books on ceolsean that tuning a drone to E was recommended in the days of yore...

Thanks!

First you'd have to balance low and High A to each other.

Then yes. Tune to HA and go to Low A, if you hear any change or waiver in your drones- they're out of tune.

Very important that you have tour Hugh a and low a balanced tho


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Old 05-30-2020, 08:02 PM   #9
Patrick McLaurin
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Default Re: Tuning to High A

Quote:
Originally Posted by macdaddy65 View Post
So that is determined when the As are an octave apart, right?

Good information all. I was just getting frustrated listening to that High A harmonic. It seemed to me that if you can get it smooth, that would/should be the point at which you are in tune with the Low A, too. Doesn't always seem to be that way for me...
Yes, the reed depth is used to establish the octave.

Low A is the most unforgiving at revealing out of tune drones, followed by E (recognizing that there are various conventions on how to tune high A). So low A is the reference note for whether drones are in tune or not. I canít count the number of times I hear a great performance but every time they play low A the drones start wavering because it is seemingly the only note out of tune. However, the reality is that the whole scale would sound better if the drones were retuned/recentered on low A.
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