How to leard to blow the bag

The Wonderful World of ... Other Bagpipes. All the surly with none of the regs!
Glenarley
Posts: 52
Joined: Mon Jan 04, 2021 2:20 am
antispam: No
Please enter the next number in sequence: 8
Tell us something.: My family has been making pipes and reeds for over 25 years both Uillean and GHB. I am being asked to share pass on information on to other pipers in this open environment.

Re: How to leard to blow the bag

Post by Glenarley »

Sound from the Bag

I have had quite a few pipers dispute my comments in my previous post regarding sheep skin (sheepie) bags so I will delve into this some more.

I have been provided many testimonies from a sheep skin bag maker’s web page stating how much better the pipers, (solo & band) sound now they are using a sheepie. No specifics are ever given, just subjective opinions.

We tested 7 different bag types all tied, (or grommeted) into the same set of stocks, Jack Lee Hide (grommet and tie in), Sheepie, Gannaway Hide, Bannatyne Hybrid (Willie McCallum, Grommet), Bannatyne Synthetic, Ross Hide (Hybrid) and a very old unnamed plain hide.

This was not a small task and I undertook this task, convinced that because there are so many people stating they could hear a sound difference between a sheepie and standard hide, I must have missed something in my earlier testing and analysis.

Well, after doing all the testing, again, nothing has changed. I have to put this down to “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, pure “Snake oil”.

Originally the lab only tested the sheepie to see if the bag could emit a sound(s) that was audible to the piper over the sound of the pipes and the conclusion was that this could not happen. The main reason was that the bag was firmly captured between the arm and rib cage, negating the possibility of some sort of vibration being created and emitted by the bag. Like placing your finger on a drum when you strike it.

Even without the chanter noise, the drones would drown out any possible sound emitting from the bag so there will be nothing to hear. So why do so many state that they sound better playing a sheepie? I am of the view the reasons are psychological rather than actually physical and to support this view I have a typical example that one piper told me, “it is the sound you can’t actually hear, you have to feel it”. Well, there you are! This would explain why all the equipment the lab has did not pick up any audible sound, they needed to have equipment that felt sound, (tongue firmly jammed into cheek).

I also had one sheepie piper insist that the zipper on many of the bags also had a negative impact on the tone of the pipes. While I was polite in my response, I did not have the gaul to suggest the lab test for this. I have to exercise a certain amount of common sense when making requests to technical professionals.

Let’s put the ducks in a row. The bag is an air reservoir to allow a continuous flow of air to the reeds, and all the different bag types will do this. To maintain a good steady sound from the pipes, the piper needs to maintain a steady pressure on the bag. All the different bag types will also allow this to happen. The only thing that will not allow the continuous steady flow of air to the reeds is the operating skills of the piper therefore, a skilled piper should have no trouble keeping a steady supply of air to the reeds with any of the bag types, yes?

The only real issue we observed from pipers was the “feel” of the bag under their arm. The Gannaway was the most comfortable because of the shape and surprisingly, the ripstop, (synthetic) bag was the most liked for the responsive “feel”. This is all subjective as we did not have many pipers in the sample so this is just what we found. None of the pipers noted any sound difference from any of the bags. This is also subjective because we did not have all the bags tied in and available to be played in the same testing session so take this for what it’s worth.

Most pipers did not like having to continually condition the sheepie over the hybrids that required no maintenance other than the occasional check for leaks. The sheepie being almost double the cost of most the other bags was also a reason many would not use a sheepie, no perceived cost benefit.

To me, the sheepie is more about elitism and oneupsmanship rather than practical application. Lee Bagpipes make bags out of several different materials and they supply with and without zipper and grommets. Nowhere on their web page can I find figures/facts/data that support an audible advantage over one type and another. Subjective claims do not count as the mere assertion, in the absence of evidence, is merely an assertion. Marketing also plays a part.

I feel the suggestion that a sheepie produces a superior sound is another example of the bagpipe “Black Arts”. I have not been able find a single evidence-based example that could support the claim. If there is some objective evidence out there in bagpipe world that proves the claim, I would like to see it because we could not hear it.

If you want to play the bagpipe in a traditional setting then fine, use a sheepie, cane drone and chanter reeds and be prepared for all the issues that go with that decision, but just because you are comfortable with and have the skillset to deal with the problems, don’t use subjective codswollop to convince others to join you. Some pipers, especially learners, just want to learn to play the pipes with the minimum amount of expense and grief, so just let them. Stop creating sheeple.

Cheers

G
Glenarley
Posts: 52
Joined: Mon Jan 04, 2021 2:20 am
antispam: No
Please enter the next number in sequence: 8
Tell us something.: My family has been making pipes and reeds for over 25 years both Uillean and GHB. I am being asked to share pass on information on to other pipers in this open environment.

Re: How to leard to blow the bag

Post by Glenarley »

I have received several emails regarding the content of my last post and some of there is a common theme with most of the emails.

I would prefer to have the questions posted in this thread as there will be some very cleaver people reading this thread that may be able to provide more valuable answers than mine so I will post the points and do what I can.

The main thrust of the questions is: Why do all the best bands and solo pipers use sheepies if there is not sound benefit?

Short answer, I don’t really know. I personally believe it is more to do with elitism than sound because nowhere could I find any data that suggested otherwise. Our testing could not find an audible advantage over other materials. Personal opinions don’t count.

One person used the analogy of an opera singer singing from the lungs using an open throat technique. Interesting because it is true that this technique does provide a different sound to a more throaty singer however, I was informed that the sound is still coming out of the mouth and is still generated in the vocal chords. In bagpipe speak, the sound is still produced by the reed to be emitted out the end of the drone.

How can the reservoir material effect the sound? Because different pipers play with different sized reservoirs (bags) and still sound great, it beggars belief to think the size of the reservoir could also have any influence on sound.

I just think it is phycological, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. Placebo.

On this point, if I was one of the world’s elite GHB pipers and I was told that the sheepie was one of the reason I sounded so good, I would take offense at the assertion. I would be happier to believe that I could be an elite piper regardless of the bag I was using, that it was my skill and technique that had me sounding so good, not the bag material.

There is also the “marketing” aspect that needs to be considered. Does Tiger Woods really believe that Nike balls are the best in the world? Does the sponsorship money he is paid by Nike have any influence on his decision to use and promote Nike balls? If the elite pipers in the world were offered free or commercial inducements to use these bags by a sheepie bag maker, what do you expect them to say about sheepies?

The fact of the matter is, with the audio and computing technology available today, testing for and possibly establishing an audio advantage with the different bag materials is not an overly expensive or time-consuming task. If there was an audible advantage from one material over another, one of the bag makers would have done the testing and used the results to corner the market. Currently, I can find no such data so again, in the absence of evidence, the mere assertion, in the absence of such evidence, is merely an assertion.

I would also like to point out that I am only posting information and my personal views, I try extremely hard to avoid mentioning brands or naming individuals. Not always possible but I do not have an agenda that is singling out specific people or brands.

Cheers

G
Glenarley
Posts: 52
Joined: Mon Jan 04, 2021 2:20 am
antispam: No
Please enter the next number in sequence: 8
Tell us something.: My family has been making pipes and reeds for over 25 years both Uillean and GHB. I am being asked to share pass on information on to other pipers in this open environment.

Re: How to leard to blow the bag

Post by Glenarley »

Staple Expanders (Reed Pokers)

In the GHB world we are seeing these devices being used to set the lip gap in reeds and there seem to be two main reasons for wanting to do this. The lips of the reed have closed up and will not vibrate correctly or to adjust the blowing pressure, (crow) of the reed. Using a Staple Expander will work in some of these instances but it is not a silver bullet and there are trade-offs that can have negative consequences.

Based on what I have personally experienced seeing the damage this tool has caused, in my view, giving the average GHB piper a reed poker is tantamount to giving a Swiss Army Knife to a gorilla and expecting it to repair a watch.

Cane reeds have the concave shape scraped into them through the use of a gouge, (curved chisel) or sanding profilers. Different reed makers will use a different curved, (radiused) gouges depending on the reed/cane recipe. As cane is a living breathing organic, it is subject to operate according to the 2-stroke engine theory, starts for no apparent reason, runs for no apparent reason and stops for the same no apparent reason, and cane reed makers reluctantly live with this variable situation.

A reed that closes up will become too easy to blow and will also flatten in pitch. Reeds can close up for a number of reasons but most common is a new reed that looses its curve after settling from being tied to the staple, (usually a soft cane issue) as well as softening from being played, remembering that a GHB reed is a wet blown reed. A reed may loose its curve on both blades equally or it may only loose it’s curve on one blade.

The reed also needs to be considered as it is usually made to a specific recipe that can be upset through the use of a reed poker. The staple eye height (the short dimension across the eye end) is also used to set the volume (space) inside the reed to create the missing part of the cone. The best place to see this explained is in Bart Hopkin’s book, Air Columns and Tone Holes – Principles for Wind Instrument Design. While it is a lot about flutes and whistles, the diagrams and graphs do apply to the GHB reed instrument. Next time you are sitting on the throne, this is an easy read and explains in a more simplified manner than Bernard’s book.

The reed has a design volume and it has a setting height. Set the reed too low and you get autocran on the bottom notes, set it too high and the top hand gets flat and bendy, (see the graphs in the book).

The reed design will also be good on some chanters and not so good on others because the pitch of the reed has to suit the design of the chanter it is being used in, (in the book).

There is a you tube video where a piper claims to be able to make “all” reeds work using a reed poker. Interesting claim.

Firstly, the poker will not fix a reed with one flat blade. What he also does not make clear is what happens to the reed when you poke it. Open the lips and the reed becomes sharper and harder to blow. You can soften the reed back to its original strength but you cannot add length to the reed to fix the sharp problem. This will lead to gouging chanter holes and taping others to get the balance back. Yes, it is possible but why risk screwing up a $200 - $400 chanter for the correct $25 reed?

The expanding of the staple can also separately affect individual notes on a chanter to the point where the chanter balance is unacceptable to a reasonable ear. In the you tube video, the chanter balance on reeds the piper pokes is so far out of tune, it is unplayable to my very average ear.

Some of the other issues I have had laid before me by pipers that have attempted to “revitalise” a reed with a reed poker. On many rolled staples, only the side of the staple with the split opened up making the reed unbalanced and sound off tune and bendy. Many staples are too hard to easily spread and applying too much twisting pressure ended up with the reed blades spinning around on the staple. After poking the reed, some holes changed pitch differently to others, (high G in particular) rendering the reed useless.

My assessment of the poker is, know what you “can” do with it and understand what it is doing to the reed, (pitch and pressure). If your good playing GHB reed is closing up, the poker may be a stop-gap solution on the day but the reality is, your reed is dying, look for a new one. On the uilleann and small pipe reeds we often use a metal bridle to adjust the lip gap. While the gap does affect pitch, because we are not messing with the staple, we are not screwing up the reed volume (space) and the setting height, (in the book).

If I was a commercial cane reed maker, I would be making and selling a reed poker to every customer I could convince to buy one. I think this would guarantee me some steady return reed business. If I was a tutor, I would never mention to a student that this device exists. My two bobs worth.

In stating this, I really should send the inventor of the commercial reed poker a Christmas Card every year in appreciation for all the money I have made fixing what this device has screwed up. One of life’s little conflicts.

Cheers

G
Glenarley
Posts: 52
Joined: Mon Jan 04, 2021 2:20 am
antispam: No
Please enter the next number in sequence: 8
Tell us something.: My family has been making pipes and reeds for over 25 years both Uillean and GHB. I am being asked to share pass on information on to other pipers in this open environment.

Re: How to leard to blow the bag

Post by Glenarley »

Staple spreader Ver 2.

Thanks for the emails, quite surprised how much the staple spreader (reed poker) stirred up some of the readers.

I did not state you were an idiot for using this device! But if the hat fits….., feel free to wear it.

I stated that I believe that the spreader can be useful as a stop-gap measure in the hands of someone that knows what can and cannot be achieved using the spreader, and has the skills and touch to use it without dicking up the reed.

Spreading the staple will sharpen the reed and make it stronger to play and these points need to be considered. They are not my subjective view, they are physics. High G in particular makes my point.

As it happens, there is a cane reed maker out there that makes, sells and promotes the staple spreader, who knew. Sending me this information as a way of repudiating my earlier post actually does the opposite. It supports my view and demonstrates that this reed maker is also an astute businessman, kudos to him.

Sending me threads from the other bagpipe forum does not serve as evidence! In my view, some of the references are from flat earthers and are not supported in any way that is credible. Just because this bloke you know has a friend that knew another bloke whose wife knew the tea lady in a company that has a person that went to a school where they used to teach the bagpipes and that person's tutor said….., is not evidence. Give me numbers or links or both. I am happy to have a dig around and just as happy to be proven wrong where I get it wrong. I still love to learn, even at my time of life.

The comments from the Canadian were very interesting and useful. He tells me the spreader is a recent device that was not really useful on the old style of GHB chanter reed because they left the cane bark on the reeds back then. The removal of all the bark is a modern concept that came into vogue as by removing the bark, the exposed cane is more absorbent so the reed normalised (absorbed moisture) faster with the larger surface area of softer cane so, the warmup time is reduced. Moisture is not able to penetrate the bark so it takes longer to get moisture evenly distributed through the reed.

This information had never been presented to me in the past and after some analysis, it does make sense. It also makes sense that the spreader would not be so effective on the old style of chanter reed because the cane bark would make the reed more resistant to opening up at the staple end.

I also strenuously reject the suggestion that an accomplished piper is, by default, an accomplished reed technician. Quoting a thread from the other forum that is just one accomplished piper’s ego posturing, is pointless. Get him to list data and figures or post demonstrations on you tube. Just because a person is a great mechanic, does not, by default, make them a great driver.

I stand by all my earlier assertions but thanks for the emails anyway.

Cheers

G
Glenarley
Posts: 52
Joined: Mon Jan 04, 2021 2:20 am
antispam: No
Please enter the next number in sequence: 8
Tell us something.: My family has been making pipes and reeds for over 25 years both Uillean and GHB. I am being asked to share pass on information on to other pipers in this open environment.

Re: How to leard to blow the bag

Post by Glenarley »

Bagpipe Bags Ver 2

After testing several bags for sound, (tone) differences/advantages I found that one bag stood out as being preferred by those that took part in the blind test. The positive feel of the bag under the arm, (no spongy give) and the comfortable shape of the bag were the two standout features. Some bags press on the forearm closer to the wrist and some pipers complain that this pressure can lead to numbing in the fingers whereas this particular bag was seen as being very comfortable in this aspect because of the way the shape had been crafted.

Usually, I try to avoid naming brands or individuals but, in this case, I will make an exception.

The bag was a Gannaway, raw hide, medium extended, tied in bag. As this bag stood out during the blind testing and the maker is just over the ditch in NZ, I decided to give them a call and get some details on this bag and the options.

I spoke with the owner/manager who is an accomplished piper himself and was a production manager in a tannery for more than two decades. I therefore felt I could take the views of this man regarding playing and material as credible. His son who also works in the business is a current A Grade piper adding to the business’s piping credibility.

He was a very pleasant man to speak with and was happy to answer any question I put to him. There was no secret squirrel stuff that he was not prepared to discuss and he was very knowledgeable over a broad range of piping and bag making processes. Call him, you can judge for yourself.

The shape of these bags was specifically designed with the comfort of the piper in mind and the goal was to shape the bag so the correct part of the arm was in contact with the bag. This is what made the bag so comfortable to hold and play for many pipers. The positioning of the stock cuttings was also an option that should be considered based on individual sizing at the time of ordering.

The leather is specifically processed to remove as much stretch as possible during the tanning process and this is what gave the bag such a positive feel with pressure control. The thickness of the hide is also specifically selected to enhance this control aspect required by the piper. It’s slightly thicker than many split hides used for bagpipe bags. The flat seams also makes tie-in a breeze.

He also informed me that the tie-in bag will have a greater lifespan than the grommet bag, this was a bit of a surprise to me but when I looked back through the invoices, he seems to be correct.
Because the alleged “better tone” from sheepies is subjective, and many of his clients use them, he would not be drawn too much into the debate however, he refused to dispute my findings and assertions from my testing of sound and tone differences with different hide types.

The other process we discussed was the treatment of rawhide bags and this was quite revealing. They supply a primer and then a conditioner to be applied by the piper. The conditioner is not the type that turns into thick greasy balls inside the bag and it has an antibacterial compound along with a fungicide included. It resides as a film rather than a thick layer of clumpy grease.

Other bag makers could also use the same design criteria and have the leather hide treated in the same fashion to eliminate that spongy feel you get from many sheepies. Gannaway do make grommeted bags for those that prefer not to have to tie in as do many other bag makers. Gannaway will make a custom bag to suit any specific size, shape or material requirements and I would guess that other bag makers may do something similar. As I only spoke with Gannaway I can only comment on what they informed me. I did contact one other bag maker in the UK and got quite a hostile response to my initial inquiries so I politely ended the inquiry post haste.

At the end of the day, all the hype about sheepies or brands and such in my view is just hype, marketing and perhaps, some elitism. While only speaking for one maker, it is reasonable to believe that most other bag makers have also put thought and consideration into the design and construction of their bags. Don’t buy a new bag based on hype or brand, see if you can try some out first as a good fitting bag could make a lot of difference as to how well you play the pipes, especially if you are size challenged.

I do not have shares or any commercial/sponsorship interests in Gannaway, I was just so impressed with their product and service that I decided to share my experience. Prior to this I had never considered using a Gannaway bag, now my boy will use nothing else where he has an option, not because of sound/tone, but because of the comfort and feel.

Cheers

G
Glenarley
Posts: 52
Joined: Mon Jan 04, 2021 2:20 am
antispam: No
Please enter the next number in sequence: 8
Tell us something.: My family has been making pipes and reeds for over 25 years both Uillean and GHB. I am being asked to share pass on information on to other pipers in this open environment.

Re: How to leard to blow the bag

Post by Glenarley »

Chanter Finger Spans

This is another of those issues that should be so simple yet it is not simple enough for the GHB mob to figure out it would seem. It is another one of those confusing and illogical aspects of the GHB. The story begins….

I recently reeded a Colin Kyo GHB chanter for a client. The Kyo chanter is a bit odd because it has a larger bore than most, (the bore taper is wider) and it has a longer throat than any chanter I have ever worked on, these two factors make the chanter very picky on reed pitch. The maker would have done this for a reason(s), I just don’t know why. I asked the (adult) client why he plays this chanter and he said because he has small hands and this chanter has a shorter finger span than most the current mainstream chanters.

He gave me the span measurement from the high G to the low A which was 151mm. Now, a G1 chanter is 152mm and a Shepherd is 153mm so stating a Kyo has a short finger span is somewhat a moot point considering we are talking about < 2mm so I looked a bit harder.

First point is the chanter is played with two (2) hands so if you were looking for a short finger span you would have two measurements, one for each hand and not the overall length of both hands. The only span that really matters is the bottom hand as this uses all the fingers on the one hand and it has the smallest finger covering the largest hole. This smallest finger also plays one of the most important stand out movements, the burl.

After searching about I found that most GHB pipers measured the finger span of a chanter this way, clearly these people are not the sharpest tools in the shed as any GHB piper would know about the stretch of the pinky to burl the low A hole as being quite tricky to get it really crisp.

After more measurements on different chanters, I found that the Kyo, at best only had 1mm advantage (bottom hand notes) over many current chanters so I am left to wonder how 1 or 2mm difference could make such a player difference so, I asked this piper to play a McCallum chanter to see what gives and I could hear chirps when he was attempting to do burls. What I discovered was he was feathering the low A with his pinky so that about 1/4 of the hole was not being properly covered. How could this be you might ask?

I asked him to get out his practice chanter and play the same tune to see if the bag was part of the problem. He could play the tune very well on the practice chanter however, the practice chanter was one of those kiddy sized models where the overall finger span is about 30mm shorter than the actual bag chanter, and the bottom hand span was about 15mm shorter than a bag chanter. Who would practice with a practice chanter that does not have a similar finger span as the bag chanter? As it turns out, lots of pipers. That tool shed is overflowing as I type.

While there are plenty of pipers that can auto adjust their fingers to the hole spacing, why would you deliberately make life more difficult than it needs to be by practicing on a short span practice chanter to then play on a long span chanter? As it happens, this is another of those GHB nutbag situations that has no real logic attached to the process yet plenty do it. Some successfully and others not so good.

Many of the older practice chanters were made to this kiddy length and the tradition has just continued on into many currently made practice chanters although, there are plenty of makers that produce full length finger span chanters. While I could understand the argument for very young learners with small hands starting on a short span chanter, why would an adolescent or adult do this? The potential for muscle memory problems is evident as with this subject piper.

Yes, uilleann pipers have to cope with different spans but it takes some getting used to going from a D to an A chanter and many uilleann and SP players will settle for one pitch to avoid the hassles.

After further poking about, the real reason why the Kyo seemingly behaving better was not the finger span but the hole size. The Kyo has much smaller holes than most mainstream pipe chanters so the low A is much easier to cover with the pinky therefore, the hole is not so easy to feather. The smaller holes gives the perception the span is shorter when it’s not really the case.

I spoke to some of the more experienced tutors we know and all but one said they would never use a short span chanter for tutoring, even for learners. The view was likened to teaching a kid to play a piano, you use a standard sized piano and only teach tunes the kid can physically play at first and progress the tunes as the hands will allow. Consistent muscle memory.

There are plenty of practice chanters out there with the full-length finger span so why would you start someone off practicing on something that is not the same as you want them to play in the bag, in my view is a musical instrument oddity? Why even have short finger span practice chanters at all is still a question I cannot provide an answer to. A special child chanter maybe, but other than this, it just makes no sense to me and many others I have asked. Just another of the idiosyncrasies of the GHB world designed to make learning a very difficult instrument almost impossible.

My 2 bobs worth.

Cheers

G
Glenarley
Posts: 52
Joined: Mon Jan 04, 2021 2:20 am
antispam: No
Please enter the next number in sequence: 8
Tell us something.: My family has been making pipes and reeds for over 25 years both Uillean and GHB. I am being asked to share pass on information on to other pipers in this open environment.

Re: How to leard to blow the bag

Post by Glenarley »

Drilling chanter throats

This is one of those issues that really grinds my gears and it applies to both Uilleann and GHB chanters.

I am going to focus on the GHB chanter as this issue has just come across my desk so the hatred is still warm in my gut.

It is reasonable to believe that all chanters left their makers in tune with a specific reed at a specific pitch. Exceptions to this would be rare.

If you acquired a chanter without a reed then it is on you to find the correctly pitched reed for that chanter and you can be sure that there will be one because the maker would have used it to tune the chanter at the time of manufacture. This requires some of that reed skill stuff.

The subject chanter is a Colin Kyo made by Canadian pipe maker Murray Huggins. He produces a high-quality bagpipe and is a truly gifted silver engraver. This chanter has a wide bore compared to most current chanters and it has an unusually long throat which makes it very reed-pitch specific. It has also been designed with smaller bottom-hand holes so it is more comfortable to play if you have stiff or small fingers.

I was recently provided a Kyo chanter by a client to have a synthetic reed made to suit the chanter for an elderly piper with low stamina. She was unable to find a reed that was in balance for this chanter so she brought it to me to have a crack at it.

With all chanters not known to me, I look for undercut or gouged holes and check the throat size with my number drills. On this chanter a number 20 drill should drag in the throat and will not fall through under its own weight however, on the client’s chanter, a number 17 (larger) drill just dropped through the throat so clearly, this chanter has been altered.

I broached this with the client and she told me that her PM had drilled the throat to fix tuning balance issues based on advice that they read on the bagpipe forum. She did not remember the thread but did name the forum so I went and checked. It was as she said and a piper from America was promoting the drilling of the Kyo chanter to tune it. This man is not a reed maker or a pipe maker and after listening to him play, appears to be a barely average piper who did not produce any evidence to support the drilling of Kyo chanters and is clearly devoid of substantial reed and chanter skills, so why would anyone listen to him?

The chanter in its present state is ruined although if she is prepared to bear the cost it could be sleeved or plugged and re-drilled to the correct size so all is not lost but, just as you would not ask your dentist to service your car, why would you take chanter and reed advice from Bozo the Clown, you wouldn’t, and yet, some do.

Do not drill your chanter throats unless you know the exact reason and size because you risk completely ruining a perfectly good (and very expensive) instrument.

To take this further, what if my client decides it is easier and cheaper to get a new chanter? What is she going to do with the ruined one? That’s right, she is going to sell it to some poor sap who has no idea this chanter has been altered to the point of ruin. This new owner is going to have the same problems she was having only this person does not know the chanter has been modified and after countless different reeds and frustration, they are going to bin the chanter or on-sell this chanter to another poor unsuspecting sap. And who is going to be named as the bad guy? That’s right, the original chanter maker, not Bozo the Clown.

The chanter maker is going to have their good name muddied just because Bozo the Clown decided it might be a good idea to encourage Kyo chanter owners to drill out their throats. Because of the abject lack of reed and chanter skills of this Joe-Blow piper from USA, a renowned chanter maker is going to have his business name soiled through no fault of his own. How sad and unfair is that?

I have seen this happen quite a lot and a while back I actually spoke with Bob Shepherd (RIP) and explained that this issue had just happened to me with some of his chanters in a band over here. Because the band did not know the chanters had been drilled and could not get a reliable tune, they sold the chanters and replaced them with a different brand.

I suggested that if he printed the throat and hole size details on the box of every new chanter this issue would not occur and his brand would be protected, after all, the throat size is easily measured so it is not like it is secret squirrel stuff. He did send me an email stating he would give the idea some consideration but nothing seems to have come from it nonetheless, if all chanter makers did state the throat and hole dimensions of their chanters on the box or their web page, it would stop people like Bozo and those who don’t know any better from doing irreparable damage to both their chanter and the brand.

I reiterate, it is reasonable to believe that all chanters left their manufacturer in tune with a specifically pitched reed to play at a specific pitch. Find the correct reed before thinking about drilling.

Cheers,

-G
Glenarley
Posts: 52
Joined: Mon Jan 04, 2021 2:20 am
antispam: No
Please enter the next number in sequence: 8
Tell us something.: My family has been making pipes and reeds for over 25 years both Uillean and GHB. I am being asked to share pass on information on to other pipers in this open environment.

Re: How to leard to blow the bag

Post by Glenarley »

Moisture control systems and sound

The first fact that needs to be made clear is that the human breath expelled through the mouth is saturated with moisture. It cannot absorb any more moisture. It is 100% humid.

I cannot believe the number of people that want to argue this point with regards to the GHB. The medical books and physiological data are not open to my personal interpretation, they just state the facts therefore, if you breath 100% humid air into the bag and the air exiting is also measured at 100% humid, the air contained in the bag must be 100% humid.

Apart from that Texan forum troll, I will answer all emails in a civil manner but please check with an authoritative source if you doubt what I am claiming first. Saves me email time, thanks.

Some of the questions put to me raised some valid points so I have tested those within my ability and have some interesting results.

There are canister moisture systems with multiple exit tubes with one tube for each reed. (3 drones 1 chanter). These canisters use absorbent compounds mainly silica gel, clay (kitty litter) or sponge foam which I ignored for the testing. Some silica gel is in even uniform granules and some is in uneven chip type. The absorbent rate/time was faster with the clay than the silica gel and the capacity varied with all compounds. Some silica was stated as absorbing up to 40% of it’s dry weight while some were less than 20%. The clay was around the 25 – 30% range.

The other moisture control systems used a separate small canister for each reed and the same compounds were present.

No supplier of these devices gave any technical performance data on the absorbent compounds or data regarding the absorbent rate or capacity of the compounds.

When the air exiting the drones with canisters was tested after a 2-minute warmup, the air exiting measured 99.9 RH on the meter so the canister did not prevent the reed from being exposed to the same moisture content as would be the case with no moisture control system. 100% saturated air.

Having the tube attached to the drone stock did have an affect on the sound of the drones. This has been debated by many for quite some time but the results are repeatable and consistent and the software just presents objective data.

Without the tubes or individual canisters attached to the drone stocks the sound was measured when the drones were locked at a pitch. The sound was measured on the same pipe set with no adjustments apart from the moisture canister tubes being connected and the sound was again tested when the drones were locked to the same pitch. A blower was used to supply the air so the pressure could be controlled at the exact same steady pressure.

When the drones were locked without the tubes connected to the stocks the sound was clearly louder. Some said “more tonal”, “fuller sound” among other descriptors but the computer just displayed louder with a different overtone signature. When the drones without tubes were not locked they were about the same volume as the drones with the tubes connected, locked or not.

An audio person will be able to explain what is happening but it is beyond my technical understanding however, the results prove that if you are steady enough to lock your drones, you will get a bigger sound without tubes or devices (one way valves) attached to the bottom of your drone stocks than you will with tubes, canisters or valves.

I had it explained to me that because the sound wave from one drone can “join” with the other drone, when they lock, a function of dB will increase the sound. Tubes and valves isolate the soundwaves coming from the drone stocks which will stop the sound waves from joining therefore inhibiting this dB function from taking place. The person I spoke with used the display of an oscilloscope to make her point. I only heard blah, blah, blah after the first couple of sentences but she seemed competent and did have a degree in acoustics.

Uilleann pipe makers have used stock designs with one large cavity with the view that a different sound was produced than those without a single cavity. Perhaps they were right.

If you had a band of really steady pipers and all these pipers had a good reed technician who set the reed balance of the drones and chanter, this piper would produce a bigger sound than an identical piper with a tube or valve system. Now if you had a band of good steady pipers with well balanced reeds and these pipers were as steady as each other, two or more pipers could produce a locked sound increase in the same way two balanced drones do when locked. This might possibly be the reason some bands just stand out from others. Just a thought.

The bottom line, tubes and valves on the drone stocks will kill sound. Some may like dead sound and some may not.

A blowpipe tube system will not affect the drone sound because it does not isolate the drone stock openings (sound waves) from one another. The blowpipe tube is directly connected to the blowpipe and mainly collects spit so it can be poured out rather than have it laying in the bag.

I would really appreciate any audio geek chiming in with a simpleton explanation of the locking thing if there is one.

My view, if you spend the hundred plus dollars on a moisture control system in the belief you are preventing your reeds from getting moist, I think you bought snake oil. Do the measurements.

There was one unexpected positive from the moisture control canister systems. The flow restriction from the air being blown through the absorbent compound was significant and had the effect of reducing the instances of roaring drones. Easier strike-ups. The one silver lining.

Cheers

-G
Post Reply