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

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Old 01-18-2016, 10:26 AM   #11
Rojellio
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Default Re: Why are strong, harder reeds preferred?

I believe its about the reed being Free and Vibrant. While it may be possible to get a reed Freely Vibrating in the 30-40" range, its a lot easier and you can do it for longer periods of time in the 22-25" range.

Top Pipers play super easy reeds because they can control an easy set up, and well... because they can make the reed Fully Vibrate the way they like, for longer at the more modest strength.

Under 20", say 16-20" is harder to control, and at that strength you can lose some of the grass flattening power... and there can be a certain "wonkiness" to the sound. Graduating to 22-25 isnt much of a jump, and if the reed is fully vibrant you will flatten the grass just fine.
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Old 01-18-2016, 11:13 PM   #12
Bish
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Default Re: Why are strong, harder reeds preferred?

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Originally Posted by TheHaggisMaster View Post
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.
HM
When piping is no longer fun, people stop playing. Gut-busting reeds kill all the joy, and make it hard to replicate what you can do on the practice chanter.

A big part of the problem is undereducated Pipe Majors, particularly in the parade band category. Once my eyes were opened by watching Jim McGillivray's DVDs I roundly ignored my then PM's instructions about not modifying my reeds, and applied the knife and sandpaper without remorse or regret. He never noticed the difference!

I am now the PM of a small group of pipers that I have taught from scratch, and they are playing very easy reeds, without any loss of tone. Their fingers replicate what they can do on the PC, and they are enjoying themselves.

Easy reeds do not last as long, but the cost of replacing them is a small price to pay for avoiding disheartening young pipers, and having to listen to very loud and very bad playing.
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Old 01-19-2016, 03:57 AM   #13
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Default Re: Why are strong, harder reeds preferred?

I always suspected the rationale behind playing harder reeds was that they made it alomost impossible for nervous pipers to overblow or to bring their chanters in early in the heat of competition.

If one only plays for a few minutes at a time, that might not be a good thing. some of us may play a half-hour to an hour or more at a time which makes learning to control easier reeds essential.
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Old 02-01-2016, 08:19 AM   #14
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Default Re: Why are strong, harder reeds preferred?

why are stronger, harder reeds preferred? They are not.
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Old 02-01-2016, 08:25 AM   #15
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Default Re: Why are strong, harder reeds preferred?

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Originally Posted by Greenpipe View Post
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.
you are right to mention Donald MacPherson, as he did indeed [play an extremely easy chanter reed. But you are incorrect that he went through lots of reeds - in one interview, he said he had about 6 or 7, and he kept them in a wee tin. he would rotate them, and he used the same 6 or 7 for about 35 years. He did not go through reeds quickly - just the opposite. Where you are totally correct is that his wonderful tone came from the skill he had, the great skill to blow and easy set up really steady. It is an art...
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Old 02-01-2016, 09:39 AM   #16
Bish
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Default Re: Why are strong, harder reeds preferred?

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you are right to mention Donald MacPherson, as he did indeed [play an extremely easy chanter reed. But you are incorrect that he went through lots of reeds - in one interview, he said he had about 6 or 7, and he kept them in a wee tin. he would rotate them, and he used the same 6 or 7 for about 35 years. He did not go through reeds quickly - just the opposite. Where you are totally correct is that his wonderful tone came from the skill he had, the great skill to blow and easy set up really steady. It is an art...
Yes! I too have found that resting a reed makes it come back to life. Rotating six or seven sounds like an excellent idea.
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Old 02-01-2016, 03:48 PM   #17
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Default Re: Why are strong, harder reeds preferred?

It's a very interesting fact that two reeds from the same maker, one a medium/hard and one a medium/easy (for the sake of this example) can have virtually the same sound and volume, yet one is difficult for most and the other is easy or spot on for others.

There are some benefits to playing slightly harder reeds, but these do not apply to all pipers.

My friend who is an open player has always played hard reeds....his whole life, about 40 years of piping. I play a med/easy reed and when he plays my pipes he constantly overblows it and is very unsteady. If I put a harder reed in he sounds great, very steady and doesn't overblow. He's just so used to squeezing the life out of the bag that he can't make the adjustment.

Harder reeds are very very stable, you can vary your bag pressure quite a bit and not get wild swings in pitch on the upper hand.

Harder reeds have more cane on them and are typically less affected by moisture changes, ie. more stable from a pitch perspective.

Personally I like a nice med/easy reed. But to get the most out of an easier reed you really do have to be a good bag technician. NO overblowing as this will kill the reed and cause it to collapse, and if you can't blow/squeeze steady you will have much more noticeable pitch swings.

For me the finger dexterity is the biggest issue. With a lighter reed you can play all day and the fingers are nice and relaxed because your forearm isn't doing so much work and isn't as tensed up.

One last thing, lighter reeds typically need better moisture control to make sure they don't start sounding thin on the top hand after a half hour of play. Harder reeds with more cane on them are less affected.

Just my .02
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Old 02-01-2016, 07:46 PM   #18
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Default Re: Why are strong, harder reeds preferred?

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Originally Posted by Shawn Husk View Post
Personally I like a nice med/easy reed. But to get the most out of an easier reed you really do have to be a good bag technician. NO overblowing as this will kill the reed and cause it to collapse, and if you can't blow/squeeze steady you will have much more noticeable pitch swings.

For me the finger dexterity is the biggest issue. With a lighter reed you can play all day and the fingers are nice and relaxed because your forearm isn't doing so much work and isn't as tensed up.

One last thing, lighter reeds typically need better moisture control to make sure they don't start sounding thin on the top hand after a half hour of play. Harder reeds with more cane on them are less affected.

Just my .02
The right bag is a factor in controlling an easy reed. For me, a leather bag sits solid as a rock, and makes elbow control easier.

Overblowing is easily fixed, usually by becoming aware of the issue, and listening to the reed.

Finger dexterity and ease of execution is what it all boils down to. What is the point of having a fat top hand after half an hour if it sounds bad because of poor playing caused by the physical effort of keeping the reed sounding?

I know a very good player who plays a very hard reed, but to me his sound is hard and narrow. He also has a permanent knot in his shoulder.
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Old 02-02-2016, 12:38 AM   #19
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Default Re: Why are strong, harder reeds preferred?

Thanks Shawn, great summary.

I do find easy reeds hard to strike in without sounding the chanter, and I over blow LG, but surely that's not the fault of the reed. ;)
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Old 02-05-2016, 12:27 PM   #20
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Default Re: Why are strong, harder reeds preferred?

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Originally Posted by Shawn Husk View Post
One last thing, lighter reeds typically need better moisture control to make sure they don't start sounding thin on the top hand after a half hour of play. Harder reeds with more cane on them are less affected.
This is the key thing behind the historical love of hard reeds. Back in the 80s, a set of bagpipes was a soaking wet thing. You needed planks just to get a stable instrument. We're a bit smarter now.
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