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Harder reeds for colder weather?

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  • Harder reeds for colder weather?

    I had a problem with my reeds in playing outside for a funeral yesterday-it was in the 20’s (F), breezy, and overcast. After about 5 minutes, the drone reeds started shutting down, and then the chanter reed swelled and stopped. I carry spare reeds in my pockets, so swapped in new ones and carried on, but again, after a few minutes, the swapped-in reeds also failed.
    Poly pipes with Moose Valve, BalanceTone Bb, Henderson Harmonics and Selbies. I have been playing easy chanter reeds- would stronger ones hold up longer?
    Slainte Leibh/ Slan Leat, Bob Cameron

  • #2
    The condensation is terrible at that temperature. I remember a band gig 40 years ago - a Santa Claus parade. Temperature a few degrees below freezing. At the end, there were only four drone reeds and two chanter reeds still going amongst ten pipers, one chanter reed being the PM's, and he played a very hard reed. Maybe a stronger reed would have helped, but probably keeping all moisture out, a Ross system for example, would really help. I know that the Toronto Police used to have in their contract for the end-of-November Toronto Santa Claus parade a clause (ho, ho, ho) specifying that if the temperature was below 35F the band would march but not play; this was in the pre-Ross, hide bag, days.

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    • #3
      A vinyl tube trap with a Trap-Dri would resolve a tremendous amount of the moisture issue...with either an integral valve blowstick...or a well tied syn material flapper....which can be as airtight as a Moose valve in my experience.
      Not playing in temps below freezing should be obvious...ala the Toronto Police. After all, it's simple science. My own cut off is ~37F.
      ​​​​​​ I queried a SG RPM friend once... how does the SG PB handle a gig when temps are near freezing...he said pretty much the same..."we don't go".

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      • #4
        I agree that reducing moisture levels in bag and pipes during cold weather is important. Keeping the air warm is also to prevent reed issues.

        My cold weather system:

        1) Bannatyne MCS

        2) Keep bag air warm with two form-cut wool blankets around bag beneath bag cover.

        3) Keep stocks warm with heating pads wrapped around stocks housing reeds.

        4) Plug heating pads in to power bank at temps below (-5C / 22F)

        5) knit half gloves below freezing.

        I've played for 20 minutes at -15C with this system. No reed changes required.
        “Where’s my beer?”

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        • #5
          One suggestion would be to open up the staple so the mouth opening is too wide, then add a bridle to bring it back in where it should be. No guarantees, but this increases the forces holding the blades in place meaning they should be less responsive to climatic changes. Some North American reedmakers for bellows pipes take a similar approach.
          http://www.callingthetune.co.uk
          -- Formerly known as CalumII

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          • #6
            Calum, I might try that. A lot of the current water traps are not very adaptable to a non-zippered bag.
            Slainte Leibh/ Slan Leat, Bob Cameron

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            • #7
              A follow-up: on blowing up the pipes tonight I found the chanter reed incredibly hard to blow and the drones very unsteady. On closer examination, I found the bag was leaking. I shall re-assess after re-dressing the bag. If it still leaks, I will get a new bag.
              Slainte Leibh/ Slan Leat, Bob Cameron

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              • #8
                Greetings to All,

                "Times Past"... and especially for graveside services... in those
                God-Bloody-Awful cold days... to which we are called... I have
                found the simplest .... and most efficient... at least for me... is
                to simply stand there... with my left hand around the bulb... to
                help keep the chanter reed warm... and to slowly... and gently...
                and quietly... breath into the bag... and without... sounding any
                of the reeds... thereby keeping the reeds permeated with warm
                air... until such time as the playing begins.

                We each all have our various "Tricks of the Trade"... but I find
                this works the best for me.

                Wishing for All... an Easy Go... :-)

                Pip01
                My friends all know,
                With what a brave carouse...

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Pip01 View Post
                  Greetings to All,

                  "Times Past"... and especially for graveside services... in those
                  God-Bloody-Awful cold days... to which we are called... I have
                  found the simplest .... and most efficient... at least for me... is
                  to simply stand there... with my left hand around the bulb... to
                  help keep the chanter reed warm... and to slowly... and gently...
                  and quietly... breath into the bag... and without... sounding any
                  of the reeds... thereby keeping the reeds permeated with warm
                  air... until such time as the playing begins.

                  We each all have our various "Tricks of the Trade"... but I find
                  this works the best for me.

                  Wishing for All... an Easy Go... :-)

                  Pip01
                  This practice has worked for me for decades. I have piped for funerals in temperatures as low as -10 F and often played at Remembrance Day services when the temperature was in the low 20s F. I personally doubt that warming the bulb or the chanter stock with your hand or wrapping stocks with heating pads would have much effect because wood is one of the poorest conductors of heat, which means that the warmth is unlikely to penetrate through the stock to the reed chamber. This is why, for example, you can strike a wooden match and hold it in your fingers until the flame actually reaches your flesh.
                  Ian

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by acadianpiper View Post

                    This practice has worked for me for decades. I have piped for funerals in temperatures as low as -10 F and often played at Remembrance Day services when the temperature was in the low 20s F. I personally doubt that warming the bulb or the chanter stock with your hand or wrapping stocks with heating pads would have much effect because wood is one of the poorest conductors of heat, which means that the warmth is unlikely to penetrate through the stock to the reed chamber. This is why, for example, you can strike a wooden match and hold it in your fingers until the flame actually reaches your flesh.
                    Yes, Ian. Quite right, I think that my stocks heating pad method wouldn't work on wood. Likely not a good idea due to possible cracking of the wood stocks.

                    I neglected to mention, in the post to which you refer, that I use the heating pads on my POLY pipes (Winter and rough weather kit). Also, that I plug in the heating pads prior to taking them out of the case and into the cold so they're primed and ready.

                    I've field tested this at varying temps and humidity for two winters now. It has to work because I'm out playing at least five days a week for an average 30 minutes in winter. The heating of poly stocks - with insulated bag and moisture control system simply works - it has to, it does. This is based on my science and is repeatable through testing, day after day after day.

                    My fingers (with knit half gloves) or my lips fail before the reeds do. I've found that keeping my hands in thick mittens and mouth with covering scarf, is the best way to keep fingers and face best prepared for the playing. Also, keeping back to wind chill with a high collar and wool toque helps a lot.

                    Perhaps most important, for me, is being acclimatized to the cold through the doing of it; not just for special occasions, but all the time.
                    Last edited by Billy Boy; 02-18-2023, 08:32 AM.
                    “Where’s my beer?”

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                    • #11
                      Great idea, Pip!

                      I'll do that!
                      “Where’s my beer?”

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                      • #12
                        I think someone needs to develop an insulated cold-weather bag cover!

                        Longer sleeves for the stocks/chanter, heavier material or double-layers, etc.

                        When I had a Gannaway bag, I had much less trouble in cold weather than with a synthetic bag. It was heavier/thicker and resisted the cold better.

                        I think about going outside in a t-shirt, compared to a winter coat and how much warmer you feel. Same goes for your pipes.

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                        • #13
                          "I think someone needs to develop an insulated cold-weather bag cover!"

                          I agree, Bill. I did a DIY version of that with two cut-to-fit wool blankets which fit snugly under my regular bag cover. Maybe some sorta quilted version.

                          Somewhere in the archives I read about a member measuring heat loss through the whole bagpipe system in cold weather. It was the bag air temperature which had the most heat loss.
                          “Where’s my beer?”

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