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C- and F-Natural: Chanter or reed dependent?

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  • C- and F-Natural: Chanter or reed dependent?

    Hi,
    Recently, I was given a G1 Platinum reed to use in my 2013 Naill plastic solo chanter. I remember that when I was using Platinum reeds before, that the reeds could produce a great C- and F-natural.

    Since I've heard the assumption that a harder reed is more likely to produce C- and F-natural, I purchased an easy-medium reed from Henderson's. However, this reed was a bit on the hard side for me to blow, so I tried, for the very first time, to use sandpaper to ease the reed up. I simply swiped upwards on the flat sides of the blades, then I swiped upwards on the sides. However, the reed did not become easier at all - instead, the High A became very weak in terms of volume, and even before I sanded it, the F-natural and C-natural couldn't even sound. But fortunately, it didn't really affect the tuning of the other notes of the scale.
    So, my question is: To produce a good C- and F-natural, is it more dependent on the chanter itself or the reed? I had only one reed that could produce a good C- and F-natural, but now that reed is just toast. However I'm also aware the fact that Border pipe chanters are constructed in such a way to play C- and F-naturals, not to mention older Highland pipe chanters.
    I blow at about 27 for strength, just so you'll have an idea of what my solo-reed strength is. I'm surprised these naturals aren't working. I have huge musical talent, and I'd like to make the natural notes possible. I've heard countless experienced pipers do it, such as Stuart Liddel, so I know it's possible. But do I need a harder reed, different chanter, or what?
    In my opinion, I consider a reed as being a "good" reed, if it can play both C- and F-naturals properly in tune, not to mention the other notes. I carved on my High A a little bit, since I don't like flat High A's and it more often happens with the chanter reed pulled out of the seat a bit, and sharpening the High A did help only to a minute degree.
    So if anyone can offer some help this would be appreciated. Note also that I tried fingering the F-natural the same way as you finger the C-natural on the bottom hand and the F-natural fingers on the top hand, and it still doesn't work. I just can't live without these notes. My Piobaireachd Drees will sound nicer as well.

    Thanks


    Michael
    My Youtube channel (continually being updated): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZo...4lGJLyw/videos - Feel free to subscribe!

  • #2
    Re: C- and F-Natural: Chanter or reed dependent?

    Since you think you've already khaked the reed ...have you tried nipping off .05 mm at the lips?....in two tries.

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    • #3
      Re: C- and F-Natural: Chanter or reed dependent?

      Well, I've heard that trimming the end of the reed will actually make it harder to blow, and this reed I'm currently using is slightly on the hard side. Also, it hasn't been blown in, which might be a factor, who knows... BTw I have some MacPhee reeds I tried in this chanter and they don't produce naturals either.
      My Youtube channel (continually being updated): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZo...4lGJLyw/videos - Feel free to subscribe!

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: C- and F-Natural: Chanter or reed dependent?

        Originally posted by Michael Kazmierski Dunn View Post
        Well, I've heard that trimming the end of the reed will actually make it harder to blow, and this reed I'm currently using is slightly on the hard side. Also, it hasn't been blown in, which might be a factor, who knows... BTw I have some MacPhee reeds I tried in this chanter and they don't produce naturals either.
        Tried fully immersing the set reed upside down in room temp water for 12-15 seconds.?...schluff off the excess water and play...20-30 min. Do this a few times ( McPhee) ..it will help break in the reed nicely.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: C- and F-Natural: Chanter or reed dependent?

          I honestly never thought of dipping the end in water for that long. In fact, I never have dipped reeds. This might contribute to the natural notes as well, again I'm not sure. I'll try it out sometime this week, and if it still doesn't produce naturals, then, um, I don't know what to do. Not that any of my competition tunes have those notes, but to me, it just makes my Dree's in Piobaireachd sound nicer. If you listen to Roddy MacLeod playing "Too Long in this Condition", in his Dree movements, I can actually hear an F, not an F natural like usually hear in those movements, as they finger that note when it comes to the F gracenote.
          My Youtube channel (continually being updated): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZo...4lGJLyw/videos - Feel free to subscribe!

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          • #6
            Re: C- and F-Natural: Chanter or reed dependent?

            It's tough, friend. I've wanted for years to get those notes with alternative fingering- but I just can't get them to work. I've been told it's largely because I live at such a high altitude- about 4.5 thousand feet. All I've been able to do is either bend the note by partially covering holes, or tape down the f/c in preparation for the tune that calls for the natural notes...

            Best of luck!

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: C- and F-Natural: Chanter or reed dependent?

              I've not played every chanter out there for sure, or every reed, but in my experience certain chanter/reed combinations produce great accidentals while others don't.

              And F and C don't necessarily function the same, because a chanter/reed combo might do F but not C.

              There's really only one C fingering x xxx xoxo but there are various F fingerings, for example

              x xox xxxo

              might not work but

              x xox xoxo

              might. Try various combinations of the lower-hand fingers to see.

              Older chanters, say 1960s Hardies, and modern concert Bb/466 chanters especially with moulded reeds do accidentals best in my experience. My McCallum 466 does perfect accidentals even with a ridge-cut reed.

              In my experience recently made high-pitch super-loud chanters with strong ridge-cut reeds often won't produce certain accidentals.

              BTW with old chanters High G# can often be done with

              o xxo xxxo

              which is sometimes a hair sharp, or

              o xxo xxox

              which is sometimes better.

              On modern chanters

              x oxx xoox

              usually works.
              proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; Son of the Revolution and Civil War; first European settlers on the Guyandotte

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: C- and F-Natural: Chanter or reed dependent?

                Originally posted by BaggyMcPipes View Post
                I All I've been able to do is either bend the note by partially covering holes, or tape down the f/c in preparation for the tune that calls for the natural notes.
                On the Galician gaita you produce C with crossfingering just like on the Highland pipes, while on the Asturian gaita you have to half-hole it.

                There's a great Asturian piper Vicente Prado (el Praviano) who is incredibly good at doing the crossfingered C- you would swear he has a hole for that note, because he's so precise in doing the crossfingering. It's simply a matter of practice.
                Last edited by pancelticpiper; 08-21-2017, 03:54 AM.
                proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; Son of the Revolution and Civil War; first European settlers on the Guyandotte

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: C- and F-Natural: Chanter or reed dependent?

                  Yeah, as people have said ... this is a tough area. I play in an ensemble that frequently relies on the use of c naturals and f naturals, and we spend a considerable amount of effort trying to ensure those notes perform.

                  Overall, everything will depend on the reed ... but in my experience, some chanters are more consistent than others in producing the naturals.

                  When with the group, I use a Campbell Tunable McCallum chanter, which tends to be pretty consistent. Otherwise, I heavily favor my Colin Kyo blackwood solo chanter, which also seems to do well with the natural notes.

                  When it comes to reeds, here's what I've found:
                  • Traditionally, I'd always used either G1 or Husk reeds ... both are ridge cut.
                  • Recently, I'd read somewhere that molded, non-ridge reeds fare better than ridge-cuts for natural notes, so I've recently picked up some Shepherd, molded reeds. So far, the Shepherd non-ridge reeds seem to do well, but they've yet to be truly tested for a long string of gigs. This is coming up soon, actually.
                  • I find that medium strength is the way to go. Too hard, and you're not going to be able to maintain good pressure on the reed. Too light, and the natural notes "blow out."
                  • By "blow out" ... I mean that with too much pressure, the natural note will cease to work, and you'll get a badly sounding c# or f# instead.
                  • If you REALLY keep your pressure low, you can sometimes prevent the natural notes from blowing out, but really, this isn't all that feasible. If you're needing to do this, the reed should either be altered or replaced.
                  • Avoid sinking the reed very far in the seat, you get problems across the board with this .. especially with F.
                  • If natural notes are starting to fail with the reed getting too soft, you can try opening up the staple with a mandrel, or chopping the tops of the blades off with a very sharp chisel. It might work, it might not. Shawn Husk has some great reed manipulation videos on youtube. Google it, I'm sure they'll come up.


                  F natural tends to be far more problematic than C. As a general rule, it's best to get in the habit of ALWAYS playing an F natural with both middle fingers up (funny, I know). This is difficult, especially with faster tunes ... but like anything else, you get better at it with practice. Grips and strikes are especially tough to execute.

                  With every reed I've ever used, the F and C naturals seem to start to fail eventually. It seems to be a step in the road for the life of the reed. If the naturals are starting to go, often, it's because the reed is getting too easy on me.

                  Hope some of this helps.

                  Cheers,
                  ~Nate
                  Last edited by Pppiper; 08-21-2017, 07:49 AM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: C- and F-Natural: Chanter or reed dependent?

                    I was always under the impression that naturals are easier to play with a slightly easier reed than harder reed.

                    Also, in my experience, G1 Platinum reeds tend to be one strength harder than most others at their named strength - ie an easy is more of an easy medium, an easy medium is more of a medium, etc. With most other (band) reeds, I play a medium, but when we switched to the G1 Platinums, I had to move down to an easy medium and even that was a bit stiff for a while.
                    You don't have fun by winning. You win by having fun.

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                    • #11
                      Re: C- and F-Natural: Chanter or reed dependent?

                      I've found what seems to be a pattern, very dependent on the reed for the most part, that seems to produce good C and F naturals. If a reed is very free blowing and has a very vibrant top hand then the C and F naturals will almost always come out if fingered in the normal way.

                      The same seems to be true of chanters. Some chanters are "tight" and some are more "open", you could also use the term "free blowing" to describe the more "open" chanters.

                      Say you are using the same nice medium strength reed in chanter A and it feels perfectly medium in strength, then you take that same reed and put it in chanter B, now in this chanter it feels like you stepped up to a medium/hard reed. Chanter A is the freer blowing of the two and chanter B is tighter. Chanter A will most likely produce better C and F natural whereas chanter B may or may not.

                      So the ultimate combination you want is a free blowing chanter and a very vibrant chanter reed.

                      When testing reeds by mouth you should be able to blow through it and get a crow initially (the screechy scratchy sound) then if you increase the pressure you should get a high pitched constant tone with no more crow sound to it. This is a free and vibrant reed and will most likely produce the C and F naturals quite well. If the reed only crows and does not achieve this high pitched tone with more pressure than that is a tighter reed.

                      Vibrant top hand reeds have excellent sound and great top hand volume but are not as stable as the tighter reeds. Those tighter reeds will be extremely stable but not have quite as much freeness in the top hand and will not have as much top hand volume.

                      The McCallum chanter is one of the most free blowing ones on the market imo. There are many others but if you really want fool proof C and F naturals this is a great chanter for that. (I have no affiliation with McCallum nor do I sell their products; this has simply been my experience over the past 7 years as a reedmaker testing and blowing reeds every day.)

                      In short, if you have multiple chanters take one reed and test it in every chanter and find the one that seems the easiest to blow with that reed. That will be your "freest" chanter. Then go through your reeds and mouth blow them and try to find one that can be blown through the crow to the high pitched tone. Put those two together and most likely you'll have your F and C naturals.

                      Hope this helps.
                      Get in the circle!

                      www.huskreeds.com

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: C- and F-Natural: Chanter or reed dependent?

                        Originally posted by Shawn Husk View Post
                        In short, if you have multiple chanters take one reed and test it in every chanter and find the one that seems the easiest to blow with that reed. That will be your "freest" chanter. Then go through your reeds and mouth blow them and try to find one that can be blown through the crow to the high pitched tone. Put those two together and most likely you'll have your F and C naturals.

                        Hope this helps.
                        As per usual, Shawn .. very enlightening. Explains a lot of things. Namely, why I've tended to have better luck with McCallum chanters. Thanks as well on further demystifying the reed quality.

                        Cheers,
                        ~Nate

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: C- and F-Natural: Chanter or reed dependent?

                          Originally posted by Shawn Husk View Post
                          Some chanters are "tight" and some are more "open", you could also use the term "free blowing" to describe the more "open" chanters.
                          Very interesting, thanks for pointing out that correlation.

                          Brass players speak of a "stuffy" horn, what you're calling "tight".

                          I think of it as impedance.

                          With flutes, whistles, chanters, reeds, some just come alive in your hands, resonate freely, and put out a lot of tone with little effort. Yes ordinary musicians will speak of "freeblowing" horns.

                          With the stuffy ones it seems like you have to force the tone out, a lot of effort with small award.
                          proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; Son of the Revolution and Civil War; first European settlers on the Guyandotte

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                          • #14
                            Re: C- and F-Natural: Chanter or reed dependent?

                            Originally posted by Shawn Husk View Post
                            Some chanters are "tight" and some are more "open", you could also use the term "free blowing" to describe the more "open" chanters.
                            Are we talking poly or ab chanters? Does it matter?

                            -Matthew

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                            • #15
                              Re: C- and F-Natural: Chanter or reed dependent?

                              Originally posted by 3D Piper View Post
                              Are we talking poly or ab chanters?
                              Shawn is the treasure trove of knowledge, but I wanted to chime in that in my trials, chanter material hasn't made any noticeable difference in terms of producing naturals.

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