Page 1 of 1

Tuning Nightmare

PostPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2015 11:57 am
by RobertArne
Hi all

I have a set of Burleigh pipes, which I've had for a little while, but which I was unable to learn/play due to a health problem. This has now resolved to the point where I can begin to learn (ABSOLUTE beginner), but I'm having a bit of a nightmare tuning the drones. This is doubtless not helped by the fact that I don't know whether they're a G set, an F set or whatever; my mother bought the pipes for me but she doesn't know and none of the accompanying information appears to say what they are either. The set has four drones and a seven-keyed chanter.

I believe Mr Burleigh has retired, so I don't want to bother him, but I wonder if there is a method for determining what kind of set I have...


Re: Tuning Nightmare

PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2015 8:09 am
by RobertArne
The lowest finger hole seems to play F#. So is it an F# set?

Re: Tuning Nightmare

PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2015 10:25 am
by Roger Howard
Hello, Robbie

Welcome to the forum. Since no one else has yet replied, I'll offer my twopennorth.

The easiest way to determine whether you have a G set or an F set is to cover all the holes except the bottom one and play the note against an electronic tuner (which will tell you what the note is), or, failing that, against the G on a piano (or any other instrument that's in tune): if it sounds right, it's a G set, if your pipes sound a bit lower, it's an F set. My guess is that it's probably an F set in the traditional tuning, which will be a bit sharp of concert F.

Actually, it makes no difference to how you tune the drones - you just want them to be in tune with the chanter. The most common way is to tune the middle drone (if you've got three) first. (If you have four drones, then you want the next to the smallest.) Shut off all the other drones, and play the note on the chanter that you get with just the thumb and the first two fingers of the left hand. Tune the drone by sliding the outer part in/out to get the right note. Try to get it just a little bit flat, because the chanter will be slightly sharp without the right hand holes covered. Then twist the neck of the bag to shut off the chanter, and tune the next lowest drone until it sounds right against the one you've just done: that'll be when you can't hear a "beat" in the sound. Two drones is probably enough to start with, but you would then repeat the process for the third drone.

If you're not near a tutor, can I recommend "A Beginner's Guide to the Northumbrian Smallpipes" by Paul Knox and Anthony Robb? I think you might find it very helpful. You can get it at (I've no connection with the site.) It has CDs which literally talk you through things, and let you hear how things should sound. Actually, Anthony would suggest starting to play with the chanter only, and introduce drones later.

Hope that helps - if I've got anything wrong, someone will correct me, I'm sure! :)

Re: Tuning Nightmare

PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2015 10:47 am
by RobertArne
Thank you very much Roger!

I downloaded an electronic tuner after I posted, it's telling me F#. Once I had that I think, to my ear at least, I managed to get the middle two chanters in tune. A great relief.

I've also booked some lessons since I posted to help me get started. Trial and error is a bit too stressful!