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Old 10-09-2002, 12:57 PM   #1
SkyeHigh
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Default Chanter Reed: hard? easy? why? ...

Hi:

I'm a new piper. I've been playing the pipes for about two months (I'm up to two drones ). I've had different, experienced pipers tell me different things regarding the hardness of the chanter reed. One guy told me there's no reason for anyone to play a hard reed. Another guy, that was trying a drone reed in my set, said that my chanter reed was way too easy.

My question: how hard should a chanter reed be for a beginning piper and, most importantly, why?

I understand that the harder the reed, the louder and, hopefully, better the sound. But, when should I worry about that?

Thanks for any advice.
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Old 10-09-2002, 01:14 PM   #2
tallbagpiper
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Default Re: Chanter Reed: hard? easy? why? ...

If your chanter reed is too hard, you'll become frustated, or else wind up with cheeks like Dizzy Gillespie!

If, on the other hand, they are too easy, you'll have inferior tone, and, as I found out the hard way, your chanter will squeeal whilke striking in your pipes.
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Old 10-09-2002, 01:22 PM   #3
Rick James
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Default Re: Chanter Reed: hard? easy? why? ...

My opinion:
You should never have to play a "gut-buster"

But a reed that is too easy can cause two obvious problems:
(1) You won't be able to start your drones without sounding your chanter. You need to have a pressure difference here to be able to control your instrument. You should be able to strike in your drones and hold it comfortably - playing the drones alone without the chanter - then with control, strike in your chanter. Please note that this does not necessarily mean your drones are at full pressure and will sound right -- but they should come in full when your chanter starts.
(2) The other obvious problem will be the tone of the chanter. It will sound kind of "squirrely" without a full tone on each note. It may sound like you're playing underwater. You may also get gurgling on your low G and A. If this happens, you need to start a new reed. There are things you can do to a reed to give yourself a little more time before complete failure, but consider these symptoms an early warning.

I hope this helps,
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Old 10-10-2002, 10:46 AM   #4
SkyeHigh
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Default Re: Chanter Reed: hard? easy? why? ...

Thanks for the help!

I had experienced some squealing with the first, very easy reed that I had. "But it got betta" when I went to a harder (still easy) reed.

So, my follow up question is, how does one go about selecting a good chanter reed?

I noticed in one of the other forums, someone (I think it was Jim McGillivray) said, a certain chanter was designed for a certain brand/type of reed. If this is generally true, how do I find out what reed my chanter was designed for? Or, do I have to stick one reed of every brand into it and try it? In which case, I might not be able to recognize a good reed when I hear it!

Thanks, again, for everyone's help.
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Old 10-10-2002, 11:27 AM   #5
Jeff Wolf
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Default Re: Chanter Reed: hard? easy? why? ...

Skye,

It is my understanding that pipe/chanter makers usually have a reed make or three in mind when they design/redesign their chanters. Others may be perfectly suited by coincidence.

Contacting the manufacturers - or the likes of Jim McGillvray or Chris Hamilton - about what make of reed best suits your particular chanter is a quick and easy way to find out.
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Old 10-10-2002, 11:57 AM   #6
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Default Re: Chanter Reed: hard? easy? why? ...

I start my beginners, whether adults or children, with chanter reeds that they can blow and play a scale or more on (provided they have the co-ordination) the first or second day they acquire their pipes. (Of course the drones are stopped.) The reed is so easy that if it were any easier it would collapse. I heard a beginner in another forum a few days ago saying how happy he was that it only took him two days before he get a squawk out of the chanter. To my way of thinking that is too hard to start off with. The idea is to get the beginner started at developing the co-ordination to squeeze and blow a steady sound, not to get him/her ready to join SFU, and to do so in an encouraging, maybe even fun, manner. There's lots of time to develop a good sound. My beginners don't really start with a good sound, though it's definitely in tune. But they start, they have fun, and within a couple of weeks they've got a drone and are playing simple tunes.

In two months or so they've got a couple of drones and a slightly more challenging chanter reed.

There is a frequent attitude "out there" that if a chanter reed is comfortable to blow straight off, or if a big vein isn't standing out on your forehead when you play then something is wrong. I like to do everything I can to discourage this idea right from the start.

Cheers,
Jim
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Old 10-11-2002, 12:24 PM   #7
SkyeHigh
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Default Re: Chanter Reed: hard? easy? why? ...

Thanks, Jeff and Jim.

I couldn't agree with you more, Jim. I'm a beginning piper and after spending over a year on practice chanter (not the instrument I wanted to play, mind you), I did not want to be discouraged the first time I tried to play the bagpipes, that I had finally managed to acquire! harder reed.

The problem now is/are my drone reeds. But, I have a new set on the way that should fix that problem.

Thanks, again, to everyone for the help. I'm sure there will be lots more questions in the future.
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Old 10-13-2002, 12:00 AM   #8
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Default Re: Chanter Reed: hard? easy? why? ...

Easy, Medium and Hard are quit relitive and subjective terms. I was once afraid of starting down the slippery slop where I would think that if i blew an easy reed , every time I got a new reed it would get easier and easier until I was a real wimp. Many of the good pipers I espected who tried my pipes, could not understand why I would blow the reed I was blowing. Today I am blowing easier more comfortable reeds, based on advice from these respected people. I think I am in the range of strength that the amjority of relitively expereinced people play, but I think if I have to play a riddiculasly hard reed, it is not worth it. However, when begining if you cannot blow a reed you really can't play, let alone enjoy playing however, playing a very light reed is very blowing sensitive. I think poorer blowers may finfd it easier to just blow and squeeze as hard as they can will give them the best control but as their strength improves, they end up blowing the strong hard reeds. I guess someone has to use those gut busters. However back on track, I have suggested to people that they strengthen their reed because they could not play it with out squacks, oversharp high a's etc. I would only make that suggestion after trying their reed in their pipes. How ever I would never suggest to any one to blow a reed that is harder than what I consider a medium.
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Old 10-13-2002, 12:55 AM   #9
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Default Re: Chanter Reed: hard? easy? why? ...

Skye, I"ve read and have been told, "we are musicians, not athletes". As Mr. McGillivray put it in one of his invaluable books, a reed that is too hard will effect the playing. I've definately found this to be true.If you can play it on your practice chanter(technique that is), but not on your pipes, your reed is probobly too hard. There are ways you can manipulate an easier reed without taking away tone quality. I buy easy reeds and open the staple to what is comfortable for me instead of shaving a reed. Get someone(your tutor) to help and show you how it's done. There are other ways of doing it, this one works for me.
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Old 10-13-2002, 07:12 AM   #10
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Default Re: Chanter Reed: hard? easy? why? ...

Ok, very useful info for me... Cuz my first set of pipes are in order now. To save money I have to buy own reeds and bag and other stuff to assemble it with friends and instructor's help, though.

I don't think I am a strong blower. When people let me try, I have a very hard time squeezing a sound out of even a set with "very easy" reed. So I am sure I need a very easy chanter reed first.

My chanter is gonna be Kron's BW solo, which, according to many threads I have read, goes with almost any brands of reeds. If I was to get a very easy kind of reed, what should I get?

Hiroe
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