How do you reed it!

Pipemaking, reedmaking & maintanence. Expert pipemakers are eager to answer your questions

How do you reed it!

Postby workers and drones » Wed Mar 26, 2014 9:28 pm

Workers and drones here again -

There seems to be very little activity on the web-site these days - maybe all the topics have been explored?
Ok - I'm seeking advice on the fine tuning and finishing of reeds. Its taken me some time to gather the equipment and to work out what works well for me in terms of making a basic reed, however the sound of the reed although a c# is a single tone and not the monkseaton seagull! two tone that C. Ross seems to achieve. Maybe the problem lies there and needs correcting before moving on!!.... wonder how that's achieved? however it would be good to have some info from the expert players about final adjustments of reeds; (or is this top-secret). I seem to get the bit about getting most notes in tune but theres always that one ..... you know the one at the top or right at the bottom which never seems to quite get there. Then again they're fine if you close the tip a bit and then maybe set the reed out a bit ..... or is it in a bit and then open the tip and scrape the very top of the reed and a smidge from the side or clip a bit off etc. etc. etc. 3 hours of etc's. later and you're back to where you were! - looking at the Leistman tips and pondering where to start for round 2.
It would be really useful to hear how the process works or what procedure/order of working the top players adopt when adjusting a reed and turning it into that fantastic sounding chanter. Go on man/woman! part with those secrets!
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Re: How do you reed it!

Postby Wallie Ogilvie » Thu Mar 27, 2014 12:26 am

Nice to see you back! Everything you say chimes with my own experience. I have a number of excellent reeds from the same maker, all of which sound good in a chanter, but all sound different as well. All generally sound similar, but each one has different good and bad notes ( some poor on top A and B, some poor on bottom D and another weak on mid B!)and as reeds aren't cheap, most of us are reluctant to mess around with them too much for fear of making expensive mistakes. I guess for those of us who prefer to spend time playing rather than making bad reeds, the solution is to try different reeds until you get one closest to what you want. The problem of course comes in making those final tweaks, and we'd all love to know how to do that!
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Re: How do you reed it!

Postby workers and drones » Thu Mar 27, 2014 8:09 am

Thanks for that Wallie - you are describing everything I have experienced over the past few months. I have as I've mentioned now invested in the tools and materials to make my own; largely to experiment with the preparation of reeds but mainly to try to cut out those notes which don't quite ring true in the scales we play in. Perhaps this is an imposibility given that we have a scale 20 points sharps of F to begin with and that the templates used by pipemakers are from an era of slight imperfections? Another reason for being able to tweak my own reed is because I think every set of pipes is unique and your own individual style will return a different result to the next man; so I'm working on the opinion the one size(reed) doesn't fit all! is this a posibility? is it actually posible to have every note bang on, in tune on the pipes? I certainly don't know! - hence the question posed- however the top players seem to manage to achieve this special sounding reed and I'd be happy to get something similar in sound and acuracy. Maybe we'll get that all important response to help us achieve this Wallie! here's hoping!. W&D
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Re: How do you reed it! (shhh! it must be a secret!

Postby workers and drones » Fri Mar 28, 2014 8:16 am

W&D again!
shhhh! it must be a secret!!
I'm just looking at the dates of some recent posts and wondering if there are more than a few who actually visit the site (perhaps the expert players/makers don't come here often);- there seems to be a few who read but no help so far. Maybe I'm back to trying to nail custard to the wall again!!. shhhhh! it must be a secret!!.
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Re: How do you reed it!

Postby edric » Fri Mar 28, 2014 12:46 pm

As well as Liestman, there's also Mike Nelson's online stuff, in particular: http://www.machineconcepts.co.uk/smallp ... tm#chanter . I'm just starting to experiment with reed-making myself, but haven't yet got quite as far as getting one that is good enough to insert into a chanter. (I think I've been over-gouging leading to reed slips that I break too easily - I think my current excuse is that I've only ever watched people successfully make reeds, and therefore I am discovering for myself lots of obvious pitfalls. That and I'm not the most dexterous of people).

As to getting the "crow" sound - I recently watched Andy May making a reed, and he persisted in scraping the reed until this was achieved.
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Re: How do you reed it!

Postby workers and drones » Fri Mar 28, 2014 1:43 pm

W&D
Thanks for this link which I will check out - I too went through a period where everything I made split or broke or didn't work but now the practice is starting to pay off and I now need those all important secrets shhhhh! Come on you experts!.
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Re: How do you reed it!

Postby Wallie Ogilvie » Sat Mar 29, 2014 10:27 pm

Thinking back over my own experience, it also pays not to always think that the reed is at fault or needs too much tweaking. More than once I've discovered that a poor sounding reed or "off" notes have been caused by leaking pads, and making the chanter airtight can make all the difference. There was also an interesting comment from Dave Shaw a while back on the FB newsgroup page about chanter plugs and tuning. He said he always followed the tuning advice in Cocks & Bryan which involved inserting a small plug of wood up the chanter to correct notes that won't respond to undercutting or reed shifting. Intrigued by this, I punched out a plug of cork from a floor tile, sanded it to the diameter of the bore and inserted it gradually with a matchstick. The effect was quite dramatic with a much brighter, cleaner tone and improvement on the top notes. I much prefer the sound of it now compared to the previous cotton wool plug.
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Re: How do you reed it!

Postby workers and drones » Sun Mar 30, 2014 9:57 pm

Thanks again for the tips - I will shed the cotton wool and try the cork plug. I am looking for correction mainly to the top 2 or 3 notes which are always a bit on the sharp side if all others are mostly there or a bit under depending on the setting of the reed in the socket and the tip opening etc.etc.etc.(see posting no.1). Many of the pipes I've heard seem to have a problem with tuning errors somewhere across the range but are nonetheless played with the knowledge that they're not quite perfectly in tune but close enough for jazz!. What I'm looking for is that near perfection that the professionals achieve with their reeds. Alas like other times on this forum there are many who read/reed it! but few who contribute. I am gratefull to those who do and thanks for the tips to try so far. Come on...part with just a few secrets!.
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Re: How do you reed it!

Postby pipemakermike » Tue Apr 01, 2014 2:02 pm

Generaly I have used a twist of cotton wool just in case! but with the school pipe chanters it is a necessity to cure some very false notes in the middle of the chanter (middle c and d). Anthony Robb used a cotton bud pushed in and out until perfection is found and then the stick is clipped off flush with the end of the chanter thus it can be removed and repeatably replaced. Over the years I have tried most of the tricks that people have told me.
  • flea hole in the end of the chanter
  • cotton bud
  • cork plug
  • wood plug
  • small chamber

Most seem to work to some extent in most chanters except the flea hole which seemed to increase the potential for the chanter to squeak without any other benefit.

With tuning. I always do my tuning using an electronic pitch gauge and a manometer. You have to be aware of the limitations of the Electronic tuner as it is hoping to hear even temperament where as what we are seeking is a close cousin of just temperament with the main notes tuned to fit well with the G drones and a couple of notes tweaked to suit the keys of D and A

If you have only a couple of top notes that are a bit sharp I doubt that a plug will correct this. If the offending holes are already undercut at the top edge then try a dob of white glue on the undercut to flatten the note.
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Re: How do you reed it!

Postby workers and drones » Thu Apr 03, 2014 10:31 am

Many thanks for the great tips suggested from all who have posted and I will follow them all through. There seems to be a lot of top notes not quite getting there in the groups I've visited yet there are a great number who seem to just plough on irrespective of whether they are "in tune" or not. My own pipes I would put in this category of not quite being "in tune" in the upper most register and it is most frustrating when playing and or course hightlighted even more when playing with others. Also it is not as easy on the pipes to blend with others as it is on many other instruments. Many of my original thoughts and questions remain unanswered when it comes to procedure and process that the top players adopt when finishing and tuning a reed. The quest continues!.
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