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Old 12-27-2005, 09:51 AM   #1
Demas
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Default help tuning a pipe band...

I live in a town of about 110,000 people in the middle of West Texas. I am self taught (I know, I know… Mr. pro pipers, I’m not supposed to teach myself…but you try living in the sticks and drive 3 hours for proper lessons!) I have been playing for about 4 years and me and another guy have been playing together for about 3 years now. We are aiding some other people on bagpipes and have a small and very ghetto pipe band. www.abilenepipers.com (don’t listen to the sound files, those are about 1.5 years old!) We do it for fun and the community. Lots of times we are in tune, but, we all play with different reeds, different strengths, different pipes, different chanters (dunfion, dunbar, mccallum, Hughes). I was wanting to know how to properly stay in almost perfect tune with everyone and how to make it easy for us to play for long periods of time. What is the process to stay in tune?… Just to let you know, we have two people that have a very hard time blowing. One piper is a 61 year old woman, so she can only play very easy reeds. Me and the other main piper always play medium reeds that are usually Ross or Ceol Mor. The rest of the pipers usually use easy ceol mor, soutar, ross. Etc. Anyways…
I know this is something that we all need a course in, but we have no money or time…

Here are my questions:

Do we play the same reeds, if so what is the usual strength for a pipe band?

Do we only play those reeds only together so they have the same length of playing time?

Do we have to have all the same chanters?

What other suggestions do you have for us?

Thanks for your help in advance and the more replies, the better!! Have a happy new year!
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Old 12-27-2005, 10:25 AM   #2
the Jamesinator
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Default Re: help tuning a pipe band...

hi Demas,
yes you should play the same reeds to be in tune with eachother. You can play the band reed at home for personal practice, it's up to you, but the days you guys practice, make sure you play the same time as everyone else(don't play your pipes 2 hours before band practice the day of the practice). You should play the same chanters. Also another thing, blowing good tone and blowing steady definately helps alot. The Ross reeds are very good which you said you are using. I use a meium strengh Ross reed in the band. It is really good and produces a big sound. Hope thise helps. Someone feel free to step in if I've missed anything.

Happy Holidays!
James
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Old 12-27-2005, 12:01 PM   #3
Demas
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Default Re: help tuning a pipe band...

Jamesinator, thanks for your help and reading my book above!! How much difference does it make for some pipers to use easy reeds and some to use medium reeds?

Thanks, Luke!
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Old 12-27-2005, 12:27 PM   #4
Scott Foster
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Default Re: help tuning a pipe band...

Demus, the medium reeds will give you more projection in the sound. I would suggest all getting medium ROSS reeds, as then are ridge cut, which makes them somewhat easy to blow but dosn't sacrafice volume. they are also easyier to blow in if some of your players are having trouble with blowing

Cheers!
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Old 12-27-2005, 12:28 PM   #5
Highland Harry
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Default Re: help tuning a pipe band...

You're on the right track in terms of playing identical products and all playing in the same time frame.

Hardware products can only carry you so far, what you can't control is the steady blowing that is needed to achieve good unison.

The easy reeds tend to waiver more than a stronger reed, so it takes more precision blowing to control the sound.

As long as you are enjoying yourselves, nothing else matters!

BTW, enjoyed your site, looks like a nice bunch of folks to play with.
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Old 12-27-2005, 12:45 PM   #6
Demas
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Default Re: help tuning a pipe band...

i was trying to stay away from the ross reeds, I have such a hard time with the F double toning on those reeds, usually just when the temperature gets colder. It's always hot in abilene, Tx and when it gets cold over night, they seem to change dramatically and double tone when it is cooler at night. Maybe it's just me. I still use a ross reed that I've had forever. It has lasted almost a year I think. I love it, but almost every other one I've had has the double tone F. I usually just put the band on the box and that's fine, I just hate doing that all the time,it is just another step to do. Maybe I should get over it!! What do you think?
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Old 12-27-2005, 03:34 PM   #7
Steven Giles
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Default Re: help tuning a pipe band...

Hello Demas,

some suggestions that may help:

start your tuning with a master chanter that is tuned well. then tune the rest of the chanters to that chanter, or as close as you can get them. Having different makes of chanters can be challenging, but you will learn a LOT about tuning by just matching these chanters.
I regularly match McCallum and Dunbar chanters and have had no problem, the dunbar chanters work well down here with Soutar reeds...just watch the moisture...in my experience they can't take much of it at all...but it is humid down here. there are other reeds that work well too.
in my experience, the dunbars that i regularly tune will usually be slightly flatter than the McCallums.

Threaded chanter reed seats are also a big plus. that way you can flatten or sharpen the chanter with a slight twist of the reed in our out.

As far drones, once you have set the chanter pitch and the top and bottom hands are complimentary, set the drones to that pitch.
i find that having the pipers play a tune while i tune their drones works better than just holding that Low A...That way their drones will be tuned to the pressure that they will most likely play when the band is playing. it is alright also to tune to a steady Low A sounding on the chanter, but when the piper "relaxes into his tune" the drones are usually a wee bit flat because he slacks of a little while playing.

stress tone, and steady blowing. Nothing more agrivating than trying to tune drones with the piper blowing up and down, especially with a tuning metre. Pressure should be constant and steady.

reed strength depends on the piper blowing it. my rule of thumb is that if the piper can handle it go for it (easy or hard). If you can control the blowing!? overblowing or squealing an easy reed is about as bad as cutting in and out trying to blow a strong reed. i like my reeds sitting on the threshold of comfortable and slightly strong.

as far as matchig chanters goes, you might like to have look around the classifieds and you probably can find a good set of used matched band chanters for a good price.

get a tuner(around $30) and dont be afraid of tape!


Hope this helps.
thanks,
steven G.
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Old 12-27-2005, 03:49 PM   #8
the Jamesinator
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Default Re: help tuning a pipe band...

A couple things you may consider....If it is a new reed, the F and often times the C can be quite flat. Just shut the drones off and play for about 2 hours or so, by this time it should be better. The other thing is that you could have a "hairline F" which means it is really finnicky and no matter how little you move your tape it still over shoots. This can often be fixed by just playing the reed. If your reed still has tonal inperfections, simply try a few reeds, it isn't rare to go through a few reeds to find a good one. Or you may consider trying it in a different chanter. You stated someone has a MacCallum chanter. The Ross works very well in the MacCallum chanter. I'm sorry I don't know what other chanters the Ross works really well in since I have little experience with different chanters. Hope this helps!

Cheers,
James
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Old 12-28-2005, 07:16 AM   #9
Demas
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Default Re: help tuning a pipe band...

thanks for all your help!
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Old 12-28-2005, 07:50 AM   #10
dagdaj
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Default Re: help tuning a pipe band...

I'd always strive to play stiffer reeds. Not gutbusters, but 'stiffer' reeds. I think easy reeds that are balanced, have a bright full sound, and are easy to get steady tone off of are the complete exception.

Be ruthless with reeds. I find that if a reed does not sound good from the getgo, let it go. There is some fiddling I'll go through, but in general if it's not balanced from the start, I don't bother. If everyone is starting with a decent balanced sound, you can usually get them pretty close without a lot of work.
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