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  • #16
    I used to play reeds on the harder side, say 34" to 36", but I no longer do.
    I weaned myself down to 30" gradually, and it's far more comfortable. Blowing steady tone is a little more critical at this strength since variations in pressure seem to be more audible.
    I also adjusted my drone reed strength accordingly, and find my pipes much more pleasurable to play and for longer periods.
    I also made my strike ins a little more gentle to avoid early Es....
    if I go to 28" or lower, I find the whole set up a little to fragile for my liking...
    But it's all personal preference....
    I'm sure my smallpipes are a lot lighter than that too...and they run fine..

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    • #17
      My current reed is sitting at about 35-36", and as I mentioned that's much more than I thought. I put that down to having spent several years pre-pandemic doing some pretty amateurish weightlifting; it's made everything about playing the pipes easier and more pleasant. I would have said before that that I was comfortable at 30-32", though I'd expect to play more in a band setting. I'd happily play lighter reeds if I got my hands on them!

      The thing about harder reeds is not tone exactly, it's stability. The pitch change for a given pressure wobble is less if the reed is harder, as you've found. However, controlling an easier reed is just skill, and it's easy enough to acquire.
      http://www.callingthetune.co.uk
      -- Formerly known as CalumII

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      • #18
        [QUOTE=Calum;n1372184

        , controlling an easier reed is just skill, and it's easy enough to acquire.

        [/QUOTE]

        absolutely....

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        • #19
          It’s the same for a hard reed. The only difference is that instead of the pitch changing with pressure, the reed will just cut out.
          You don't have fun by winning. You win by having fun.

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          • #20
            As a long-time low brass player and teacher, I strongly advise against using the baritone horn/trombone/ tuba mouthpiece route. Try working with lighter reeds as suggested, but listen to yourself, particularly to the drones as you play. You will learn to control the breath and lengthen the time you play.
            Also, a lot of brass players try to get the higher range by forcing their lips tighter, when repositioning the jaw angle makes it a lot easier. That's a discussion for another forum, however. Another exercise to strengthen your facial muscles and lip seal is to blow up balloons- using deep, steady diaphragmatic breaths, slow and steady. I used to demonstrate that with my students by blowing up a party balloon in one breath rather than huffing and puffing. Take it bit by bit and it will come.
            Slainte Leibh/ Slan Leat, Bob Cameron

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            • #21
              Lots of good suggestions and comments here, as usual. The other issue with hard reeds (what I usually feel is 32" or more) is that your whole body can tense up. It's always surprising to me how many players have shoulders, necks, wrists, etc. that are flexed 'bracing for impact'. The Highland pipes should feel like an extension of your body, and you want reeds that allow you to stay relaxed but also have enough stiffness for you to lean into a bit without being on a knife's edge. I have been re-learning to blow around 26" or so this last year and it's a game changer for me. I see some players play harder reeds by using lots of micropuff breaths to maintain pressure because they can't maintain that with their arm if they stop. Doesn't make any sense to me.
              Happy Piping

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              • #22
                Yeah,...>30” is so,...’70’s...

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                • #23
                  I've been piping for just over 40 years ( started learning 42 years ago, but was already a professional musician). I regularly play solo for an hour or more at a time and use easy (or senior) reeds. It does take time and practice to get used to them. I haven't competed in years, and only do 1 or 2 parades (solo), but a few dozen weddings, funerals, graduations, Civic events, Military events ( a Dining In for the Office of Naval Intelligence, an Ensign's commissioning and a Captain's retirement aboard USS Constitution, for example). The Easy reeds suit me just fine.
                  Slainte Leibh/ Slan Leat, Bob Cameron

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                  • #24
                    All of the above, but I'll add this: are your pipes leaking? And is your setup efficient? Even with a not-so-aggressive chanter reed, if you've got leaks or an inefficient set-up then you'll be working much harder than you need. Your lips will suffer for it.

                    If your pipes are leaking even a little bit, it can make a noticeable difference in how hard you have to blow.

                    Cork your drone & chanter stocks and see how long your bag remains tight when you inflate it. When I've just seasoned my sheepskin bag, it can remain tight 20 minutes or more.

                    Install your drones and blow up until they cut off and the bag is tight. How long does it remain tight? When sounding, drone reeds are closed as much time as they're open, and if they leak when they're closed then it's no different from a leak in the bag. If they leak, take a piece of paper and drag it between the tongue and the body. If they still leak, consider taking them apart to clean if you feel up to it, or worst case invest in new ones.

                    How much do you have to overblow to get the drones to shut off? I like to set mine up so that the tenors cut off 10-20% above the point where the chanter starts to get unhappy, and the bass a few percent above that. So with a chanter reed hitting its sweet spot about 30" H20 and becoming unhappy around say 34, I'll set the tenors to shut off maybe around 40 and the bass maybe 45. The idea is to have them take the least air possible and still sound steady and good. Having the bass shut off last means you won't get DQed in a solo if you overblow a little ;-)

                    You instructor should be able to help with these checks and adjustments. And get in the habit of checking your instrument frequently. VERY frequently!

                    I'll wager with a good tight, efficient pipe you'll have less issue with your embouchure.

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                    • #25
                      I'm also reminded today as I play a set I don't usually play -- if you blowpipe is small-bored, you have to blow harder to get air through it which places more strain on your lips.

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                      • #26
                        To anyone interested, I have found a good exercise that seems to work and has noticeably increased the stamina of my facial muscles. Several times a day while sitting at my desk at work, I put the handle end of a spoon between my lips and just hold it there as long as I can. That in conjunction with using the standard mouthpiece for indoor practicing, and I can already tell a significant difference in just about a week.

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                        • #27
                          Sounds pretty similar to the exercises I posted early on in the thread.
                          You don't have fun by winning. You win by having fun.

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                          • #28
                            Just as an interesting aside, in an effort to get my pipe corps back in shape as covid begins to let up its horrible isolation, I hosted a small maintenance workshop.
                            I had each piper remove their drones, cork their stocks, and do a leak check on their bags.
                            All were OK for the most part. This is nothing new and something I do about twice a year...or if I suspect a leak.
                            Then, I had them re-install their drones, minus drone reeds, and cork the top of the drones...
                            Presumably to check the quality of their hemp jobs.
                            Most came away with the same result...but one did not.
                            Turns out the caps on his drones were cracked and leaking a fair bit.
                            Now I don't know if that would make his pipes harder to play per se.....
                            But I'm sure that would cause drone instability, and any loss of air is not wanted...so, something I will now add to my leak checks to become as air efficient as possible...

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                            • #29
                              Originally posted by Lochie View Post
                              Turns out the caps on his drones were cracked and leaking a fair bit. ...I'm sure that would cause drone instability
                              It certainly does! BTDT

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                              • #30
                                "a small maintenance workshop.
                                I had each piper remove their drones, cork their stocks, and do a leak check on their bags"

                                i did this this morning and discovered a leak in my hybrid Bannatyne along the side of the bag where the zipper is stitched onto the fabric. it looks to be about 3 cms long
                                Any suggestions for repairing this or do I have to get a new Bag?
                                i would add that I also found that my moose valve was not tight enough. So I have made a note to do this more often
                                Last edited by Abbott; 06-15-2021, 01:09 AM.

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