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Old 08-24-2017, 05:50 PM   #1
Piperchase
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Default Drone tuning

It may have been posted in here before...

My drones won't tune to A

They will tune nicely to B but not as low as A

I am using a Korg chromatic digital tuner .
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Last edited by Piperchase; 08-24-2017 at 06:16 PM. Reason: $&#% auto spell
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Old 08-24-2017, 06:43 PM   #2
Green Piper
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Default Re: Drone tuning

A couple of things to try (if you haven't already):

1. Try tuning your drones to your chanter by ear, but you may already be doing this. Could be that tuning drones to a meter is somehow messing things up?

2. Sink your drone reeds deeper into the reed seat. This will sharpen the drone.

3. Adjust the tuning screw to sharpen the drone reeds. How you do this depends upon the reed.

Charlie
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Old 08-24-2017, 07:19 PM   #3
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Default Re: Drone tuning

Hi Piperchase -

Sorry if you already know this, but did you program the tuner according to the pitch of low A on your chanter? There's a way to do this with a Korg that I don't know but someone else could explain. If it's set at A=440, which would probably be its default setting out of the box, your drones would likely read closer to B the tuner. If you already programmed it correctly, disregard. Just wanted to check before you get into any drastic reed manipulations.

If not, your drones might be in the ballpark, and in the meantime you could just ignore the note on the tuner and look at the actual frequency - get a reading on low A, for example 478hz, divide by 2 and you want your tenors at 239hz, half again for the bass at 119.5.

Last edited by DapperDan; 08-24-2017 at 07:21 PM.
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Old 08-25-2017, 03:18 AM   #4
pancelticpiper
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Default Re: Drone tuning

Normal Highland pipe drones will be very difficult to tune as low as A, or as high as B.

The old pitch was around B flat (Bb).

Nowadays Highland pipes tune around halfway between Bb and B.

The default on the tuner is 440.

Click on the button to raise the pitch from 440 to around 450. Many bands will be around 452 to 454 on an ordinary electronic tuner.
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Old 08-25-2017, 10:25 AM   #5
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Default Re: Drone tuning

It sounds like the variable, non-standardized pitch of the highland pipes is what's giving you trouble. I agree with all that's been stated .. though, in my experience, this area is rife with ambiguity, and I'd like to attempt to clear the waters a bit.

Firstly, as has been suggested, the primary thing you should be doing is trying to tune your drones to the 'low A' on your chanter (ideally, by ear). If you ARE doing this, disregard; but the way your question is worded, it sounds like you aren't. If you're relying on using an electric tuner for this, then you're keeping yourself at a disadvantage. Learning to do this yourself, and by ear, is essential. Seek the help of your instructor in this, and/or search out this forum for tips and tricks.

By that rationale, at least when playing by yourself, it doesn't matter what pitch your chanter/drones are sounding ... so long as they're all in concert with each other.

Now, so as not to avoid answering your question, I regress:

If one were to use a tuner to tune the drones, one would first need play the 'low A' on your chanter into the tuner, to get a reading. Essentially, you're establishing what the tuner should consider to be 'low A.' You would then take the tuner and tune your drones until the pitch coming from each matches the reading you'd taken.

There are a myriad of problems and impracticalities in trying to do such a thing, especially alone ... I'm only describing this for the sake of edification. Generally, this method is really only needed and handy for tuning a band.

As said, the Korg (and most tuners) will likely be set, by default, to a calibration of A=440. If this hasn't been altered, then it's likely that a modern chanter's 'low A' will read as a sharp Bb, or a flat B. It certainly won't recognize 'low A' as 'A.' You call it an 'A' ... but the tuner will think it's a different note.

In my experience, the calibration number can be easily altered up or down, as needed, and for this very reason.

It's like changing the zero point on the scale if you were to weigh yourself. Say you're wearing 5 lbs of clothing, and upon stepping onto the scale, you want it to tell you YOUR weight, and not "your weight, plus clothing). You would "calibrate" the scale so that when empty, it reads (-5 lbs).

The conventional pitch for Bb (also referred to as A#, there're the same) is 466. The conventional pitch for B is 494.

So remember those numbers, they're quite handy:
  • Concert A = 440
  • Concert Bb = 466
  • Concert B = 494

The pitch of highland chanters vary, based on the age of the chanter, and the company you keep (bands, etc.). The highland bagpipe pitch doesn't really have a standard "concert" pitch, as opposed to many other instruments. It's something of a trend that has been wavering higher and higher over the course of decades (or longer). Even so, many symphony orchestras will have their own pitch established for their group, and this can vary from the standard, semi-universal A=440.

That being said, at the present time, most recent-made highland chanters seem to be well-encapsulated in the range of A= 475-485. Occasionally, I've been hearing tales of pitch getting near 490, which is wildly close to the concert pitch of B (494).

So that's probably what's happening. Let's say that your tuner is set to the default of A=440.

For example ... upon hearing a chanter/drone that's sounding a pitch of 481, the tuner then:
  • listens to the pitch being played
  • determines the closest concert pitch/note to the sound it's hearing, and considers this as the "goal note"
  • displays the "goal note" for you to see, and tells you whether you're sharper or flatter than the "goal note"

In the above example, lets say your chanter/drones are sounding a pitch of 481 (at the moment). The tuner hears this ... and says (word for word, haha) "hmmm, 481 eh? Ok, that's 15 hz higher than Bb (466) ... and 13 hz lower than B (494). Since it's closer to B, I'm going to say this guy is trying to play a B, but it's really flat."

If you were to change the calibration setting to A=481 ... then you've thus redefined the tuner's perception of A, and thus, it would read A, and green.

Interesting/difficult aside ... unless this has changed more recently (I haven't futzed with a tuner since leaving the pipe band), a Korg tuner's calibration settings max out at 479. So with many chanters now pitching at 480 or above, it's IMPOSSIBLE to calibrate them to say A in them. In this instance, you're better off doing a little math, and reconciling yourself to seeing Bb on the tuner, rather than A. Alternatively, there are other tuners made especially for highland pipes, including smartphone apps.

Sorry this is so long, but I hope this proves helpful.

Cheers,
~Nate

Last edited by Pppiper; 08-25-2017 at 10:43 AM.
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Old 08-25-2017, 06:15 PM   #6
Klondike Waldo
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Default Re: Drone tuning

Piperchase,
which model Korg Chromatic tuner are you using?
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Old 08-25-2017, 11:26 PM   #7
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Default Re: Drone tuning

Pppiper, thanks for taking the trouble to document all that info with good clarity in one post. If one searches the BD archive, you get fragments spread across many posts (with cross-posting as well). I wish BD has stickies for this sort of info.
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Old 08-26-2017, 02:20 AM   #8
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Default Re: Drone tuning

Quote:
Originally Posted by Green Piper View Post

1. Try tuning your drones to your chanter by ear,
Do this, practice practice practice. Tuners are great but, there is no substitute for developing you ear
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Old 08-28-2017, 07:19 AM   #9
Pppiper
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Default Re: Drone tuning

Quote:
Originally Posted by Leong View Post
Pppiper, thanks for taking the trouble to document all that info with good clarity in one post. If one searches the BD archive, you get fragments spread across many posts (with cross-posting as well). I wish BD has stickies for this sort of info.
Glad to help in any way. All the best to you.

Cheers,
~Nate
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Old 08-28-2017, 03:18 PM   #10
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Default Re: Drone tuning

If your tuner only calibrates between a 440-A 450 ( Depends on which Korg) tuner...

first calculate the ratio between the reference note (Hz) and the pitch you want (Hz)- so for Concert B flat, the ratio would be 466.1/440= 1.05932
If your target pitch is 472, divide that by the same ratio to find your "A" on the tuner:
. You'd still be a possibly-inaudible whisker off by rounding down or up given the settings on t your tuner, but at least you'd be close.
I'd round them as 472 = "A 446"; 475= "A 448"; 478= "A 451" ; 480= "A 453"; 482= "A 455; 485="A 456" where you chromatic tuner should label your low A as B flat.

This is based on using one of the simpler Korg tuners, such as a CA 30. Any acoustic engineers want to verify or correct this?
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Last edited by Klondike Waldo; 08-28-2017 at 03:41 PM.
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