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  • Drone valves

    Wondering if anyone has tried an adjustable drone valve (like aHighlands Reeds adjusted fairly open) in the chanter stock to maintain a steady air flow to the reed. I'm using a McLaren easy synthetic reed which sounds good but tends to squawk with a bit to much pressure.
    Or is this a theory/ traditional no-no undeserving a response? Seems like a way to conserve air and provide constant pressure. The Highlands reeds really do regulate air flow extremely well on the drones.

  • #2
    Re: Drone valves

    In my three short years of piping I've never seen, heard, smelled, etc. a drone valve. Perhaps smelling is unnecessary, but you get the point.
    Powered by lefse and lutefisk since 1992

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    • #3
      Re: Drone valves

      Originally posted by COHighlander View Post
      I'm using a McLaren easy synthetic reed which sounds good but tends to squawk with a bit to much pressure.
      Maybe you have to learn to control your pressure...

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      • #4
        Re: Drone valves

        there must be 100 threads on these BD forums talking about why drone valves and synthetic chanter reeds are a bad choice in the long run.
        what may seem like effort saving measures now will only impede your progress later.
        I encourage you to dig through the archives on those topics as will most of the pipers here.
        best of luck.
        An Píob Mhór Ghaelach * Seán Pádraig Ó Treasaigh

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        • #5
          Re: Drone valves

          Originally posted by COHighlander View Post
          Wondering if anyone has tried an adjustable drone valve in the chanter stock to maintain a steady air flow to the reed.
          I've not seen anyone put a valve in the chanter stock. I'm not sure if the Highland Reeds chanter moisture control unit has a valve or is just open. I've not seen one of those up close. Perhaps you are on to something that no one else has thought of before? Give it a try and see if it works for you.

          I suspect, however, that the squawking you are getting is more a product of the synthetic reed. This seems to be a signature characteristic of a plastic chanter reed. While it seems like a good idea-a reed that can last for years and remain stable over more varying conditions and stay at the same strength always-the reality is that no one has really perfected it yet, so you have to live with the quirks.

          My advice, which will echo many others, is to get a good cane chanter reed and learn to manipulate and play it. There will be a learning curve, but you will gain a lot of knowledge from it. All pipers struggle with reeds from time to time, especially in the early days of learning to play. I think you will find a cane reed is a much more forgiving thing when it comes to pressure and squawking, and you will have much more enjoyment from your piping.

          Onward and upward!
          Stewart Keith

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          • #6
            Re: Drone valves

            Originally posted by COHighlander View Post
            Wondering if anyone has tried an adjustable drone valve (like aHighlands Reeds adjusted fairly open) in the chanter stock to maintain a steady air flow to the reed. I'm using a McLaren easy synthetic reed which sounds good but tends to squawk with a bit to much pressure.
            Or is this a theory/ traditional no-no undeserving a response? Seems like a way to conserve air and provide constant pressure. The Highlands reeds really do regulate air flow extremely well on the drones.
            Steady blowing maintains a steady air flow to the reed. That includes your arm doing the work to keep the pressure regular. From what I understand of them, if you put a drone valve in the chanter stock, you will be increasing the amount of effort you will have to put in to your piping, as once your breath gets past the flapper valve at the end of your blowstick, it will then have a similar journey to get round the drone valve at the end of the blowpipe stock, which will be doing more or less what the flapper valve is doing, except it will restrict your blowing far more than the flapper valve can do, as it will be working in reverse and constricting the airflow. You will be making extra work for yourself.

            There are valves specifically designed to fit in to the bottom of blowpipe stocks, such as the Beckvalve and the Moosevalve, as well as wide bored multifunctional accessories like the Airstream and the BigBore. These are designed to increase airflow into the bag, not restrict it.

            It sounds as if you are overblowing an easy reed. If you work on your steadiness, and keep an eye on your arm control, any "squawks" should go with practice. If not, you might have to consider a stronger reed. Working towards getting rid of the drone valves will help too, as they will keep air in your bag that would normally expel through your reeds, thus increasing the risk of overblowing your chanter. I tried drone valves once, (when Rob Mathieson's shop imported some from Canada), out of curiosity, and found I was constantly overblowing the chanter.

            I didn't like the change in tone either, but that's another story.
            Callander Pipe Band FB page Please click and "like". Thanks
            Lowland and Borders Piper's Society

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            • #7
              Re: Drone valves

              Only a few years experience here, however this is my experience:

              harder chanter reed = greater steadiness of tone BUT
              harder chanter reed = reduced technique and ability to play, etc., etc.

              OK, so the above might be gross generalizations, but to me it seems that you should aim for incremental increase in chanter reed strength to one that allows you to play to the best of your technical abilities yet with steadiness of tone - both of which will improve with practice.
              "Melancholy as the Drone of a Lancashire Bagpipe" (Behn, Aphra 1678. Sir Patient Fancy)

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              • #8
                Re: Drone valves

                Originally posted by Kyle C.H. View Post
                In my three short years of piping I've never seen, heard, smelled, etc. a drone valve. Perhaps smelling is unnecessary, but you get the point.
                Probably for the best. Nasty little critters those drone valves are.

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                • #9
                  Re: Drone valves

                  Thank you All Gentlemen. As a beginner piper (at 53) I'm looking for anything to help me with moving forward with my poor blowing. I know I need to work on technique re: consistant air flow.
                  As background, I started due my Piper Grandfather (Daniel Wildboar Peacock Pinching) was born & raised outside Dumbartonshire, was a Motorcycle Machine Gunner with the Blackwatch in WWI, wounded at Ypres, Wounded at the Somme, deserved it.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Drone valves

                    A fellow geezer newbie! Good on ya. Although I don't think anybody deserved to be wounded at the Somme....except Haig.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Drone valves

                      It's very hard making the pipe comfortable in the beginning and many of us are left blaming our chanter reeds when the problem might be somewhere else.
                      Some things to try:
                      1. Cork all the stocks and see if the bag is airtight. Tone and steadiness will suffer from leaks, but the reeds usually get blamed first.
                      2. Get a tuning meter and alternate between corked chanter stock, playing just the drones, and drones off holding low A on the chanter, or playing a phrase and suddenly holding low A. Watch the needle on the tuning meter and see how steady you can keep it.
                      3. Cork the chanter and overblow the drones until they shut off. They "should" shut off all at the same time/blowing strength. If one drone seems to stay on a lot longer, that's the one that's out of balance.
                      4. Find out how much squawk you get on the chanter reed when you have the drones off. Turn them off and practice for a bit. If the reed seemed better behaved, it might be a problem with the balance of strength between the drone reeds and chanter reed. This is where a manometer can be helpful, too. Watch the level and see how much variation there is. Once again, this is good with just chanter or drones.

                      For the record, I'm in the "NO!" camp on drone valves and working hard to perfect a synthetic chanter reed to a marketable standard. I don't think I've played a cane reed in about five years and I haven't heard any complaints on tone from other pipers...even after I pull the chanter and show them I'm a heretic.
                      Before you start fixing problems with your reeds, check to see if the bag or stocks are leaking.
                      http://www.youtube.com/user/Marcblur?feature=guide

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                      • #12
                        Re: Drone valves

                        I guess I need to clarify he didn't deserved to be wounded but rather deserved my bad piping...
                        If he was here he might think about it thou....

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                        • #13
                          Re: Drone valves

                          I was wondering about that.
                          Before you start fixing problems with your reeds, check to see if the bag or stocks are leaking.
                          http://www.youtube.com/user/Marcblur?feature=guide

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                          • #14
                            Re: Drone valves

                            Drone valves, so far as I know, are used solely to assist with striking in and stopping. As such they are mainly of use when playing with a pipe band where control of striking in and stopping are essential aspects of playing. Once the drone valve is open, although it restricts flow, it does not control the flow. You could blow at a higher pressure. I agree that you need to get a reed which is not too hard but which you cannot overblow. A tutor will help in this.

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