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Squeaks from the chanter

PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2012 5:05 pm
by vielle568
Hello Everyone,

I'm having a frustrating time trying to find the cause of squeaks coming from certain low notes; F# and G are the usual culprits, but low F natural and low E are also suspect to the same problem.

I have checked the chanter for air leaks. There were a couple so I re-dressed all the key seats and changed and oiled all the pads and the leaks were gone. I ran a trace of liquid latex along the side of the reed blades to ensure that there were no leaks here and the reed has now been set in place with beeswax. I have checked the finger holes edges for deformities and nothing indicated a possible passage for air. I've also checked the joint for the ivory foot and there are no leaks here.

However, the squeaks continue. I find myself playing with my fingers gripping the chanter so tightly that I get pins and needles after a few minutes and have to stop. Even so, this form of playing doesn't stop the problem; the squeaks (harmonics) continue.

There must be something fundamental that I have overlooked in my maintenance routine; can someone please suggest what I should be doing to get the instrument working properly. Any help gratefully received. Thank you.


Re: Squeaks from the chanter

PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2012 1:39 pm
by Francis Wood
Hello Bryan,

There are many possible causes and you seem to have taken some action over the main potential reasons for the squeak.

One thing to note immediately is that there can be a seasonal aspect to, this affecting both the pipes and the player. Atmospheric humidity has been very low recently and this can cause minute dimensional changes in the wood of the pipes and the integrity of any sealing functions. The player may find it more difficult to achieve a reliable seal on the finger holes if the skin is especially dry. A minute or so with the hands in warm soapy water may help.

I can't immediately identify any other cause from what you have already said, though I'm sure others will give some good advice. But one thing I will say is that you should immediately abandon the tight chanter grip you have adopted.The hands should always feel relaxed and comfortable on the chanter. If they are not, this will very much affect your experience and pleasure in playing, and therefore the musicality of the sounds you are producing.

Is this a recent problem?


Re: Squeaks from the chanter

PostPosted: Fri Feb 24, 2012 7:06 pm
by vielle568
Hello Francis,

No, it's not a particularly recent problem but it has one that has been difficult to pin down. No, I realise that a tight grip is not the way to play and since I wrote my post I have had another good look at the chanter and especially the fingerholes. First of all I checked again the keys for leaks; it's a fully chromatic chanter but it was airtight; the pads, the seats and the springs were all in good shape and functioning correctly. The chanter is small; it is 'G' chanter at concert pitch. Consequently some of the finger holes were situated on small diameter sections of the chanter and required the finger to follow the same radius to block the hole. I've been in a workshop most of my life and my fingers are well scarred and pretty tough; I decided to form some flat sections across these fingerholes to improve the seal when playing. Nothing too drastic but a couple of millimetres all around the hole seemed to make quite an improvement. After oiling the pads I had some oil on my hands and this too seemed to make difference in reducing (almost eliminating)the harmonics coming from the chanter.

One final observation; I had to tune the pipes recently to play with some friends and I found that the instrument was far too sharp. The chanter reed needed the bridle moved down and the blades open slightly to drop the pitch almost a semi-tone. This naturally increased the playing pressure and the problem with the harmonic squeak seems to have gone away.

Thanks for your suggestions on this matter,

Kind regards,