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

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Old 06-12-2018, 09:26 AM   #1
Pppiper
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Default Chanter reed issues, going from low to high elevation

So I had a gig this past weekend in South Lake Tahoe. I had two chanters with me (I try to always have a backup with me, with a 2nd reed ready to go), and more than a dozen other new reeds (most of these were Shepherd, but I also happened to have a Husk or two, and a Melvin or two).

I live right next to the water near Boston, Mass ... and as far as I'm aware, the elevation up in South Lake Tahoe was more than 6,000 ft. I believe that's the highest elevation I've ever been. I've heard tales of bagpipes having issues at various elevations, but I kind of figured that if I had a couple of chanters and bunch of reeds, I should be able to get by without issue.

Well, I was kind of correct, in that I got through the weekend in relatively decent form, but what a nightmare. EVERY reed became rather unstable .. lots of squeaks and squaks, and also loud burbles on many notes, especially low G, and often on E and C. In general, if I was really, really careful with pressure, I might avoid the burbling, but it felt like trying to under-blow a practice chanter.

Almost no chanter/reed combo would produce c-natural and/or fnatural ... I either needed to switch those tunes into major, or tape down the holes and try to remember to play normal fingering (because if you play the cross-fingered on a heavily taped down note, the chanter will nearly cut out)...

... And whenever I got a reed to work passably, it would be misbehaving a couple hours later for the next show. So I was tinkering and futzing around the whole weekend.

Also worth noting that the air was considerably drier than on the Boston coast.

So any thoughts/tips from the collective out there? 20 years of playing, and I've NEVER encountered such trouble.

Was it the elevation? The humidity plus elevation? Gremlins? And besides the cause, what to do about it in the future?

Appreciate any feedback.

Cheers,
~Nate

Last edited by Pppiper; 06-12-2018 at 09:30 AM.
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Old 06-12-2018, 10:46 AM   #2
Patrick McLaurin
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Default Re: Chanter reed issues, going from low to high elevation

My understanding is humidity causes reeds to open. So yours probably closed in the drier weather, making them easier to play; hence the gurgling. Chanter probably went sharp on the top hand and a taped high G started squealing. That’s my guess without hearing it and limited data.
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Old 06-12-2018, 11:08 AM   #3
Pppiper
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Default Re: Chanter reed issues, going from low to high elevation

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Originally Posted by Patrick McLaurin View Post
My understanding is humidity causes reeds to open. So yours probably closed in the drier weather, making them easier to play; hence the gurgling. Chanter probably went sharp on the top hand and a taped high G started squealing. That’s my guess without hearing it and limited data.
Sounds plausible. Some reeds were sharper on the high hand than others. Biggest issue for me though was the lost ability to finger c and f natural, and the burbling. I thought about the reed needing to be opened up, but that didn't seem to help.

Eventually, I did figure out it was best to pull out my moisture control canister, definitely wasn't needed. I was tempted to try soaking some reeds in water to see if that helped, but I was afraid to.

Cheers,
~Nate

Last edited by Pppiper; 06-12-2018 at 11:14 AM.
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Old 06-12-2018, 11:09 AM   #4
Anndrah
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Default Re: Chanter reed issues, going from low to high elevation

Welcome to high elevation playing. I have no experience with the odd not, as I am usually piping for competition. The air can be exceedingly dry at that elevation. Try to keep some moisture in the bag. Bring a knife, a poker and lots of tape.
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Old 06-12-2018, 11:19 AM   #5
Pppiper
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Default Re: Chanter reed issues, going from low to high elevation

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Originally Posted by Anndrah View Post
Welcome to high elevation playing. I have no experience with the odd not, as I am usually piping for competition. The air can be exceedingly dry at that elevation. Try to keep some moisture in the bag. Bring a knife, a poker and lots of tape.
Gothcya. So it's fair to presume then that the drier air may have been a significantly contributing factor to the issue?

Cheers,
~Nate
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Old 06-12-2018, 11:21 AM   #6
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Default Re: Chanter reed issues, going from low to high elevation

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Originally Posted by Anndrah View Post
I have no experience with the odd not, as I am usually piping for competition.
Sorry .. could you clarify the above? The statement is alluding me.
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Old 06-12-2018, 11:47 AM   #7
el gaitero
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Default Re: Chanter reed issues, going from low to high elevation

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anndrah View Post
Welcome to high elevation playing. I have no experience with the odd not, as I am usually piping for competition. The air can be exceedingly dry at that elevation. Try to keep some moisture in the bag. Bring a knife, a poker and lots of tape.
I mentioned in another post..what I found helped a few students sound good/win was to put 2-3 ice cubes in the bag a half hour before show time.
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Old 06-12-2018, 11:54 AM   #8
Pppiper
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Default Re: Chanter reed issues, going from low to high elevation

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Originally Posted by el gaitero View Post
I mentioned in another post..what I found helped a few students sound good/win was to put 2-3 ice cubes in the bag a half hour before show time.
Interesting. Talk about the opposite approach to my normal routine on the east coast.

Just to be sure I'm clear .. would you still remove moisture control system desiccant?

Thanks!
~Nate
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Old 06-12-2018, 01:31 PM   #9
el gaitero
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Default Re: Chanter reed issues, going from low to high elevation

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Originally Posted by Pppiper View Post
Interesting. Talk about the opposite approach to my normal routine on the east coast.

Just to be sure I'm clear .. would you still remove moisture control system desiccant?

Thanks!
~Nate
The MCS in place was ( only) a vinyl tube trap....we were at a couple of hot games in NJ...only about 75-100 above sea level.Zipped Gannaway bags IIRC.

I use the ice cubes sometimes on a summer parade day...+ all pipes give a good wet reed lick after a few sets and broiling on hot pavement.
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Old 06-12-2018, 03:45 PM   #10
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Default Re: Chanter reed issues, going from low to high elevation

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Originally Posted by Pppiper View Post
Sorry .. could you clarify the above? The statement is alluding me.
Autocorrected "not" should be notes, the C Nat etc.
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