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Reaching second octave

Posted: Thu Sep 17, 2020 10:54 am
by AlexF273
New player here. I didn’t see a previous thread on the topic, so I figured I would ask.
I’m having so much trouble reaching the second octave on my practice set. Last week, before my lesson, I only needed to use the lower D up to back D. But now I realize that I am having so much trouble getting past E-flat.

I’m too new to feel comfortable messing with a reed on a borrowed set and I recognize that the issue is likely my inexperience... but wow, how on earth do I get into this fabled second octave? It would be awesome to reach the higher f before my lesson this Saturday.

Thanks for your thoughts!

Re: Reaching second octave

Posted: Thu Sep 17, 2020 2:18 pm
by MichaelLoos
As you mention you're getting lessons, your teacher would be the person to give you advice on that subject... if he/she hasn't done that yet, I'd suppose he reckons it is too early for you to attempt that. There is a reason why beginners are usually started (besides practicing boring things like working the bellows, pressing the bag, closing all finger holes reliably at any time, playing scales, precise and strictly closed fingering and so on... :wink: ) with a number of tunes that don't go beyond the first octave - you need to get a feeling for the instrument as such and learn the very basics thoroughly before you reach out to higher realms - you have to learn to walk before you can run.
However, here's how I advice my students to do it (and it sounds much more difficult than it actually is, provided you've done your homework and did all your beginners' exercises carefully and regularly:
Unlike on whistle or most other woodwind instruments, you will NOT get the octave by just blowing harder. Before getting into the second octave, ALL finger holes (as well as the bottom of the chanter) MUST be closed completely, ANY leak will most probably lead to failure.
What's required next is just a little more pressure on the bag - only a minute bit, think of it like more of an impulse to persuade the reed to vibrate at a higher mode, rather than overblowing like you would on whistle or flute. At the same time, you sort of "snap" the holes of the desired note open - the opening of the hole should be very prompt and decisive. As soon as you've reached the octave, you can (and should) release the (though minimal) extra pressure on the bag, to maintain the octave once you've reached it should not require noticeably more pressure than playing in the first octave.
All this happens in very short time, nevertheless accuracy is crucial.
This will work for E, F# and G.
For A and B it won't - you need to play an auxiliary tone beforehand - play a very short F# or G to get into the octave before you play A or B. Ideally, the auxiliary tone is so short that it can't be perceived as such.
Again, I do not wish to anticipate your teacher's plans - don't try things you're not fit for just to impress your teacher! It's very easy to get into bad habits which can be very difficult to rectify at a later date.
And definitely - DON'T MESS WITH THE REED unless you know exactly what you're doing - and as long as you feel it's messing, you certainly don't know it!

Re: Reaching second octave

Posted: Thu Sep 17, 2020 7:27 pm
by AlexF273
Thank you! This is a very helpful explanation. I know you are right - that my teacher has a plan and that the second octave will come when it is time, but wow it is so tempting to try to go up a bit higher - it was so easy on the flute!

I also appreciate your description of the technique required to go higher. Until Saturday, I’ll practice keeping the holes shut so that when I’m ready, it’ll be easier to jump the octave.

Re: Reaching second octave

Posted: Fri Sep 18, 2020 10:16 am
by elbowmusic
I'm somewhat new to this, but further along than you. (second time around learning uilleann pipes)

Experiment with which note best helps get you to the 2nd A and B (My chanter prefers G to get to the 2nd A, but F# or G is equally good for 2nd B, for example). Every chanter/reed combo is a bit different. It is most helpful to get in the mindset that there usually isn't a right way to do things with uilleann pipes. Try different approaches. The ends justify the means in this case.

Also, keeping a hole open below the A can be useful for several reasons. A tap on the A will likely requires the g or F# hole to be open to not lose the octave. I have a funny old chanter and it really likes me to keep the G hole open whenever I play 2nd octave A, but most modern chanters I've seen don't need that.

Also most chanters will play 2nd G very easily if you only open the G hole (one finger G).

Re: Reaching second octave

Posted: Fri Sep 18, 2020 7:15 pm
by AlexF273
Thanks ElbowMusic,

I’m back at it. No real progress yesterday, but today I managed to get a second of an E. I’m not quite far enough up the chanter to worry about the a and b yet. But I’ll keep what you say in mind.


Re: Reaching second octave

Posted: Sat Sep 19, 2020 9:27 am
by bensdad
To get the second octave E you can also try this:
Play the back D with the bottom two fingers of the right hand off the chanter. SMALL increase in pressure
Bang out the second octave E *With the Thumb*

Re: Reaching second octave

Posted: Sun Sep 20, 2020 8:53 am
by AlexF273
Thank you all!

I had my lesson yesterday and my teacher (who is marvelous) changed my reed out and it was like a completely different instrument! So much less pressure to even get the low notes! It sounds way more in tune and the second octave is actually reachable! This week, I’ve got to learn to clean up the pressure between both octaves... I keep squawking up the octave haha, but it feels transformative! Suddenly the instrument is so much fun to play!

I’ll definitely use the advice you all have shared- I’ve still got so far to go! But man, this is fun.