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

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View Poll Results: Full Reed Set
A 6 37.50%
B 3 18.75%
C 3 18.75%
D 2 12.50%
E 1 6.25%
F 3 18.75%
G 1 6.25%
H 0 0%
I 1 6.25%
J 0 0%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 16. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 06-09-2019, 07:55 PM   #1
William McKenzie
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Default A/B drone reed comparison

I’ve been recording myself trying out several drone reeds recently; seeing what the differences are for my own knowledge. I’ve been a little surprised and curious listening to them back a number of times. After each set was recorded I also then recorded the individual tenor and bass reeds at those settings so I could hear what makes up that overall sound envelope.

Now, thanks to Patrick, I thought I would also share these publicly as food for thought. I will attempt to remove any bias here from the get go by not stating which reeds are which. At least initially. It is only up to your ears (and maybe the headphones/speakers that you have) to decide what you truly like. I will also warn you that there are pressure deviations as my blowing is unsteady. With that said, here is the process I followed-

Reeds

10 different drone reeds. A natural mix across companies of-
  • tongue and reed body materials (polycarbonate/carbon fiber etc. tongues, natural/plastic bodies, etc)
  • inverted and regular bass
  • new to market + traditional makes
Pipe

Jim McGillivray, Dunbar Bagpipes reproduction 1880 Duncan MacDougall “Breadalbane” pipes in Delrin
(absolutely superb, really pleased with these. Though I’ll be the first to admit that despite a deep pedigree in any set of pipes, in general drones in my own opinion are more about player and setup than anything else- hence trying as many sounds as I can here to find mine)
  • drones played only, no chanter
  • no mixing different reeds, only one complete set of reeds at a time tuned to 475Hz
  • tenor reeds adjusted to tune tenor tops just above hempline. Bass top at hemp line, mid section about ½ way up pin with most makes when tuned, though some as high as hemp line when not adjustable further
Recording
  • all recordings made through an audio app on my smartphone, set for stereo unprocessed/unfiltered, .wav encoding/sample rate. Recordings later normalized (volumes matched/set to reference)
  • full reed sets are 8 seconds long, individual bass and individual tenor tones are 3 seconds long each (3 files total per drone set)
  • same letter for each make across recordings, i.e. tenor “A” is bass “A” is full set “A” = all same set
  • given letters A-J are arbitrary, they don’t correlate to anything (such as a particular playing order or a company name)
For full drone set
  • I’m playing in the middle of a living room, standing still in the same spot while facing my phone which is recording at waist height, approx. 2 meters away (~6 ft) from me
  • reeds played until settled, recorder going
  • blowing 72 hPa +/-2 as recorded by a BlowPro (~29 inches water +/-0.8)
For singular reed
  • drone bells held by hand approximately 30cm (~1ft) away from the phone
  • mouth blowing the reed out of the stock with the same physical settings as just before when full set was being recorded

Listening

These are very short and simple eight second clips in one setting, from one spot in a room, to remove as many variables make-to-make as I can to help better gauge basic reed sounds in my pipes. It's rudimentary and shouldn’t be taken as gospel. But it gives an idea because we all more or less agree that each company’s drone reeds have an overall sound signature to them regardless of the pipes they are in.

Click here to go to Patrick’s post to compare and contrast these different reed sets as you see fit. Then tab back here and see what others thought.

To truly get an idea of reeds in any one set of pipes (if you’re unable to hear them in person) you really need multiple long recordings of each with a mix of indoor and outdoor settings, walking and standing in one place, high quality mic’ing etc, as we do in real life and places such as Patrick’s blog. Thus, it’s important to point out that I’m sharing this more for curiosity and good conversation, not a be-all-end-all or “one is better than another”. It’s just a preference thing not to be taken as a complete picture... a nice change for piping since no one seems to have strong preferences on anything .

P.S. Maybe I will do some of these longer indoor/outdoor recordings in future from a shorter list of reed choices if this interests anyone. Let me know which sets you like most.
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Old 06-09-2019, 09:53 PM   #2
BaggyMcPipes
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Default Re: A/B drone reed comparison

This is awesome- thanks for doing the work and for sharing!
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Old 06-11-2019, 10:28 PM   #3
William McKenzie
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Default Re: A/B drone reed comparison

Quote:
Originally Posted by BaggyMcPipes View Post
This is awesome- thanks for doing the work and for sharing!
You're welcome! It is a lot of work but it's enjoyable in a strange way, especially hearing them back. So far I have heard set "A" which I agree might be on my short list.
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Old 06-11-2019, 11:47 PM   #4
Søren E. Larsen
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Default Re: A/B drone reed comparison

I prefer set A (full set).

Are these ezees?
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Old 06-12-2019, 05:52 AM   #5
magsevenband
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Default Re: A/B drone reed comparison

Delrin?...why not ABW as that is what most play?...D for me.
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Last edited by magsevenband; 06-12-2019 at 05:56 AM.
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Old 06-12-2019, 12:50 PM   #6
Patrick McLaurin
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Default Re: A/B drone reed comparison

Almost all of the full sets exhibit the ringing overtone. However there are some problems: some are buzzy and some a little dull.

I liked the brightness and lack of buzziness from the C set.

I really liked the C bass, you can really here its overtones and it's not buzzy. Some of those bass reeds are very buzzy! G is nasty buzzy. J is not much better. H only slightly better than that.

Many of the tenors are good, which is not surprising considering how many of the full sets exhibited *the ring*. I think A is my favorite here but there's a lot of good tones, though some are a bit grating with the buzz.

There's my stream of consciousness.
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Old 06-13-2019, 06:39 PM   #7
William McKenzie
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Default Re: A/B drone reed comparison

Quote:
Originally Posted by magsevenband View Post
Delrin?...why not ABW as that is what most play?...D for me.
I've had African Blackwood and Cocobolo sets previously and they were great, I enjoyed them. But it has been my experience personally from listening and reading articles on drone materials that the tonal differences in drone sets between wood such as ABW and Delrin are near imperceptible. The densities of these two for example are within 10% of each other, well within the plus/minus range of what an ABW set could be on a given stand of pipes depending on where it is harvested from, how it was seasoned, it's oil or moisture content etc. As a complete bonus I also have mirror finish bores, no fear of splitting wood, no swabbing after playing, playing in heat (such as 97F/36C yesterday, shoot me), playing in cold, or playing in the drizzle. I simply don't worry about it anymore and I love that. I wish I could also say I was not contributing to deforestation as every instrument wood we find becomes extinct in 20ish years, but then plastic..

D it is for you sir, I appreciate it.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Patrick McLaurin View Post
Almost all of the full sets exhibit the ringing overtone. However there are some problems: some are buzzy and some a little dull.

I liked the brightness and lack of buzziness from the C set.

I really liked the C bass, you can really here its overtones and it's not buzzy. Some of those bass reeds are very buzzy! G is nasty buzzy. J is not much better. H only slightly better than that.

Many of the tenors are good, which is not surprising considering how many of the full sets exhibited *the ring*. I think A is my favorite here but there's a lot of good tones, though some are a bit grating with the buzz.

There's my stream of consciousness.
Good call, I like the overall ring a lot from these also. Lots of great tenors, bass reeds are very hit and miss. Buzziness in the G, J, H sets you mentioned have a fine line between complexity vs a leaf blower IMO. With my preferences it's harder to decide where that line is because the crackle with the ringing and the swirling overtones seem to be where my ears are at currently.. and that is all the ones you didn't care for . To be fair though one of those is full cane which I still think is pretty great.

It should be noted that despite not knowing what any of these reeds are, you are still very consistent with your preferences, C is a set you've said you liked very much in the past. Hat is off.

A it is for you.
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Old 06-13-2019, 07:42 PM   #8
Patrick McLaurin
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Default Re: A/B drone reed comparison

Was the poll just added? I don’t recall seeing it the first go around. I’m also embarassed by misspelling “hear”.
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Old 06-15-2019, 07:51 PM   #9
William McKenzie
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Default Re: A/B drone reed comparison

I added the poll to make it simpler.

I'm not necessarily surprised by how many like the sound of A the most, it's a great reed. But I am a little surprised that so far no one is picking any of the reeds that replicate cane, they are the proverbial benchmark. Our pipes (save for the ones in the last few years) were all designed only around how they sounded with cane. With so many good synthetic drone reeds though we can get a sound that is altogether different in texture and quality. Kind of a chicken and the egg scenario, I find that pretty interesting.

These are the reeds you are hearing in this comparison (in no particular order to the A-J): Redwood, MG White Mamba, Ezeedrone (inverted bass), Ezeedrone (regular bass), Crozier Cane, Armstrong X-Treme, Kinnaird Edge, G1 actual cane, Canning (polycarbonate/inverted bass), Selbie (inverted bass).
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Last edited by William McKenzie; 06-15-2019 at 08:14 PM.
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Old Today, 11:15 AM   #10
William McKenzie
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Default Re: A/B drone reed comparison

A Selbie

B Ezeedrone (inverted bass)

C Armstrong X-Treme

D Canning (polycarbonate/inverted bass)

E Kinnaird Edge

F Ezeedrone

G Cane

H Crozier Cane

I Redwood

J MG White Mamba
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