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

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Old 05-29-2019, 08:11 AM   #1
Pppiper
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Default Reeding a 440 Maclellen chanter

Hi all,

A long time back, I'd gotten my hands on a blackwood Maclellan A-440 chanter. I used it quite a bit back then, and for the longest time, my one-and-only setup was A-440 on my highland pipes.

That was a long time ago though. The drone reeds I was using at the time went missing when I moved, and then I started playing with pipe bands again, so I converted back to modern pitch.

At long last, in unpacking old boxes, I found the old drone reeds. I popped them in, and after some tweaking, they're going pretty well.

But, as I'd feared, reeding the Maclellan A-440 chanter is proving to be difficult. I got relatively close with what I believe is a standard, black G1 reed ... but the results aren't great .. and weird:
  • I had to openup the staple to get the reed not to burble on E
  • With the High-A and Low-A balanced, I need significant tape on F, E, D, C, and B. Half or more in some cases.
  • Low G is flat, so I can't fix that without carving the tone holes.
  • High-A, High-G and Low A are in tune without tape.

I'll carve if I have to, at some point ... but I rather doubt I should need to. I remember having trouble reeding this chanter way-back-when ... but it wasn't THIS bad.

The above results in a moderately in-tune chanter, and right around the target pitch, but it's really chirpy.

Now granted, this is simply the best I could manage in the little time I had after work yesterday. I have many other reeds that I could try ... but first, I kind of thought it might be good to reach out on here, and see if anyone else has had similar issues, and/or found some solutions?

I know that G1 and some other reed makers produce reeds intended for A-440 chanters ... anyone tried these with any success?

Anything else?

Thanks all.

Cheers,
~Nate

Last edited by Pppiper; 05-29-2019 at 08:13 AM.
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Old 05-29-2019, 09:45 AM   #2
bob864
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Default Re: Reeding a 440 Maclellen chanter

I'd send Roddy an email and see what he suggests.
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Old 05-29-2019, 02:14 PM   #3
CalumII
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Default Re: Reeding a 440 Maclellen chanter

Generally, the reed needs to scale with the pitch of the chanter - hence why you have B flat reeds for B flat chanters.



Probably the best people to speak to are those in the habit of making custom reeds - MacPhee and Colin MacLellan over here, though not sure who the North American equivalents are.



Alternatively, someone who makes Border & smallpipes would probably be able to reed it easily enough.
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Old 05-29-2019, 03:29 PM   #4
Patrick McLaurin
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Default Re: Reeding a 440 Maclellen chanter

There are A440 G1 reeds. But I couldn’t tell you how well they work as I haven’t tried them yet.
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Old 05-29-2019, 05:52 PM   #5
el gaitero
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Default Re: Reeding a 440 Maclellen chanter

Quote:
Originally Posted by CalumII View Post

Generally, the reed needs to scale with the pitch of the chanter - hence why you have B flat reeds for B flat chanters.

.
Interestingly I haven’t found anyone credible to explain what exactly a Bb feed ‘is’...compared to a ‘standard reed.
The Shepherd “Bb” and standard molded reeds look physically identical on the exterior in shape, blade length,width, binding detail, ...
A known USA reed maker ( who does not make Bb reeds) could only speculate what the difference might be;
A well know pipemaker who markets a Bb chanter did not know exactly...;
an RPM friend didn’t know about “Bb” reeds at all...he uses only ‘standard’ reeds in his Bb chanter with no issues ( and now so do I) ...tho his chanter maker markets a Bb reed.

So,...what makes a reed “Bb”...beside a maker saying it or stamping it. Ideas?

Last edited by el gaitero; 05-29-2019 at 05:55 PM.
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Old 05-29-2019, 07:44 PM   #6
magsevenband
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Default Re: Reeding a 440 Maclellen chanter

Quote:
Originally Posted by el gaitero View Post
Interestingly I haven’t found anyone credible to explain what exactly a Bb feed ‘is’...compared to a ‘standard reed.
The Shepherd “Bb” and standard molded reeds look physically identical on the exterior in shape, blade length,width, binding detail, ...
A known USA reed maker ( who does not make Bb reeds) could only speculate what the difference might be;
A well know pipemaker who markets a Bb chanter did not know exactly...;
an RPM friend didn’t know about “Bb” reeds at all...he uses only ‘standard’ reeds in his Bb chanter with no issues ( and now so do I) ...tho his chanter maker markets a Bb reed.

So,...what makes a reed “Bb”...beside a maker saying it or stamping it. Ideas?
Heard Bob Shepherd say in a video that it was just regular batch reeds that were flatter after all of the manufacturing had been completed..nothing more scientific than that!
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Old 05-29-2019, 07:55 PM   #7
el gaitero
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Default Re: Reeding a 440 Maclellen chanter

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Originally Posted by magsevenband View Post

Heard Bob Shepherd say in a video that it was just regular batch reeds that were flatter after all of the manufacturing had been completed..nothing more scientific than that!
Yet...one of their ‘standard’ comparatively “not flat” reeds apparently works as well in their Bb chanter .and my own Ceol chanter.
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Old 05-30-2019, 07:38 AM   #8
Pppiper
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Default Re: Reeding a 440 Maclellen chanter

Thanks everyone.

All this on what constitutes/distinguishes a Bb or A reed from a modern reed is partly why I'm posting here on this. It's definitely a point of curiosity.

As stated on my initial post, I am aware that G1 and some other makers do offer such things. And I did consider getting in touch with Roddy Maclellan, but if I don't need to bother him, then that would be nice I think ... I'd much prefer to leave him to his work.

I did do some more research yesterday as I was able, and I came across a few old webpages ...

http://www.hotpipes.com/A440chanter.html

This site states that the maker recommends Apps reeds ... I went ahead and emailed Chris Apps, and he got back to me saying that he has made reeds for this chanter before. Actually, to be more precise, he said "my reeds work very well with the MacLellan 440 chanter you will however always need to use some tape on this chanter to get it bang on 440."

So he didn't precisely say that he would be making reeds that are unique to the chanter, but that his reeds work very well. Of course, I don't particularly care ... if it works, it works. I appreciate his following up, and I placed an order for a few reeds. He also offered to have me send him the chanter, and he can make reeds directly for it—a magnanimous offer on his part, though hopefully not necessary. I'll resort to this, failing all other options ... similar to Roddy, I feel like Chris has plenty other demands on his time, so I'd prefer to intrude as little as possible. He says his reeds work well, and I trust that he knows what he's talking about.

While I was at it, I also placed an order for a couple G1 A-440 reeds. I'm looking forward to comparing. Between the two, I feel rather confident that I should get something that goes quite well, and I'll certainly check back and comment on my results.

Also in researching, I came across this page:

http://www.daye1.com/bagpage/a440.html

... which also has a nifty diagram:




An he mentions an "over-long Warnock-type reed." So is "Warnock-type" a ridge-cut? I feel like it may well be ... and if memory isn't playing tricks on me, I do feel like the reeds I'd used way-back-when were, in fact, Warnock reeds. Also notable though, that diagram is dated 1985.

I don't think it's a coincidence that I'm currently having trouble using reeds that I happen to have laying about, with all of those reeds made with the intention of being used in more current chanters. I had to do some trial and error way-back-when with this chanter to get a good reed, and that was about 15 years ago. Things have only gotten sharper since then, so I suppose it's only sensible that such issues would get worse, and not magically better.

Now in regard to people wondering the physical difference between "A-440" or "Bb" reeds and "normal" reeds ... I do think that in at least some regards, we (the users) may not be able to discern the difference ... slightly longer, or different staple aperture, both of these would likely effect a great change, but we may not be able to readily figure it out inspecting the reed(s).

Within reason, I'm happy to leave the masters to their work ... so long as the reeds do, in the end, work.

Thanks all for chiming in .. I'll let you know how it goes.

Cheers,
~Nate
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Old 05-30-2019, 07:54 AM   #9
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Default Re: Reeding a 440 Maclellen chanter

Quote:
Originally Posted by el gaitero View Post
Yet...one of their ‘standard’ comparatively “not flat” reeds apparently works as well in their Bb chanter .and my own Ceol chanter.


I never knew they made a Bb reed. I have played both regular Shepherd chanters and their Bb chanter and always interchanged reeds between them without issue.
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Old 05-30-2019, 07:56 AM   #10
Pppiper
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Default Re: Reeding a 440 Maclellen chanter

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Originally Posted by gatormac View Post
I never knew they made a Bb reed. I have played both regular Shepherd chanters and their Bb chanter and always interchanged reeds between them without issue.
Seems to me it's very much a luck-of-the-draw sort of thing. From what I've seen, reeds that worked in my A-440 chanter would work fine in my modern-pitch chanters, but not necessarily the other way round.

Cheers,
~Nate
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