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

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Old 01-26-2019, 01:51 AM   #1
Freeman
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Default Help Improving Band Tuning

Hello,

We're a small-town band in Australia that performs at public events.

I've taken on tuning responsibilities, despite being the most junior piper by several decades; the older guys are either not concerned with tuning, or have no knowledge.

Today was Australia day, windy, 34C, and humid. The results are as follows: https://youtu.be/Fj9ChTLD3kQ

My normal routine is to go around and get high a, low a an octave apart for each player. Then I'll get the PM to take the band through green hills while I set the drones. Occasionally I'll put some tape on a glaring D or HG - but that's the limit of my abilities at the moment.

On hot days I've noticed that many of the players in our band have a sharp low hand and a flat high hand - today I compromised by attempting to get high a in tune, and living with the rest (grating as it sounded to me).

Any tips for these kinds of days, short of taping the whole bottom hand?

Thanks.
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Old 01-26-2019, 03:29 AM   #2
Paul M Burke
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Default Re: Help Improving Band Tuning

I think the first thing you need is that the guys buy in to the fact that tuning is important and a little time spent on tuning is worth the effort.

Second be prepared that while you feel it is necessary other may feel different and when you hear

"we never done it before."
Or

"we always do it this way."

Don't let it get you down.

I'd suggest something simple like the Braw app. The visual representation of the notes may help persuade people to move to the idea of tuning.

If everyone starts out the same then changes to individuals are easier to diagnose and until there is a baseline for everyone it is difficult.


Baby steps.


Paul
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Old 01-26-2019, 05:07 AM   #3
CalumII
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Default Re: Help Improving Band Tuning

Firstly, you need the PM to be behind you, and for you to both agree how you manage things. I've been in that position of running around trying to make things work and having no support.


Secondly, maintenance and instrument fit. I can see quite a few instruments there that I would bet money do not have airtight bags. No bagpipe can be tuned that is not in good condition. There also quite a few oversized bags and wrongly sized blowsticks. Pick a moisture control system and ensure it is used properly.



Get the drone reeds set up secure, reliable and stable. Drones should be able to stop and be blown up again staying perfectly in tune. Enforce clean, accurate playing.


Finally, chanters. Take advice on what reeds will suit you, and re-reed the band all at the same time. Have a set warmup/tuning up procedure and tunes and follow it. If someone's chanter is not good enough, stop them playing.



As for developing your own skills - spend a lot of time getting to know how to produce a really good sound on your instrument. Everything a bagpipe does happens for a reason; learning what it's doing and why is essential.
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Old 01-26-2019, 06:25 AM   #4
magsevenband
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Default Re: Help Improving Band Tuning

Quote:
Originally Posted by Freeman View Post
the older guys are either not concerned with tuning, or have no knowledge.
Sounds like most bands around NY/NJ also...invest in reeds, chanters, check bags for leakage, work on strike ins.
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Old 01-26-2019, 10:31 AM   #5
LJ Neville
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Default Re: Help Improving Band Tuning

All of the above, and also, blowing. Tough to tune folks if they are not powering the instrument steadily. If you are at a loss as to how to work on this I'd be happy to forward you my method. Message me with your email address if interested.

I wish you the best of luck - it may be an uphill battle but when you get there, it will be so much more satisfying for everyone - the players AND the audience!
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Old 01-29-2019, 09:17 AM   #6
Pppiper
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Default Re: Help Improving Band Tuning

(edit made below)

This is a big topic.

Note, I'm not very good at writing concisely ... so apologies from the get-go: there's lots going on here, and details matter. You asked for tips, so hopefully some of the following will prove to be helpful.

There are lots of methods, the items below are what proved to be effective for me when I had such responsibilities.

Ok, first off, heed the notes here about blowing and maintenance. These are BIG issues in bands that contain lots of players who are either novice/negligent. It becomes clear who takes their sound more seriously. If people are determined to sound better as a group, you and the leadership will need to do your best to inspire the membership to help in being responsible for improvement.

Blowing is huge. Unfortunately, it's probably the most overlooked area on the part of bands and players. Without steady blowers, there's really only so much you can do to tune the instruments. Invariably, this will be even more of an issue when the band is trying new tunes, or full of nerves (say, in front of judges in a competition).

Good fingering (precision) is nice, but if instruments' tone is all over the place, then even the best fingers in the world won't do much to make a good sound. As far as I'm concerned, tone/tuning forms the foundation of your "sound pyramid" .. the next level would be people playing together/in time.

Occasional "blowing" clinics are a good start, and I'd suggest going more frequently unless you start see progress. These are good things to bring an instructor in for, if you can afford it sometimes. For this, I recommend building a few simple "manometers" (good resource article here: http://bagpipejourney.com/articles/manometer.shtml) for people to use, and have others observe as folks have their turns. Make it a fun little game/competition if you want ... guy/lady with the most unsteady blowing buys the group a 'round at the end of the night, etc ... keep it light-hearted and fun.

Maintenance/setup is a big part of this. If a pipe is leaking, falling apart, etc ... it's game over ... especially with cumulative effect. Here's a good article on checking key items, and staying on top of them (http://pipehacker.com/2010/10/07/4-s...gpipe-blowing/)

The better things start to go with blowing clinics, you should get to a point where players are both watching the water movements, and HEARING the sound changes they represent. This will help to train the ears and control of your players, and I think you'll find a lot of improvement in a few weeks. Keep it up, and imagine the difference after 6 months.

* * *

When I was the "sound guy" for a band years back, I adopted a system based on an article that I had read about a long time ago ... can't remember the author.

A big key was setting chanters that are effectively warmed up. Tuning/adjusting the notes of a chanters that have not been played at all for the past 20 mins is not going to help you much ... things are going to move.

For our group, I instituted a "buddy system" for setting chanters. First, we'd take a reading of the "master piper" for the day ... master, meaning "template." This would be someone who is one of the steadiest blowers in the band.
  1. Everyone gets pipes together, plays on their own a little .. 3-5 mins.
  2. Tuning guy listens to master piper, makes adjustments to notes so they all sound good to his drones, and then takes a meter measurement of his low-A. Lets say it's A=478 hz .. ~5 mins
  3. Whole band assembles, plays simple sets as tuning guy goes around, setting drones to 478. Making 2 passes around the circle is recommended. ~10 mins
  4. Everyone takes note of the people to their left and right in the circle ... these are their "tuning buddies."
  5. Starting with the "master piper" first, tuning guy listens and readjusts as necessary. Meanwhile, the TWO pipers who were to the left of the master are off to the side, playing some simple tunes, and keeping their pipes warm. Take a good 5 minutes with the master piper, thus allowing the next two to get nice and warmed up. The rest of the band can relax, but should be actively watching for their "buddy"
  6. Call over piper 1 who's been staying warm, playing with piper 2. Now, the buddy system takes effect .. the piper 2 calls over his/her other tuning buddy (piper 3), and they keep playing as you compare piper 1 to the master piper, and make adjustments. ~2mins
  7. When piper 1 is done, the "master" is relieved for the time being. Call over piper 2, and compare/adjust against piper 1. ... Piper 3 calls over Piper 4, and they carry on getting warmed up ... 2mins.

And so on, and so on. The guiding premise is avoiding setting people who haven't been playing/warming up.

On occasion, it's good to bring the master piper back over, and check to ensure things aren't starting to diverge .. BUT ... take care to ensure the master piper has been warming up for 3 mins or so before coming over.

(edit) ... originally, we would use the "master piper" one-on-one with all members, but this would present some issues. The "master" would get really wiped out sometimes, and also, he/she would be playing for much longer than everyone else. Depending on the blowing of your members, you might not be able to follow the above to the letter. One compromise would be to identify 4-5 of your best blowers, and arrange it so that one of these are visiting you after every 2-3 pipers, and only trade off the "master" when you have a new, good blower.

By the time you get all the way through everyone, I'd get everyone back together in the circle, and have them start playing tunes together again. Wait for a set or so, before second guessing ... everyone's got to warm up again. After a good 5 mins, hopefully the chanters are sounding pretty together.

Get another setting from the master piper, and retune the drones. It could be the same number, or it may be a bit different (a tick or two higher is common). Even if the number is the same, go around again to recheck.

Lastly, if you had significant issues with a few pipes, work with them separately as the band carries on. This way, the people who need attention can get it without holding up everyone.

As you can see, this is quite a process ... the above was adopted to try and strike a balance between boredom/drudgery for the corps, and chaos. An organized system, where the tuning guy(s) can do their job, and the needs of the instrument/members are taken into account.

Hope some of this helps.

Cheers,
~Nate

Last edited by Pppiper; 01-29-2019 at 09:42 AM.
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Old 01-29-2019, 11:58 AM   #7
Pip01
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Default Re: Help Improving Band Tuning





Ah... Freeman...

Well... here we are... and there it is...

Having viewed the vid several times... a few salient
features do come to mind...

The first being... that it seems to me... that it is a young
or young-ish band... insofar as everyone having played
together for a while. (Please do correct me if I am wrong.)

(Also... I have no idea how many others you may have
in your mob that are not in the vid.)

The second thing being... and from way up and over here...
and through some 12 to 14 thousand miles away... and the
vid sound tunnels.... they don't... at least to my stone ear...
sound half-bad... and I don't intend that as any vague sort
of left-handed compliment.

Obviously... quite obviously...they are trying... and deserve
commendation for it. :)

Also... and with us all... there is room for improvement.

Your portion... is to engage them... in an upward path...
and I would hazard that you... and they... shall be quite
successful in it... :)

And the reason for that... is simple... because no one
wishes to be... in a bad sounding... or even... some
mediocre...band. (That just ain't th' aim of it all.)

Sounding good... brings everything to bear... beginning
with the bridles on the drone reeds... and running on to
everything else. (The starts and stops... and all together...
also has its place. :)

Now none of this is to cause groans and lamentations. :(

Nor does it bespeak gearing up for the competition boards.

Neither is it accomplished with an assertiveness needed for
pulling teeth... or killing snakes... because most (if not all of
us who play)... really do want... to sound good... :)

And thus it falls to you... to engage... to show... and to lead...
and to guide them to where they wish to go... and to be...

Wishing you and them... the very Best of Good Fortune with
it all... and do... please... send another vid... some six or so
months... down the line... (I would wager that they shall like
seeing it... as well... :)

With Regards... and All the Best... to you and the Hastings
District Pipe Band,

Pip01






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Last edited by Pip01; 01-29-2019 at 12:16 PM.
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Old 01-29-2019, 04:04 PM   #8
RJB
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Default Re: Help Improving Band Tuning

In addition to all the above, our band adopted the policy that the band chanter is "owned" by the tuner, meaning once the reed is set, holes taped, you take it home, but never touch the reed! If you must play something, get another chanter reeded to do with as you please, but the band chanter is only modified by the band tuner.

Best of luck.
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Old 01-30-2019, 05:15 AM   #9
mcaskill
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Default Re: Help Improving Band Tuning

Having played quite a bit in Australia, I will say that you are going to have some unique issues over and above the basics of tuning. It would be logical to take advantage of some of your local knowledge. I have found some of the articles by Brett Tidswell, The Piping Principal with the Pipe Band Association there to be very helpful. His site at http://www.schoolofpiping.com/articles.html has some articles on setting up a band, and setting up a band in hot weather that are invaluable and well thought out.

I often refer to his book, "The Complete Pipers Handbook" that has a section on setting up a band and in particular how to handle a variety of weather conditions. I have spoken to him at length and he is most generous in assisting. http://www.schoolofpiping.com/handbook.html
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Old 01-30-2019, 06:13 AM   #10
Pppiper
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Default Re: Help Improving Band Tuning

Quote:
Originally Posted by mcaskill View Post
Having played quite a bit in Australia, I will say that you are going to have some unique issues over and above the basics of tuning. It would be logical to take advantage of some of your local knowledge. I have found some of the articles by Brett Tidswell, The Piping Principal with the Pipe Band Association there to be very helpful. His site at http://www.schoolofpiping.com/articles.html has some articles on setting up a band, and setting up a band in hot weather that are invaluable and well thought out.

I often refer to his book, "The Complete Pipers Handbook" that has a section on setting up a band and in particular how to handle a variety of weather conditions. I have spoken to him at length and he is most generous in assisting. http://www.schoolofpiping.com/handbook.html
Brilliant! I believe THIS is the article I'd stumbled upon years back, which was the basis for tuning process with the band. Thanks for reacquainting me with the original source!

Cheers,
~Nate
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