Elder for Chanter Reeds

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Elder for Chanter Reeds

Postby Tpfairfax » Wed Jul 01, 2015 11:53 am

I have been following a chain of thought on the back of Julia's recent post about Elder ... Forgive me if I am behind the curve!!

I am minded that in the early days of the NSP (and other pipes) - Arundo D was probably not freely available up here. Whilst it is now much more accessible, the point interests me from a historical perspective

Whilst I am aware that drone reeds used to be made out of Elder (and have made some with some success myself) I have seen little about early chanter reeds.
It struck me that given the nature of Elder - it might be suited to chanter reeds. There are some similarities to AD especially with respect to the grain of mature elder..., (some differences acknowledged too). I note that some people are making chanter reeds from spruce.

Has anyone looked at this - or does anyone have thoughts?

T
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Re: Elder for Chanter Reeds

Postby Francis Wood » Fri Jul 03, 2015 8:27 pm

Hello Tom,

This is an interesting question. However, I am certain that the early availability of Arundo Donax was fairly unproblematic since there would have been a healthy trade in the raw material from southern Europe, just as there is today, to make reeds for other wind instruments. Players of shawms and dulcians and later on, oboes and bassoons would probably have had relatively little difficulty in obtaining materials. However, for the very small-diameter AD which we use for drone reeds, there seems to have been little reason to import such material since it has no other use either in music or industry. For that reason I do not believe AD to be a traditional material for small drone reeds, especially since good alternatives grow locally.

The use of alternative vegetation for chanter reeds is fascinating. There's a particularly interesting article by Dave Shaw called 'A Search for Native Reeds' (here the author is known as Davy). I haven't a reference for the source of this but he refers to the use of second year shoots picked in August, shaped with an electric iron on a wooden former of 1¼" diameter.

Another interesting article describes the use of willow for chanter reeds and is by Foster Charlton in issue 6 of the NPS Magazine which is probably to be found in the archive section of the NPS site. Its title is 'Chanter Reeds from Willow Trees'. I've not tried that though I have found that willow slips make good drone reeds.

Who will be the first to make a Tom Clough-style chanter reed from a matchbox? Or more probably from a French cheese pack since matchboxes are of thin card these days.

Francis
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Re: Elder for Chanter Reeds

Postby Francis Wood » Wed Jul 08, 2015 9:23 pm

Here (with permission) is Dave Shaw's interesting article on elder chanter reeds.
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Re: Elder for Chanter Reeds

Postby Tpfairfax » Thu Jul 09, 2015 7:34 am

Francis

Thanks - this is excellent - and makes a deal of sense - especially the thoughts on stem structure - I have cut some Elder and am "road testing" it. Looks promising thus far - though I suspect that my technical ability may be the wobbly link in the chain....(!)
The "wet elder" shapes very easily - and though it splits differently (of course) to Arundo Donax, it "feels" right under the gouge - I will report back.

KR

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