Drone Reeds

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Drone Reeds

Postby Richard Evans » Fri Aug 17, 2012 8:39 am

I've been trying to improve drone reed design for years. Obviously I want reeds which sound good, but they must also be easy to make consistently, robust, flexible in terms of pitch and pressure and easy for the player to adjust or repair.
I recently found Mike's drone reed work on his website which prompted a bit of a rethink.
I have for a long time used square section brass rod (3/16 and 5/32 square). I have a four jaw self centring chuck so it is easy to drill the body out and turn the end round to fit the drone socket. I have used these as they are with polystyrene tongues wrapped and the tongue flicked up, and they work fine but are not easy to adjust or repair- no better than the conventional designs
For the last few years I have been milling a sloping surface on the top of the reed body so that the tongue itself remains flat. The tongue is held by O-rings and pitch/pressure are adjusted by moving the O-ring and also the tongue itself to change the free length. The body is practically indestructable and the tongue can be replaced in a couple of minutes.
Mike's work on curved reed bodies led me to anneal a few bodies and curve them, and this works very well. I am using the drill press with a piece of steel in the chuck to do the forming. One end of the body is raised on a piece of 20 thou brass. At the moment I apply the pressure to create the bend where I think it should be, but I am mulling over ideas for a jig. I also think the top surface should ideally be curved rather than angled and I am pondering making a couple of dies on the milling machine. Like everything else, it's "when time allows".

Cheers
Richard
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Re: Drone Reeds

Postby bob Salter » Sat Aug 18, 2012 4:45 pm

I have just spent the afternoon making one of Mikes' carbon fibre bent body drone reeds. I really didnt expect much as Ive tried things like this before. I had some carbon fibre reeds for an uilleann set that just wouldnt work in big drones so I looted the tongues from them and set to work.
To say I am impressed with the result is probably understatement. It is easily the most pitch stable reed I have made, pitch only rising a tiny bit when my eyes are about to pop out with the stress of squeezing. Now for the small d.

Mike, are the dimensions for the small g and large d available? Just body length, gap and tube size would be more than enough. Thanks

Bob
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Re: Drone Reeds

Postby pipemakermike » Sun Aug 19, 2012 1:42 pm

Hi Richard
I did try a number of different curved shapes for the reed body but I found that a constant curve and a catenary curve both worked but the major driver of pitch was position where the blade effectivally pivoted from so that the position of the curve along the body was important. I tried a lot of curves before I tried just a single bend, which does give a curve although a tighter one than any I had tried, and was much encouraged by the result. I think that, with a long gentle curve there are 2 factors influencing the pitch and they are the effective length of the tongue and the distance is is away from the closing surface. I found that by bending in a single place I could be very close to the ideal length for the pitch and, with tiny tweaks of the bridle, home in on an ideal setting. I have a method of tweaking the angle to solve the too light or too heavy playing pressure. Currently I think that the design of the G drone reed is very close to ideal, mind you I have thought this before and found that time and exposure to players has shown other things that need addressing. The small d design does need some more work. It does work OK and sings along with the G reed well but is is slightly less stable and needs more careful setting up to ensure that it is easy to use.

Bob
I haven't done any work on the small G reed. The current effort is to make the reeds used in the concert pitch School Pipes as fool proof as possible. Because these sets have only an un-keyed chanter they only need a small d and a big G drone working. There is a big D drone fitted to the set but I have decided to block it off for the unkeyed sets as the reason it was part of the design was the expectation that keyed chanters would be provided for when players grew out of the un-keyed sets. I did make a prototype but there was no money to manufacture it.
I did do a little work on the big D drone reed and found that by adding some weight to a slightly longer G body - I used my prototype body that was 1mm longer than the final design - and adding a small amount of weight to the tip of the tongue it played well in the big D drone.
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Re: Drone Reeds

Postby Richard Evans » Sun Aug 19, 2012 6:01 pm

pipemakermike wrote: I found that by bending in a single place I could be very close to the ideal length for the pitch and, with tiny tweaks of the bridle, home in on an ideal setting.


That's exactly what I have been doing with the machined sloping top surface. I just think that a curved surface might give a better tone (that's based only on gut reaction) and easier adjustment over a wider range of bridle position. More experiments this week if I can find the time.
Richard
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Re: Drone Reeds

Postby Richard Evans » Sun Aug 19, 2012 6:10 pm

pipemakermike wrote: The small d design does need some more work. It does work OK and sings along with the G reed well but is is slightly less stable and needs more careful setting up to ensure that it is easy to use.


I don't know if it's a coincidence, but I have always found the small d the least stable. For most of the other drones, the reed sucks the same note (by name) as the drone sounds- the low F reed sounds an f and so on, but this does not seem true for high c/d.
I think this is important and what I would really like to try is the reeds all sucking the correct note, and reed plus tenon without slide sounding a fifth above the desired pitch, which is almost true for many drones but I'd like to try getting it spot on. Must give it a go sometime.
Richard
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Re: Drone Reeds

Postby GrahamRB » Mon Aug 20, 2012 8:56 am

Richard, you have a pm.
Graham
N. Cambs/S. Lincs
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Re: Drone Reeds

Postby Francis Wood » Mon Sep 03, 2012 10:07 am

Composite reeds are not really my thing, since I prefer the simpler style cut from a single length of cane. Nevertheless, I'm seriously impressed by the experimentation done by both Mike and Richard, which probably represents the only serious research and development of these unusually small reeds in rather a long time.

Two issues particularly interest me:

Firstly, the reasons for preferring one kind of reed over another. I think my preference for all-cane reeds is based on tone, but is it in fact possible to replicate that tone with the appropriate adjustment of design and set-up of a composite reed? My guess is that it probably can't be done since cane reeds operate as a kind of pseudo double-reed with both tongue and body vibrating to some degree. But I'd be glad to be contradicted over that.
Another potential reason for a preference is that cane reeds are said to be 'traditional'. However that would be an unfounded claim, since composite reeds are known to have been in use for around 120 years at least, the greater part of the NSP's existence!

The other issue is that of the stability of the various kinds of drone reeds. I spend a lot of time adjusting cane reeds and can assert that mine are very stable indeed. However, I can't back that up yet with specific measurements of their performance. Should we be establishing some criteria so that a reed declared to be stable can actually be demonstrated to be so within certain parameters of pitch, pressure, temperature, humidity and witchcraft?

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Re: Drone Reeds

Postby Richard Evans » Wed Sep 12, 2012 8:05 am

Francis Wood wrote:
Firstly, the reasons for preferring one kind of reed over another. I think my preference for all-cane reeds is based on tone, but is it in fact possible to replicate that tone with the appropriate adjustment of design and set-up of a composite reed? My guess is that it probably can't be done since cane reeds operate as a kind of pseudo double-reed with both tongue and body vibrating to some degree. But I'd be glad to be contradicted over that.
Francis


I will freely admit that have never been able to make all-cane reeds, I just end up with useless firelighters. The cane is so expensive that I've just given up. It's something I'd like to be able to do as a option.

I think my solid brass bodied reeds work exactly opposite to what Francis describes- the body is completely inert due to the mass and rigidity.

Many of our customers are a very long way from other pipers and a very important factor is reliability and ease of repair- on our reeds, the tongue can be replaced in seconds and it doesn't need to be bent or flicked into shape.

Cheers
Richard
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Re: Drone Reeds

Postby andymay » Wed Sep 19, 2012 9:58 am

I think Francis makes an interesting point regarding what different people would consider 'stable'. I've tried many sets of drones with different types of reeds, and been surprised just how stable - or unstable - some have been.

Maybe we need to quantify stability in some way?
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Re: Drone Reeds

Postby pipemakermike » Thu Sep 20, 2012 2:41 pm

On my test rig I am able to collect data for pitch change related to pressure. I haven't collect any data yet as I have been mainly trying to develop a drone reed design that sound good, is repeatable to make and, once set, doesn't need any further intervention. My main motivation is to get reeds for the schoolpipes that are as reliable as possible and I think that I have now achieved this. The pitch stability is an unexpected bonus and seems to be repeatable. I have also got a couple of this design of reed fitted to an F set and these too are proving stable and reliable.
I have always used traditional cane reeds in my F sets and brass bodied cane tongued reeds on the few G sets that I have made. I like the sound of the cane reeds but the tone of the new design seems as close to that sound as I have heard and doesn't seem to have the rather brittle/buzzy sound that I get with traditional cane tongued brass bodied reeds.
I would think that to characterize the stability of a reed the most useful data for me would be cents/inch watergauge. This is the information that I use all the time and all I need to do is to record it!
My equipment currently give me pitch to an accuracy of 0.1 cents and pressure to 0.01"WG. When I have time I will gather some data and post it

I have posted a graph on page 2
Last edited by pipemakermike on Thu Sep 20, 2012 5:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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