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PostPosted: Wed Aug 14, 2019 3:47 pm 
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Hi folks.

Some of you may recall me asking about how to get started with Uillean piping. Well, last week I received my 3d printed chanter from Kenneth McNicholl, and today I got my bag from Kelleher. I've pieced it all together and am working from the HJ Clarke book you all recommended...

But my god, my C and back D are horrendously flat and I don't know how to fix it.

I've been looking online since last week about tuning the chanter, and it's not entirely dissimilar from highland bagpipes (which I have 12 years experience with), but the C and back D are SOOOO flat, I can't seem to fix it with any method I've seen online.

By applying more pressure, I can barely get the back D in tune, but at that point, no other notes will play. I've moved the reed in as far as I can, and it's still god awful flat. The bridle seems to only shut the reed off completely...

Naturally, being new I really don't want to mess with the reed too much. I'm sure some of this is just my lack of skill. But it's unpleasant to play these notes. I'd really appreciate some input on getting the chanter in tune, and playing these notes.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 14, 2019 5:21 pm 
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What you describe might be caused by a leak in the sides of the reed or in the binding.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 15, 2019 12:44 am 
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Did you blow them by mouth before you got the bag?


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 15, 2019 4:09 am 
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thePhotopiper wrote:

I've been looking online since last week about tuning the chanter, and it's not entirely dissimilar from highland bagpipes (which I have 12 years experience with)…



I started out on Highland pipes too, and now, over 30 years after taking up the uilleann pipes, I've helped many Highland pipers take their first steps into uilleann piping.

First I need to stress that the way the uilleann chanter and reed work ARE entirely dissimilar from Highland pipes. I have known a large number of GHB players who have started the uilleann pipes who have ruined reeds because they tried "adjusting" them.

The worst thing that happened was the guy, a very good GHB player, who ignored my offer of getting together with him to sort out his chanter/reed issues, who ended up injuring his shoulder. His uilleann reed was maladjusted and was FAR too strong. He couldn't play any sort of pipes for months, and he never touched the uilleann pipes again. It was sheer stupidity because any uilleann piper would have immediately seen and fixed the trouble.

Sorry to say, but your 12 years on the GHB just don't give you much in the way of insight into the uilleann pipes. I'm of the opinion that people with GHB backgrounds are actually starting out with a bit of a handicap, because they have more to unlearn than someone coming to the uilleann pipes from whistle or fiddle or what have you.

Everything is different on the uilleann pipes: the position of the bag, the blowing approach, the position of the hands, the fingerings, the ornaments, the style, even the way the fingers are lifted off the chanter.


thePhotopiper wrote:
my C and back D are horrendously flat and I don't know how to fix it. By applying more pressure, I can barely get the back D in tune...


Are you aware that putting more pressure on Back D usually makes it FLATTER, not sharper? And the easiest way to fix a flat Back D is to blow more softly? This issue is called the "sinking Back D", a Back D that's unstable, and plays flat at normal pressure.

Here in California the sinking Back D gets worse the more dry the weather is. You really have to back off on the pressure on that one note. It's especially bothersome when coming from 2nd octave notes.

You can't blow an uilleann chanter into tune in the same way you would a GHB chanter, or practice chanter. On the uilleann chanter some notes go sharper with more pressure, some notes go flatter with more pressure. It varies as you go up the scale, a note that goes one way might be flanked by two notes that go the other way.

So much of how an uilleann reed behaves is the positioning of the bridle. I had a guy over who had a chanter that played a strange scale, with notes off here and there. It was one of those reeds with fairly parallel sides where the bridle could be moved up and down and I thought to myself "what if the bridle slipped down?"

So I tried moving the bridle up various amounts, and I found a spot where magically every note came into tune. It was obviously the original correct position.

Both these issues, the mis-positioned bridle and the shoulder injury due to a reed set too strong, point out that sorting uilleann reed issues have to be done in person with an experienced player. Reed issues cannot be solved over Skype or by any other means, because the experienced player needs to try your reed in your chanter to find out what's happening.

Reed issues being one of the biggest challenges facing the beginner, I feel that it's crucial for beginners to have in-person guidance/lessons with an experienced player. Because there are strange noises that a beginner can make that could be finger placement, or bag pressure, or reed adjustment... the only way to KNOW the source of the trouble is to play the beginner's chanter. This cannot be done over Skype. If the teacher can't try your chanter, they are forced to make educated guesses.

BTW one thing GHB players nearly always misunderstand is the pressure used on the octaves. They usually overblow the 2nd octave notes and underblow the low octave notes. They imagine that there's one uniform low pressure for the whole low octave and a second, higher, uniform pressure for the whole 2nd octave.

It's nothing like that. In fact, there's a range of notes that play at around the same pressure that goes over the octave break.

Starting with G in the low octave, you should be able to play G, A, B, C, Back D, E in the 2nd octave, up to F# in the 2nd octave at the same pressure. G in the 2nd octave should require only the slightest extra pressure, meaning that the difference in pressure between G in the low octave and G in the 2nd octave is slight.

On my chanter F# and E in the low octave require very slightly less pressure than that G to G home range.

Hard Bottom D requires a boost of pressure on my chanter. Also going beyond G in the 2nd octave, to high A and high B, requires more pressure than that G to G home range.

You should be able to go from Bottom D to B in the 2nd octave with only subtle pressure changes. Beginners always overdo it.

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Richard Cook
1978 Quinn uilleann pipes
1945 Starck Highland pipes
Goldie Low D whistle


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 15, 2019 11:23 am 
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pancelticpiper wrote:
Are you aware that putting more pressure on Back D usually makes it FLATTER, not sharper? And the easiest way to fix a flat Back D is to blow more softly? This issue is called the "sinking Back D", a Back D that's unstable, and plays flat at normal pressure.


This is helping. I notice that backing off does indeed help it get sharper. Thanks!

pancelticpiper wrote:
Reed issues cannot be solved over Skype or by any other means, because the experienced player needs to try your reed in your chanter to find out what's happening.


Shortly after making this post, Tom Creegan got in touch with me (We've been emailing back and forth for a bit...) and I met with him at a local session. He said similar things about the bridle, also that the reed was too far into the chanter. He also suggested that since the reed is so new it probably just needs to be broken in a bit.

All of the other info you posted is super helpful! I couldn't find any of that online. The troubles I've been having make a lot more sense now.

The reed is still quite flat at times, but at least now I know what is going on and it's something that practice and time can fix.

I'm hoping to start lessons with Tom soon so with any luck, I'll have this under control in no time.

Thanks!

Edit:
Quote:
So I tried moving the bridle up various amounts, and I found a spot where magically every note came into tune.


One of the other Uilleann Pipers at the session last night told me a story about his son playing his pipes for the first time ever, and doing pretty well. When suddenly his kid took apart the chanter, started messing with the reed, and before the Piper could get to his kid to stop him, the kid struck back up and the chanter was playing than ever before. The Piper said, he hasn't touched the reed since and it's still perfect a decade later.

Crazy story.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 16, 2019 7:18 am 
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That's fantastic news! It's awesome that you live close enough to such a great and experienced piper to do in-person stuff.

It will make a world of difference to your journey.

I was afraid that you might live where there were no pipers within reasonable distance. It's tough for those people, I know because I was one of them.

Once a year at the Tionol, that's the only time I could get together with people who knew what they were doing.

Good luck! Richard

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Richard Cook
1978 Quinn uilleann pipes
1945 Starck Highland pipes
Goldie Low D whistle


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