drone lengths - what do you use?

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drone lengths - what do you use?

Postby pipemakermike » Fri Sep 16, 2011 10:22 pm

I have had a difficult time today re-reeding a small d drone. The drone was fitted with a metal bodied cane tongue reed that had started exhibiting some strange characteristics. I would play well and in tune and not show any sign of stopping for about 30 mins of playing then it would stop at even the lightest pressure and became very difficult to use. I didn't want to mess with the original reed so I decided to fit a new reed from my stock of working, all cane, reeds but none of them would play at the right pitch. They all played very flat some down to nearly G# but mostly around A. I couldn't get any of them to play at c (did I mention that this was a standard F set) I even took the working reed from my normal set and that was the same. When comparing the drones with my own set I realised that the problem drones were much longer than I make mine - the small d was 34mm longer, the big G was 48mm longer and the big D was 32mm longer but oddly the small g was 2mm shorter. In the end we, the owner and I, decided that the only solution in the short term was to use one of my reeds and play with the e tuning bead open. This solved the immediate problem and the drone sounded good and was no longer stopping.
Now, living in the south and insulated from the cut and thrust of traditional pipemaking, I wondered if there had been a move to longer drones. My normal sizes are very close to the sizes on the Cocks and Bryant book taken from the James Reid drawings. I know that the drawings are reasonably accurate as I have had the chance to compare the original parts used for the drawings to the actual printed sizes and the corelation is very good.
So my basic question is - is there a reason to increase the length of the drones?
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Re: drone lengths - what do you use?

Postby Francis Wood » Sat Sep 17, 2011 6:54 am

pipemakermike wrote:So my basic question is - is there a reason to increase the length of the drones?


Pipes from the Reids’ workshop have a number of features demonstrating that they were very much in touch with expert woodwind-making principles. This, together with the outstanding workmanship, suggest that their pipes are probably the result of a great deal of thought and experimentation. Their sounding lengths are therefore likely to be optimal. If you are using the Cocks and Bryan book which has accurate length dimensions your southern practise may well be closer to the ‘cut and thrust of traditional pipe-making’ than some further north. Living even further south, I find that those dimensions work perfectly well for concert F even though they were intended to function at the original F sharp (-ish).

What I haven’t done, which would be interesting, is to compare a good number of Reid drones to ascertain how consistent their working lengths remained. But it would be worth having a look at the C & B drawings to see how the Reid and Dunn lengths compare for g, d and G.

An additional length on the G drone of nearly 5 cm together with an additional 3.5 cm on the d and 3cm on D seems inconsistent and extraordinary, and I can see no reason why this would be thought desirable. However, it may explain why one of the technical columns in the NPS Newsletter advised caution when walking through a doorway whilst playing.

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Re: drone lengths - what do you use?

Postby Julia Say » Sat Sep 17, 2011 8:09 pm

4" (g):5.5"(d):6.5" (A): 7"(G): 9" (D)

For F+20 pitch

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Re: drone lengths - what do you use?

Postby pipemakermike » Sat Sep 17, 2011 10:14 pm

Hi Julia

A little more context for your lengths would be useful.

If you could give the total length of the standing part and the length of the sliding part from the bottom to the center of the top hole that would be enough to enable a comparison.
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Re: drone lengths - what do you use?

Postby Julia Say » Sun Sep 18, 2011 8:54 am

Sorry, Mike. Those were the lengths of wood from which I start, so the actual drone pieces when completed will be a little shorter due to facing off and so forth. I don't expect those lengths to be universally right, cos of different reed styles etc etc - but you asked what others use, and I'm one of the "others", I guess.

I've never measured what I suppose could be called the functional lengths. I just follow the instructions, which seem to work for me. And "if it works, don't fiddle with it" is my motto. (one of 'em, anyway).

More later, maybe.

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Re: drone lengths - what do you use?

Postby Barry Say » Mon Sep 19, 2011 8:59 am

Hi all,

It took me a while to get around to answering this one.

There has never been a 'standard' drone length laid down. From the time of Dunn and Reid pipemakers have basically copied existing pipes and any standards have come about organically.
  • We have the Reid 'originals' which virtually all pipemakers claim to be their inspiration, directly or indirectly.
  • Then we have Cocks and Bryan, particularly the drawing of the Reid drones in the second volume.
  • There is Mike Nelson's 1980s publication of which there are many (photo)copies in existence and has been the inspiration for the production of quite a amateur-made sets.
  • Then we have the influence of Colin Ross' classes at Killingworth. As well as teaching the attendees (like myself), there are copies of the drawings for that class.
As far as I can see there are no significant differences in the drone lengths between these sources. I believe that Colin has made some minor changes in the lengths of the small drones but we are only talking about 6mm

There is another strand which comes from Jack Armstrong / Bill Hedworth / David Burleigh and the important difference in Hedworth and 'ordinary' Burleigh pipes is that there is no wood lining inside the long drone ferrule. The metal ferrule slides directly on the thread of the standing part. The fact that there are so many of these pipes in existence also makes them subjects for imitation.
I have been told that David Burleigh has also adjusted the length of his drones slightly in the past and I have found some sets where the difference in length between the low D and G drones is surprisingly little.

The length of the drones fixes the highest possible pitch that drones can reach and all reeds will produce a lower pitch. It is possible that a composite reed can push a drone to a higher pitch than is possible with cane reed. Moving to composite reeds might cause a pipemaker to use longer drones. In the end the drones must be judged on their tone and reliability.

Barry
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Re: drone lengths - what do you use?

Postby pipemakermike » Mon Sep 19, 2011 12:10 pm

Hi Barry

It is useful to know that Colin's dimensions are that close to the Reid dimensions. I agree that the odd 6mm will make no difference.

I remain confused why this set is so different. I does look as though the general style is similar to Colin's
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Re: drone lengths - what do you use?

Postby Tim Rolls » Tue Sep 20, 2011 2:40 pm

Just to muddy the waters here are some measurements from Burleigh set 845 and a set by Henry Knox of Shilbottle.

Burleigh, standing part from stock to top, (having pulled a muscle in my shoulder I haven't fought them all to pull them out), a couple of lengths into the stock, with length from cotton bridle to cut in the reed, so tongue length I suppose, which obviously starts a bit further into the stock, forgot to measure drone body to bridle (if that's the right term? )could do with an exploded drawing for the website. (Anyone? I'm sure it's there in Leistman and Mike Nelson's stuff if I go looking..)

9.0cm, standing part from stock to top
10.0cm length of sliding part bottom of ferrule to centre of sound hole
15.4cm length from stock to hole in shortest position

11.2cm standing part from stock to top, +2.3cm standing part within stock, 3.0cm tongue length
11.0cm length of sliding part bottom of ferrule to centre of sound hole
18.2cm length from stock to hole in shortest position

15.0cm standing part from stock to top, +2.5cm standing part within stock, 4.4cm tongue length
18.0cm length of sliding part bottom of ferrule to centre of sound hole
27.5cm length from stock to hole in shortest position

18.5cm ish, (cut at a slant)
19.0cm length of sliding part bottom of ferrule to centre of sound hole
31.2cm length from stock to hole in shortest position

Knox Set, this design has integral reed body with separate tongue

8.3cm, standing part from stock to top
10.9cm length of sliding part bottom of ferrule to centre of sound hole
15.1cm length from stock to hole in shortest position

9.4cm standing part from stock to top,
15.3cm length of sliding part bottom of ferrule to centre of sound hole
20.0cm length from stock to hole in shortest position

15.2cm standing part from stock to top, (+7.2cm within stock, 4.0cm of which is tongue body, free tongue 2.8cm)
17.0cm length of sliding part bottom of ferrule to centre of sound hole
27.2cm length from stock to hole in shortest position

19.1cm ish, (cut at a slant)
19.2cm length of sliding part bottom of ferrule to centre of sound hole
33.1cm length from stock to hole in shortest position

Tim
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Re: drone lengths - what do you use?

Postby pipemakermike » Tue Sep 20, 2011 3:59 pm

Thanks Tim

That is really helpful - you can't beat a bit of real data.
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Re: drone lengths - what do you use?

Postby Tim Rolls » Fri Sep 23, 2011 7:57 pm

Hi Mike,

What I'm interested to know is what the critical elements are here. Is the length of free tongue the pitch determining factor, so on the metal reeds, to the end of the tongue, and on the cane reeds from the cotton binding to the cut in the cane, or is that inconsequential in comparison to the length from the end of the reed to the hole at the top of the drone, or a combination of the two. Is it important, as with the chanter, exactly how far in the reed sits in the drone body, or does the tuneable nature of the drone mean this isn't crucial? Or should I just go and read everyone's books then come back again with all the new questions that will raise?

Tim
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