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 Post subject: Djura Gaida question
PostPosted: Thu Jul 24, 2014 4:31 am 
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I did a silly thing and took a risk by puchasing a Djura Gaida online from this mob: http://www.shopbulgaria.com/bulgarian-g ... -4601.html after I had successfully purchased a comprehensive tutor book from them earlier: http://www.shopbulgaria.com/score-books ... cores.html (it's only comprehensive if you understand Bulgarian, but it has loads of scores).

Long story short, I was very happy with their communication and willingness to send free documents re fingering and setup. Gaida arrived within 3 weeks.

After initial problems getting reeds to work, I have now got the thing playing reasonably well with the drone behaving itself and the chanter (Re - bottom note D, Drone note A) responding well. I'm an experienced uilleann piper and pipe maker and also have experience with Estonian Torupill so I understand the foibles of free reed pipes.

Just one thing I'm not sure of:

The chanter plays a scale of D major plus the thumb note nicely except the B (top hand ring finger raised) seems a bit too flat by western / Irish standards. Is this note meant to be flat, or should the D scale pretty much equate with a western D major scale? When I mouth blow the chanter I can force the B up to almost in tune, but in the bag, I can't without causing the drone to cut out. From what I have listened to in Bulgarian djura gaida music, it seems to be flatter than it should be.

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 Post subject: Re: Djura Gaida question
PostPosted: Thu Jul 24, 2014 11:23 pm 
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Your gaida, although called a "D-gaida", in fact plays in A, the key note is in the middle of the scale (top hand closed). The range is a fifth above and a fifth below that tone, in major as well as minor - the accidentals are achieved with the flea hole. It is the lower-tuned version of the more popular "so-called" G-Gaida - which in fact plays in D.
Most gaidas today are tuned almost to equal temperament, due to the fact that most gaida players prefer an accordion or keyboard for accompaniment, rather than their drone (which most players don't use at all).
This means, the tone in question is not the sixth relative to D, but the second relative to A, and should not be flat.
Most probably the culprit is the reed, the tongue being a shade too thick between the middle and the free end, but of course I can't tell for certain. Gaida players in Australia are Risto Todoroski and Cory Dale, if possible, you should seek their help.
I'm afraid the book you bought is not at all comprehensive, in fact, it is rather useless... it was written in the 1960ies to accompany formal lessons from a teacher, and is no good on its own. The fingering charts are not really wrong, but not a single gaida player I know uses completely open fingering as described, the tunes are incomplete, and nothing is said about playing technique.


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 Post subject: Re: Djura Gaida question
PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2014 5:26 am 
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Yes what Michael says.

Keep in mind that Gaidunitsi (chanters), like all other chanters, only work right at the intended pressure. It's quite common for newbies to underblow the gaidunitsa which throws the whole tuning off. This has the greatest effect on the Mormorka (fleahole) notes.

Yes nowadays Gaidari (pipers) tend to play without drone in Bitov (mixed traditional instrument) ensembles, or play in groups with accordions, electric guitars, etc so the tuning will be Equal Temperament more or less. When traditionally played solo over drone, the Gaidunitsa is tuned to Just Intonation, just like pretty much any other bagpipe.

So, your Major 2nd needs to be at least at its ET position, if not a hair above, at its JI position (4 cents sharp) where it will ring with the drone.

The most problematic note, usually, on the Gaidunitsa is the 4th, probably because there's no dedicated fingerhole for that note, but rather you finger the Major 3rd and raise the note a semitone with the Mormorka. If you have your Major 3rd at the flatter sweet-sounding JI -14 cents position your 4th will most likely be flat. This is less of a problem if you have the Major 3rd at its ET position.

Gaidari try to help out the relationship between the Major 3rd and the 4th by keeping a finger down to flatten the Major 3rd a tad, thus:

Major 3rd:

x xox ooxo

4th:

x oox ooxo

Actually the lowerhand fingers might be in nearly any configuration whatever; on the Gaidunitsa lower fingers don't have much effect on upper notes and Gaidari use a variety of fingerings depending on context. So you'll see

(lowerhand fingers only)

ooxo (open fingering for legato playing)

xxxo (closed fingering for using that low note as a pedal or 'virtual drone' note)

xxxx (less common, for using that low note as a pedal; which pedal you use depends on the key that particular phrase is in)

etc.

I asked Hector Bezanis about the flat 4th (he's a fantastic Gaida maker and player) and he said it's simply part of the acoustics of the Gaidunitsa and that Gaidari get used to giving the 4th an extra boost of pressure to get it up to pitch. The situation is very similar to E in the 2nd octave on Concert Pitch uilleann chanters, which usually is a bit flat unless given a little pressure boost. (We get so used to doing it that we take it for granted.)

Bulgarian Gaida music is technically extremely difficult. I took lessons for a year from a top professional Bulgarian Gaidari and did countless hours of practice for several years and only got semi-mediocre. The people I've seen get good at Gaida put all their other instruments away and just play Gaida for several years. Much of the fingering and ornamentation is completely counter-intuitive for a person coming from uilleann or Highland pipes.

Here's Hector! After decades of playing Bulgarian gaida at a very high level he has, over the last decade or so, got more interested in Greek gaida, so you'll see him on YouTube playing Greek, Macedonian, and Thracian music

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIOOs-j-gFs

If you underblow the Gaidunitsa the Mormorka notes will be off. There's a perfect pressure where everything is in tune.

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 Post subject: Re: Djura Gaida question
PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2014 6:30 am 
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OK that video I linked to, I clicked on it and it said 'no longer available' but you can see it on YouTube just fine... eh?

Here's another video of Hector, this time playing for dancers, the gaida's natural habitat

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvEFqsxECzc

BTW the Bulgarian Gaida can be played on and off the leg much like an uilleann chanter. Playing on the leg is less common, though. It gives staccato and also an interesting timbre.

This Bulgarian guy does more on-the-leg playing than I usually hear.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFGSYQ1SBwg

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 Post subject: Re: Djura Gaida question
PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2014 4:15 pm 
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Thanks Michael and Richard for the very detailed replies. Much for me to think about. I'll keep plugging away, but certainly don't expect to ever become even a mediocrely mediocre player. No problem with the Youtube video Richard, it's still available. Thanks again.

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 Post subject: Re: Djura Gaida question
PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2014 9:21 pm 
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I should mention that you can alter the mormorka to fix the fleahole notes, either by replacing the little tube with a shorter or longer one, or by putting a tiny bit of wax in there. Usually the tube isn't glued in there, just a pressure fit, so you can make various tubes and switch them out to find out where everything is best in tune.

If your pressure is too low, lifting the mormorka finger doesn't raise the pitch of the notes enough, as I recall.

Making a Bulgarian chanter reed is very easy. Guys go to art/craft shops and buy cheap Chinese bamboo brushes of the right diameter; they say the cane is actually high quality. It's just made like a drone reed.

Or I should say that making a mediocre chanter reed is easy! Getting the voicing and volume of the various notes just right is very difficult. You shave at various points along the tongue to increase the volume and brightness of various notes. If you ruin a reed, no big deal, just make another one!

When you stop to think about it, the scale of the Bulgarian chanter is a bit strange, the core (non-Mormorka) notes being (on your RE gaidunitsa)

D E F# G A B C# E

with, as standard practice, G#, Bb, C natural, and upper D being produced by the Mormorka. Getting chromatic notes down on the lowest three notes really wasn't done traditionally, but some modern gaidunitsi are fully chromatic.

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 Post subject: Re: Djura Gaida question
PostPosted: Sat Jul 26, 2014 2:07 am 
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Yeah that scale you notate pretty much equates with mine apart from the flat B which is the topic of my initial enquiry. However I've just realised that I think it's a combination of a sligtly flat B and a slightly sharp A below it. I've shaved the reed a bit and that seems to have freed it up a bit. My flea hole tends to only behave itself on the upper hand notes - G#, Bb, C although the Bb and the B are almost the same given the flatness issue of the B I'm talking about.

On the lower hand, the flea hole either produces the same pitch as the next finger raised, or even a note higher than the next finger raised; if that makes sense. I might try a a little wax in the hole. The chanter reed is a composite reed made of a clear plastic body and what looks like could be a cut down clarinet reed - thick at the binding end and scooped then tapered toward the tip.

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 Post subject: Re: Djura Gaida question
PostPosted: Sat Jul 26, 2014 5:16 pm 
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Let me play devil's advocate for a minute and throw out a possibility: Let's assume for a moment that the gaida was made by a guy who really knows what he's doing, and that he's an expert reedmaker. In this scenario the reed would have been exactly right from the get-go, and could have served as a model for your future reedmaking efforts. Now that it's been carved up it will never play the way it was intended to play. The out-of-tune-ness would have been the result of incorrect pressure and/or fingering.

But maybe not! Maybe the guy isn't a very good maker, and the chanter isn't made correctly, and will never play quite right no matter what reed. Or maybe the chanter is fine, but the reed happened to be bad.

Personally, in the absence of evidence to the contrary I give makers the benefit of the doubt, figure they know what they're doing, and if it's an instrument which I'm not an expert reedmaker of, I assume that the reed is correct and that my playing is to blame.

Imagine the shoe being on the other foot, and you've made an uilleann chanter for somebody, and made a reed for it, and the whole thing plays great. And then you send it to a beginning uilleann piper who is not familiar with the blowing of an uilleann chanter, and not familiar with all the various fingerings of an uilleann chanter, and for him some of the notes are out of tune, and he carves up your fine reed.

Reminds me of years ago when a newbie came over for his first uilleann lesson. The scale of his chanter was way off. I looked at the reed and saw it was the style of reed with parallel sides and a bridle which could be slid up and down. I tried moving the bridle to various positions and voila! there was one magic position where everything was exactly in tune. Good thing that newbie hadn't carved on the reed; it would never have worked right.

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 Post subject: Re: Djura Gaida question
PostPosted: Sat Jul 26, 2014 11:03 pm 
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A tad dramatic there...there's a big difference between me saying - "I've shaved the reed a bit" and saying "it's been carved up".

I might use the same logic in relation to your suggestion about altering the mormorka. Surely an experienced maker would have put a suitable flea hole in there in the first place?? - and this would equate to messing about with the chanter itself - a mortal sin for a newbie, no?

As an experienced Uilleann pipemaker and reed maker, I do understand what you're getting at.

But as an experienced Uilleann pipemaker and reed maker, I also understand that a reed made half way around the world in a very different climate may never perform the way it performed in the place of origin (that's where inexperienced newbies then get on to forums and tell everyone that such and such a pipemaker makes dud pipes - and that's why I always post a video of me playing a customer's order prior to shipping so they can see that the reed/chanter does indeed work at my end).

But before I cast blame on any pipemaker or reedmaker, I also understand the process of getting a reed to work when it goes to a new climate - first by doing all the non-invasive things, by giving the thing time to settle in to the new climate, adjusting bridles and position in the reed seat and all that - all things I had done prior to writing on this forum. But I do also understand that there comes a point that some further scraping may be needed.

"The out-of-tune-ness would have been the result of incorrect pressure and/or fingering."

Except that the out-of-tuneness was constant no matter what pressure I played at and no matter what combination of fingers I used, no matter what position the bridle was in, no matter what postion the reed was in the chanter.

So next possibility - as Michael suggested - possibly the reed was still a bit thick (note that I am not saying he suggested I shave it though). So before blaming the chanter and/or the maker, I set to and took a risk and "shave the reed a bit" and noticed an immediate improvement although not a complete improvement. Dud reedmaker? Dud chanter? Probably not. But the light scrape also had the added effect of bringing the thumb note better in to tune as well.

Now as a gaida newbie I admit I don't understand the intricacies involved in this sort of pipe, but at least I've got my chanter playable and ready to move on. I'm going to give the pipemaker the benefit of the doubt and say that climate difference altered the playability of the reed.

And given that I had only shaved a little off the middle surface of the reed and not carved it up - the reed is still fully intact for me to use as a workable model for my own reedmaking efforts. If after making numerous reeds of my own, the note still plays flat, then it might be time to pursue other possible cures.

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 Post subject: Re: Djura Gaida question
PostPosted: Sun Jul 27, 2014 7:01 am 
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Yes valid points there. I did preface my statements by saying I was purposely and consciously playing devil's advocate.

We've all seen it happen time and again when a newbie to the uilleann pipes ruins a perfectly good reed. That newbie makes all the assumptions you've made, that they've tried every other possibility and every possible blowing pressure so it must be the reed at fault. It happens all the time, on every species of bagpipe, a person coming to that species from another and bringing with their preconceived notions of how bagpipes work and how reeds work. That's all I'm saying.

As as far as 'shaving' v 'carving up' yes it sounds dramatic but the point is valid: you can't put that material back on, and the original performance of the reed is lost forever (be it a good reed or a bad reed). You can switch out mormorka tubes and switch them back, or carve out a hole then later put tape on it, but with a reed there's no going back.

I was lucky in that my first gaida was made by Kostadin Varimezov, and the performance of the reed and the voicing and tuning of the chanter were superb. I was foolish to ever sell that thing. To be exact, the wood turning was done by one guy, who delivered the 'sticks' to Kostadin, who voiced the chanter (making alterations of the bore and carving out fingerholes), made the reeds, made the bag, and got the whole thing playing.

I got that back in the 1980s when you had to smuggle instruments out of Bulgaria, at least professional level instruments by Kostadin.

In any case I could trust the instrument implicitly and focus on learning how to play the darn thing.

I've now owned several top-quality vintage gaidunitsi which were expertly reeded, and a new gaidunitsa by Hector, so I've been a bit spoiled. A great thing about the gaida is how reliable a well-made reed is. They are amazingly stable. Somebody used to the constant chasing of the pitch on the Highland pipes, like me, finds this refreshing.

And I had a number of great-performing reeds to inform me just exactly all the things a gaidunitsa reed was supposed to do, and thus to be a constant guidepost for my own poor reedmaking efforts. I never could make a reed that did all the things Kostadin's reed could do.

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 Post subject: Re: Djura Gaida question
PostPosted: Sun Jul 27, 2014 11:00 pm 
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If the flea hole tones don't work on the bottom hand, it is likely that the reed tongue is a bit too wide, or the profile of the tongue isn't right. The cross-section of the tongue should have a curvature on the top side, like ). If you can't find anyone who can help you in person, you could try to carefully round the edges of the tongue's top side using fine emery paper, only a slight bit at a time, then test again. If this doesn't have the effect you want, again VERY carefully sand the tongue a slight bit narrower.
It is well possible that your reed is a bit on the heavy side, many makers make them a bit too strong and leave it up to the player to shave them to the desired strength. Also, the reed will soften with playing, so you don't want it too weak to start with. If you get the flea hole tones using extra pressure, the reed is fine, only a bit too strong.
Just like with the UP, you can't do better than learn to make your own reeds. Yours is of the modern type, with the acrylic body. The tongue is made from a clarinet or saxophone reed, as you already noticed. You should ask shopBulgaria to send you a few spare reed bodies for your gaida, so you can experiment. I use alto sax reeds, strength 2 or 2 1/2, one sax reed makes two gaida reed tongues. I found it is well worth buying quality reeds (Rico or Vandoren) rather than cheap no-name products, the material is much better, and so is the success rate.
I tend to assume that nothing is wrong with the chanter itself, I have a kaval by the same maker and the workmanship is flawless, so I guess he knows what he is doing. However, as Richard has pointed out, it can be necessary to adjust the marmorka, as this function may vary from one reed to the other. I found it more effective, rather than using wax, to insert a tiny roll of paper into the flea hole, over its full length.


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 Post subject: Re: Djura Gaida question
PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2014 2:02 pm 
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Thanks Michael, very informative advice. My gaida comes with a 4-section drone allowing it to take the higher pitched Sol chanter too by removing one of the sections, so I'm going to order one of them from the same people. They said I have to wait a few weeks though as the maker has recently been in hospital.

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 Post subject: Re: Djura Gaida question
PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2014 9:21 pm 
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Minor addition to the getting the flea hole working on the lower notes. The tongue also needs to be slightly trapezoidal with the narrow part at the top. Even so, it's damned difficult to get working on a D chanter. I usually half hole when I need those notes. G chanter is not as difficult and my A chanter did it out of the box. I assume it has to do with the volume of air that is vibrating.

As to your 4 part drone, make sure it is really meant to be used with all 4 parts at the same time. My 4 part drone is actually two 3 part drones that use the same top and bottom but have different length middle sections.


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 Post subject: Re: Djura Gaida question
PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2014 9:48 pm 
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Different people undergo different experiences - I personally always found my A chanters most difficult to reed properly.
My guess was it mostly has to do with the fact that overall, the G chanters, being the standard chanter, are probably the best elaborated and therefore generally work better than the others. While all my D chanters do play most of the bottom hand flea hole tones, only one of them gives me a low D#. The same tone (in this case G#, of course) works perfectly on all my G chanters.
Right about the slightly trapezoidal shape of the tongue, at least the last 10 millimetres should taper towards the end to get the top notes in tune. Also, the tongue's thickness has to decrease towards the free end.


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 Post subject: Re: Djura Gaida question
PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2014 6:16 am 
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gajdar wrote:

As to your 4 part drone, make sure it is really meant to be used with all 4 parts at the same time. My 4 part drone is actually two 3 part drones that use the same top and bottom but have different length middle sections.


Mine is meant to be 4 parts - the two middle pieces are identical. The description on the seller site says this enables you to also play the higher pitched Sol chanter by removing one of the sections.

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