Welcome to
the forums at bobdunsire.com
bobdunsire.com forums bobdunsire.com forums
You can reset your password by going here. Be sure to try your current email and any email addresses you may have had in the past.
Otherwise please use the Contact Us link at the bottom of the forums. In order to help you, please provide the following info: Your Display Name from the old forum and any possible email addresses you would have used before. Without that info we cannot locate your account.


Go Back   Bob Dunsire Bagpipe Forums > Great Highland Bagpipe > Technique & Instrument
Register FAQ Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

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

Platinum Sponsors
Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old 01-16-2016, 12:27 PM   #1
glasscheetah
Forum Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: United States
Posts: 39
Default Why are strong, harder reeds preferred?

You always hear that the ultimate goal is to graduate to a stronger chanter reed from a softer beginner reed, that the drone tone fluctuates with an easy reed or that it sounds "mushy". Why then do some upper grade pipers prefer easy reeds? It seems to me if you're in control of your pipes, you know how to keep them steady no matter the reed strength. I personally prefer the (imo) less shrill sound of a softer reed, and I don't mind that I can't be heard from a 50 mile radius.

Last edited by glasscheetah; 01-16-2016 at 12:30 PM.
glasscheetah is offline   Reply With Quote
Gold Sponsor
Old 01-16-2016, 01:39 PM   #2
Green Piper
Holy smoking keyboard!
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Colorado, USA
Posts: 1,684
Default Why are strong, harder reeds preferred?

Blowing steady tone with an easier reed can be more difficult than with a stronger reed, because with a harder reed, you're either sounding the chanter or aren't and there ain't much in between.

At least that is kind of how I get it from some PM's. For me, I am pleased that my current PM doesn't mind if we play easier reeds as long as we're playing steady.

Let me add that beginner reeds (never tried one), may be ridiculously easy. For a piper, they may not last as long, once you get it going, so it'll need replacing more often. The aim is to have a reed that is vibrant, with good tone and tuning, that is comfortable to play. Also most PM's have a limited reed budget.

For novice pipers, there is a degree of building up strength, but it doesn't need to be over the top.

Charlie
__________________
"Melancholy as the Drone of a Lancashire Bagpipe" (Behn, Aphra 1678. Sir Patient Fancy)

Last edited by Green Piper; 01-16-2016 at 01:43 PM.
Green Piper is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-16-2016, 01:48 PM   #3
el gaitero
Holy smoking keyboard!
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Estados Unidos
Posts: 6,808
Default Re: Why are strong, harder reeds preferred?

Quote:
Originally Posted by glasscheetah View Post
You always hear that the ultimate goal is to graduate to a stronger chanter reed from a softer beginner reed, that the drone tone fluctuates with an easy reed or that it sounds "mushy". Why then do some upper grade pipers prefer easy reeds? It seems to me if you're in control of your pipes, you know how to keep them steady no matter the reed strength. I personally prefer the (imo) less shrill sound of a softer reed, and I don't mind that I can't be heard from a 50 mile radius.
Don't confuse the word 'strong' with 'nearly unplayable'.

A soft beginner reed could be,say, 20" h2o strength. Move to, say , 23-24" and you'd still have a soft reed.
Move to 25-27" h2o and you start to be in the ' easy/medium' category. 28-31/32" -.now you're at the medium stage of reeds. Top class players ( e.g. Willie, Jori, et al) have personally told me they druther reeds not (much) over 30" ( after breaking in).
Some guys ( not world class) swear they play 35" and higher comfortably.
In their dreams I think.

Don't be afraid to raise the (milli) bar of your reeds selection slightly....you'll likely be pleasantly surprised.

The benefit to a moderately stronger reed is harder bag and overall steadier tone
el gaitero is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-16-2016, 02:05 PM   #4
tbrown747
Forum Clasp
 
Join Date: Nov 2013
Location: Lebanon, PA
Posts: 963
Default Re: Why are strong, harder reeds preferred?

There's a sort of rough correlation between easy reeds that don't last a long time through hard reeds that last forever. The minimum that I've found is around 26 inches H20. As gaitero says, many beginner reeds are below this. It's just hard to get a vibrant lasting reed below this strength (although some people do manage it, but I think they change reeds rather often).

Also gone are the days of everyone pushing gut-busters in sort of an ego contest. Most folks these days play in the 28-32 range, which really is not a very strong reed, but sort of a happy medium between tone, durability, ease of play, and stability.

Sometimes in band scenarios you do still find pipe majors that want their band playing 34+. I think the premise here is that there is more stability and volume. Personally, I have found this is a good way to encourage your pipers to underblow the low hand and wreck your tone. As I said, they're still out there, but few and far between these days.
tbrown747 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-17-2016, 11:20 AM   #5
Ghengis
Forum Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: the great plains
Posts: 58
Default Re: Why are strong, harder reeds preferred?

Just some thoughts, a player with a reed that is too difficult kills the sound all around. Too easy and it is whining, thin and sometime shrill, too hard pressure is their focus, fingers second, musicality, nil.

I like to separate strength with vibrancy and tone. You can get a good tone from a medium to easy reed with the right selection for the player. I'd rather have solid tone, constant pressure and relaxed fingers to produce music. Yes volume is of concern so naturally loud is good for a band setup but that is very different from a solo setup where you don't need to be the loudest.

So (imo), pick two reeds, one that is comfortable to play, produces true notes up and down, and can be solidly played for 20 min to 40 min. The second, more difficult than the first, playing towards stronger will no doubt accommodate muscle strength and if all things are equal, give you a louder reed with similar characteristics as the first. (especially useful if you're working towards a competition season). The strength of the second should give you a bit more "lock in" time but this can be mitigated with moisture control etc. If you reach a point where both are easy, switch two with one (bequeath to a junior) and start a harder third read. You'll max out somewhere and no doubt if playing both every day, know where you balance point lay.

There is the understanding though that playing slightly out of your comfort zone, leaning into the reed as they say, accommodates a more regulated pressure, gives you room when adrenaline kicks in, and gives you a confidence that isn't there when conversely you have to back off of a reed.

Egos aside from those that play gut busters, the point is to play clean music for people, if they want to see who is the strongest head off to the caber toss...but always encourage true notes, solid pressure and of course musicality.

Cheers. (oh and then there is drone reed setup...)
__________________
Be nice, it costs nothing.

Last edited by Ghengis; 01-17-2016 at 11:27 AM.
Ghengis is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-17-2016, 09:41 PM   #6
Bish
Forum Gold Medal
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Dorset; England
Posts: 600
Default Re: Why are strong, harder reeds preferred?

Wisdom from Jim McGillivray, one of the world's best pipers: If you play a reed that is too hard for you, there will be two results - you will be very loud and you will play very badly.

It is impossible to execute the embellishments, and play musically, when you are putting your energy and strength into merely getting the reed to vibrate. Then there are the headaches from the pressure in your sinuses, and the headaches in those who have the misfortune to hear your efforts.

Some hard reeds may have a full sound, but many hard reeds also lack warmth and timbre, what we call tone. Tone comes from regular playing, which allows the reed to vibrate freely. The best sounding reeds I have heard were so easy I could not play them.

Many easy reeds do indeed sound bad, but that is down to the lack of knowledge and skill on the part of the piper. Find a good piper whose reeds sound amazing, and ask him nicely him to teach you how to do it.
__________________
Noble and manly music invigorates the spirit, strengthens the wavering man, and incites him to great and worthy deeds. Homer.

Last edited by Bish; 01-17-2016 at 09:43 PM.
Bish is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-17-2016, 10:09 PM   #7
caveal
Forum Gold Medal
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: Australia
Posts: 587
Default Re: Why are strong, harder reeds preferred?

Too many times I've heard a piper say their reed is too hard when their chanter comes in early and they're squeaking every gracenote.

That's one reason I'd be hesitant to give out "easy" reeds.
caveal is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-17-2016, 10:56 PM   #8
Green Piper
Holy smoking keyboard!
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Colorado, USA
Posts: 1,684
Default Why are strong, harder reeds preferred?

I think for a band competition I'd want a slightly harder reed. Waiting outside a circle is stressful, and when you march into the circle, there's no time to tune and relax before playing. In solo competition, I feel that most of the tuning time is actually calming time, during which you relax and gain a feel for how you're going to consistently blow steady tone.

Having said that, I doubt I actually achieve steady tone even on the solo boards.

Charlie
__________________
"Melancholy as the Drone of a Lancashire Bagpipe" (Behn, Aphra 1678. Sir Patient Fancy)
Green Piper is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-18-2016, 06:21 AM   #9
Greenpipe
Forum Clasp
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Nova Scotia
Posts: 851
Default Re: Why are strong, harder reeds preferred?

Today's reed makers are superb and, on the whole, their products are streets ahead of what you could get 30 years ago. PMs wanted gut buster reeds because that was the only way they could get a big sound on the highest notes. Nowadays, big full high hand sound is pretty much guaranteed from all makes of reed.

I think I can say, also, that the easier the reed, the more control is required to maintain a steady pitch. Listen to Donald MacPherson on U Tube. His reeds seemed to require no more than normal breathing. And look at his arm: he blows straight through to the reed and his arm barely moves. Probably 80% of us couldn't play his reeds and sound good. But on the other hand, he probably went through more reeds in a week than most of us go through in six months. All he wanted was for a super easy good sounding reed that would hold out for a performance. And I'll bet he had a good buddy reed maker who supplied him, and/or he did a lot of work on the reeds himself.

I find I want a reed that is strong enough that I can gently "lean" into it without it overblowing, and am willing to put up with a week or two of breaking-in pain to get it. I think that, as I get older, the reeds that suit me are gradually getting easier.

Last edited by Greenpipe; 01-18-2016 at 06:23 AM.
Greenpipe is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-18-2016, 06:23 AM   #10
TheHaggisMaster
Forum Silver Medal
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Toronto, ON
Posts: 399
Default Re: Why are strong, harder reeds preferred?

I'll second what Jim McG said. I would also suggest that there may be another reason why stronger reeds are preferred. But first some blaether to preface my suggestions...

All through my starting years and well into the middle of my piping 'career', if i needed a new reed, the Pipe Major would pause, give me a considering look, take my chanter out of the stock, then carefully examine my current sorry excuse for a reed. Finally accepting the fact that it was necessary to change it out, he would reach into the depths of his pipe box and reverently pull out the sacred chest containing the band supply of chanter reeds. Everybody would gather 'round just to get a glimpse at the cache of unblemished, un-chipped reeds with its pristine binding and glowing copper staple. More often than not it was always a serious stroke inducing anus buster. Many a dire threat and glares were bestowed upon me with explicit instructions not to touch it or fool around with it. I'm sure all of us can relate to the fear and trepidation of this momentous event...

For all intents and purposes I've pretty well stopped playing the pipes. I've got a set of Walsh smallpipes I toolde on once in a while but playing the big pipes has stopped. Recently I had the pleasure of participating in the Bermuda tattoo. I knew this was going to be a major slog since I hadn't really played for almost a year. I sent an order into Mike at Ben Bhraggie House (no charge for the free advertising Mike) and told him I needed the weakest baby reeds he had. My tone didn't suffer, I blended well with everybody and my control was fine. I can see the control issue of you're used to heaving on a plank wrapped with ships hawser then I can see how control may be an issue but if you've been playing a while I can't see that there would be a problem.

This brings me, finally, to the one aspect that no-one seems to point out and I've always firmly believed: People are cheap. Let's face it, chanter reeds are expensive and most bands, and pipers, have a limited budget. If you can give a piper a new reed made of stronger cane (or oak wood) it will more than likely last longer than an easy one. Sure a hard reed may have a bolder sound but if you're trying to balance a pipe section, having one foghorn stand out among the rest of the corps in my mind negates the usefulness of having a hard reed. Unless of course everybody has a fine steam ship horn strapped inside their chanter then balance isn't an issue.

Reed life I think has been prolonged with the use of moisture control systems and really, better education on reed structure, care and maintenance. How many people these days pull their reed out and find a luxurious fur coat or even worse, black slime growing on them? Never a good thing! The need for a strong reed capable of lasting forever and causing bodily harm for me is thankfully in the past. Why make playing the pipes, or any instrument uncomfortable? Hard or soft, contrl and stamina come from practice and frequent playing. It's baby reeds for me when the time arises...

HM
__________________
Where has my music gone? I know I had it yesterday....?
TheHaggisMaster is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off


Silver Sponsor

All times are GMT -7. The time now is 02:30 PM.