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Base Drone Reed Making Me Crazy!

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  • Base Drone Reed Making Me Crazy!

    HI, all. I recently purchased a set of [Ackland, not Atherton] Overtones for my G&M pipes. They sound great! Problem...the base drone keeps cutting off after about 20 minutes of play. I initially thought the bridle needed adjusting, so I started moving it up the tongue in small increments. Each time, no joy, drone kept shutting off. Eventually, I'd brought the bridle all the way up as far as it would go, and it was still cutting out. Okay. Figured the problem might be moisture of something else under the tongue. Brought out my trusty dirty dollar bill and slid it under a few times. Played okay after that...for about twenty minutes. I couldn't see anything under the tongue moisture or otherwise. My PM finally suggested I try a hair under the tongue. I did so, and son of a gun if it didn't work exactly as advertised! Problem? Now I can't shut the drone off at all, no matter how far down I bring the bridle. Also, now the reed growls most of the time, so that is not solving the problem. I'm out of ideas, other than to spring the tongue, which I am loathe to do... So, any other tips or tricks I might try?

    Thanks in advance.
    Bill
    Last edited by Andrew Lenz; 04-26-2021, 01:19 PM. Reason: Edited "Atherton" to "Ackland".

  • #2
    What is an Atherton Overtone? This is a combination of two unrelated business names.

    Perhaps you mean Atherton Rockets, which would imply Rocket Reeds made specifically for Atherton pipes...which is a thing. Whereas Atherton Overtone is not. Overtone reeds have a singular design applied at different lengths (for the most part) to give different pitches, but is not specific to any particular make of pipes like Rockets were.
    My Piping Blog (recordings, articles, reviews, etc.) - Homepage - Pekaar's Tune Encyclopedia - Convert BMW to ABC

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    • #3
      Two thoughts.....checked for any wood crack or air leak out from under a cap? Also,..not sure which brand reeds you have as pointed out..but if they can be readily disassembled and lightly washed up inside and out ..this cured similar sounding issues I once had with a set of Kinnaird reeds. After a wash up they played fine.

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      • #4
        Hmmm...guess I should have proofread myself a bit better. I’d meant ACKLAND...

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        • #5
          These are brand new, but it’s certainly possible for there to be some manufacturing debris I could check for. These are pure synthetic, so no cracks that I can discern...

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          • #6
            The cracks gaitero refer to would be cracks in your pipes, perhaps that open after gaining moisture from playing.

            Check the reed seats, perhaps your recent installation of them opened up a crack. That actually happened to me once several years ago, bass drone as well, and it made the bass do really funny things but only sporadically depending on how deep I seated the reed. Was just a tiny crack in the reed seat easily super glued closed.

            I would not use a hair. Any idea what strength chanter reed you are playing?

            Curious that it’s after 20 minutes of play. It would seem undoubtedly moisture related.
            My Piping Blog (recordings, articles, reviews, etc.) - Homepage - Pekaar's Tune Encyclopedia - Convert BMW to ABC

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            • #7
              Exactly Patrick, it sounds like a moisture issue rather than a reed issue per se.

              G&M, Gillanders & McLeod? So they would be African Blackwood, not as prone to that problem as delrin/polypenco/acetal drones would be.

              I had a poly Dunbar set for a while, after 15 minutes the drones would be full of water and shutting off.
              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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              • #8
                Originally posted by Angus MacBagpipe View Post
                These are brand new, but it’s certainly possible for there to be some manufacturing debris I could check for. These are pure synthetic, so no cracks that I can discern...
                Similar...I acquired a vintage Lawrie cocus practice chanter some years ago...bought it because it matched a few other RGL of the exact same style that all sounded terrific. This one played horribly for weeks ...until I shined a light down into the top....I found there was (still) a solidified blob of sawdust the size of a fat Lima bean stuck way up there since the chanter had been made in the 1950’s. As soon as I worked the lump out..voila..the chanter played excellent. This idea can happen with drone reeds too....that brown-y accumulation crap from within the blowstick might work loose...

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                • #9
                  Try adding a small piece of weight - something like blu-tac - (poster putty?) to the drone tongue, to add a very small amount of mass.
                  http://www.callingthetune.co.uk
                  -- Formerly known as CalumII

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                  • #10
                    Oh and, as always, contact your reed-maker for advice!
                    http://www.callingthetune.co.uk
                    -- Formerly known as CalumII

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                    • #11
                      Thanks all for the replies, gave me plenty to think about. I'd had a feeling that moisture might be the culprit, even if I couldn't find anything visible. I'd been using a bottle-trap MCS with a set of tone-enhancers (newly refurbished), and had thought everything was fine, moisture-wise, until this cutting out business developed. On a whim, I changed out the bottle trap to a Ross canister system I'd been using in the past. Bingo. Played a full 35 minutes pretty much non-stop with this setup, and nary a hint of cutting out. I do prefer the bottle-trap; it's lighter, takes up less space in the bag, and (I believe) allows more air into the drones than the Ross. But these Acklands are advertised as being very efficient, so I'm thinking they just might require less air but will still put out a good sound, so it all (seems) to even out. The feel is good, and I don't have to sacrifice the Ackland bass for something that isn't my preferred brand.

                      Again, thanks for the input. BTW, I have an easy-medium Melvin reed shaved more to the easy side, about 26" H2O. Gillanders & McLeods, 1980s vintage, lots of deep-orange Catalin.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Angus MacBagpipe View Post
                        I'd been using a bottle-trap MCS with a set of tone-enhancers (newly refurbished), and had thought everything was fine, moisture-wise, until this cutting out business developed. On a whim, I changed out the bottle trap to a Ross canister system I'd been using in the past.
                        I'd be willing to bet my car that the issue is moisture, but not with the drone reeds...I'd bet it's moisture interacting with your tone enhancers. Notice that those are the next common denominator. All air that goes to your drone reeds, and thus all moisture that goes to your drone reeds, is first going through your tone enhancers. In fact, I'm almost sure of it being an issue with those getting wet.

                        I'd be curious for you to try taking the bass enhancer out, or even all three, and seeing if you can get used to the shift.
                        Jack
                        Serving Jello with a ladle since... forever

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by jackhawkpiper97 View Post

                          I'd be willing to bet my car that the issue is moisture, but not with the drone reeds...I'd bet it's moisture interacting with your tone enhancers. Notice that those are the next common denominator. All air that goes to your drone reeds, and thus all moisture that goes to your drone reeds, is first going through your tone enhancers. In fact, I'm almost sure of it being an issue with those getting wet.

                          I'd be curious for you to try taking the bass enhancer out, or even all three, and seeing if you can get used to the shift.
                          Jack
                          Tone Enhancers (which is a terrible misnomer - more on that later) do have some sort of desiccant material in them, so I’m not sure if that would be the issue. But who knows, I have been wrong before and I’m sure it will happen again.

                          As to them being horribly misnamed, they do not enhance the tone. Quite the opposite really; they dampen the tone quite a bit. They choke out the air supply and isolate the drone from the bag.

                          Taking them out could have a huge improvement on your sound and make things easier to play overall.
                          You don't have fun by winning. You win by having fun.

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                          • #14
                            Bill,
                            I hope you have sorted out your bass reed? You did contact me several weeks ago with the problem of the bass shutting off and finally discovering it was moisture problem caused by mouth blowing before insertion into the drone.
                            A hair under the tongue, flicking or weighting is not going to fix anything. There is a very precise angle/depth machined into the reed body, whilst the tongue is flat rather than curved.
                            The vibrating gap between tongue and body is not adjustable, nudging the bridle up or down the angle only alters the pitch rather than efficiency, which is perhaps why they work in most pipes?
                            Terry
                            Last edited by T.Ackland; 04-28-2021, 06:07 AM.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by T.Ackland View Post
                              Bill,
                              *SNIP* nudging the bridle up or down the angle only alters the pitch rather than efficiency, which is perhaps why they work in most pipes?
                              Terry
                              Hello Terry,
                              So can I infer then that the reeds are not adjustable for efficiency?
                              Cheers,
                              Scot.

                              There's only nine notes ... how hard can it be?

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