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

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Old 09-19-2014, 12:02 PM   #1
tbrown747
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Default Drone Reeds and Pressure Sensitivity

I've been mining this forum for information for years. It's a great reference.

There is one topic that I am increasingly curious about that only ever seems to get cursory attention (unless in all my searching I have missed a key thread)-

Adjusting drone reeds for stability of drone pitch over pressure changes.

I am convinced that a key to blowing good tone is to have drone reeds that are calibrated to rise and fall together over a wide range of pressure changes. I think this idea is not too widely contested; even the steadiest players must contend with minor pressure changes due to changes in air volume consumption by different notes. Putting this aside (someone is sure to bring up the rare piper who can play tunes on a manometer without any change whatsoever), the pressure sweet spot of the chanter changes over the course of a session as the reed warms and then becomes saturated. Having drones that stay locked across different pressures is a Good Thing, and if you don't have drones with a natural ability to lock, you have to accomplish this purely with the reeds.

When this topic comes up, the suggested remedy (for synethetic drone reeds anyway) is to set them to an identical shut off pressure. In my experience, this turns out to be a poor proxy for the real factors attending pressure stability of the reed- tongue length and spring.

First, has anybody found a reliable way to change the pressure stability of small tongued reeds (a la ezeedrone)? What I've found is that shortening the tongue (moving the bridle down) in turn decreases the spring, resulting in no net change of pressure stability. Each of these individual reeds seem to have an "inherent stability" which can't be reliably altered. If you happen to have a less steady ezee tenor paired with a more steady one you pretty much have to dump the less steady one and seek out another one. I thought maybe the angle made by the rubber band bridle might affect the spring amount, but in practice I haven't really found this to be the case.

For cane (and I think Omegas), you can reliably alter both the tongue length and spring "independently". In quotes because shortening the tongue also decreases the spring as with ezees, but at least with cane you can compensate for this through other methods. It becomes trivial to attain paired pressure sensitivity with these methods (aided also by the increased tendancy for cane tenors to sympathetically lock).

I've had some minor success with large tongued synthetics (e.g. Kinnaird, Henderson deluxe) by heat treating to increase spring, although this is definitely a diminishing returns method because at a certain point the heat treating weakens the "hinge" of the tongue at the bridle and the reed starts to lose stability anyway.

On a related note, I've more or less given up on finding a base drone reed of any kind that matches the pressure stability of tenors. I have actually achieved this with cane, but with the tongue so short and spring so high that they're pretty much roaring (and tuning way up on the pin until I add lots of wax). Has anyone else explored this? I am thinking it might have something to do with the drone itself. I suspect that the longer tongue length associated with lower pitch on the bass reed leads to an inherently lower pressure stability which might be overcome with good drone design (but hasn't been, in my drones).

thanks for any insight!
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Old 09-19-2014, 03:13 PM   #2
Patrick McLaurin
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Default Re: Drone Reeds and Pressure Sensitivity

I did an experiment once, testing for how varied the pitch was for a drone based on pressure and bridle position. It amounted to ensuring the tongue was as short as possible (and still play at pressure), which is conventional wisdom.

Just ensuring they shut off at the same pressure, I think, isn't sufficient. I never set my drones so they shut off at the same time. I set them so they play at the pressure my chanter reed is at. Set that way, I've never had such variable pressure that a drone actually cut out.

Having been made to set my reeds to cut out at a higher pressure, I find they rarely strike in or stay playing once set that way, so they immediately went back to being set so they played, not so that they'd cut out.
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Old 09-19-2014, 04:04 PM   #3
Keith Jeffers
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Default Re: Drone Reeds and Pressure Sensitivity

A large chunk of this battle is finding a set of drones that work with you on pressure variance. I've never found a set of drone reeds that were stable to blowing pressure without drones hooked up to them.
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Old 09-19-2014, 04:59 PM   #4
tbrown747
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Default Re: Drone Reeds and Pressure Sensitivity

You're right, if you mouth blow the reeds out of the drones they always vary quite a bit more than in the drones. This is one of the reasons I think my bass pressure variance problem is more drone design and less reed.

I do in fact right now have a set of ezee's that are nicely matched in pressure sensitivity and start and cut out at around the same pressure. Tenors stay real close over a wide range of pressures (I wouldn't say locked, but close).

I also have a basket of ezee 'rejects' that I would really like to rescue. So I'm still curious if anyone has any ezee manipulation techniques for adjusting pressure sensitivity.

I think I am more sensitive to this issue than most because my drones have very little innate tendency to lock.

If I take the same unmatched set of ezees and put them in my 80s sinclairs I don't have the same problem keeping the tenors together because they lock and the difference in pressure sensitivity of the ezees is washed out by the sympathetic locking of those drones.

In both sets of pipes, however, I have been unable to keep the bass locked over pressure variation. They both exhibit the same phenomenon - bass is much more sensitive to pressure changes than tenors.

In my experience with other pipers in the area I think this is a pretty common phenomenon and it's just written off as drones that need to be retuned over the course of a session (i.e. not time stable) when in fact it's lack of pressure stability of the bass drone.
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Old 09-20-2014, 04:03 AM   #5
CalumII
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Default Re: Drone Reeds and Pressure Sensitivity

I suspect the tongue material will come with quite a bit of variance. One suggestion might be to take all your rejected tongues off and match them up for dimensions and possibly elasticity if you can measure it.
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Old 09-20-2014, 05:54 AM   #6
tbrown747
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Default Re: Drone Reeds and Pressure Sensitivity

Quote:
I did an experiment once, testing for how varied the pitch was for a drone based on pressure and bridle position. It amounted to ensuring the tongue was as short as possible (and still play at pressure), which is conventional wisdom.
Patrick, were these small tongued reeds like ezees? I personally didn't find this to be the case except over very large changes.

Quote:
I set them so they play at the pressure my chanter reed is at.
So you mean you set them so they both stop double toning at the same time shortly before the chanter reed pressure you intend to play at? All else being equal, I would normally set my drone reeds to cut off at a pressure slightly higher than my HiA when cold and then adjust tenors and bass for volume balance. Maybe I'll check out your method instead.

Quote:
One suggestion might be to take all your rejected tongues off and match them up for dimensions and possibly elasticity if you can measure it.
I'm pretty sure the ezee tongues are glued down so this will likely visit catastrophic damage to the tongues. I did notice, for example, that one of the tongues is ever so slightly askew (not parallel to the reed body) and can't be corrected by pushing or otherwise coercing it. Oddly, that's actually on one of the more stable reeds.

But I think you're pretty much on the same path here that I'm on, which is that each individual reed has innate stability properties that can't easily be 'user modified'.
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Old 09-20-2014, 06:26 AM   #7
CalumII
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Default Re: Drone Reeds and Pressure Sensitivity

The other point is the reed bodies may also have variance in their measurements which might have an effect.

Yes, it would mean taking the glue off but considering how tight the bridle is I doubt it has any impact on the performance of the reed.
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Old 09-20-2014, 06:44 AM   #8
tbrown747
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Default Re: Drone Reeds and Pressure Sensitivity

Maybe it's time to invest in a nice set of calipers.
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Old 09-20-2014, 09:44 AM   #9
el gaitero
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Default Re: Drone Reeds and Pressure Sensitivity

Quote:
Originally Posted by tbrown747 View Post

Adjusting drone reeds for stability of drone pitch over pressure changes.


IMHO.. despite all the well versed replies...this is a perceived mountain (out of a molehill); simply, ideally, there shouldn't be any pressure change if not, at least, imperceptable ...unless intentional with the intent of shutting off the 3 reeds ... and simultaneously.
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Old 09-20-2014, 02:20 PM   #10
tbrown747
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Default Re: Drone Reeds and Pressure Sensitivity

Yes, of course, ideally we'd all be perfect blowers, and even our chanter reeds wouldn't change pressure over time.

But the reality is that even professionals are not 100% steady. If you listen to open grade piobaireachd you will often hear the tenors turn over once or twice during the course of the tune (well, not the winners...). How often have you said of a nice performance "shame his pipes never seemed to settle"?

Ultimately, having perfectly calibrated drone reeds results in better sounding pipes more often at any level, and I think that's a worthy goal in its own right.
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