How to leard to blow the bag

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Glenarley
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Re: How to leard to blow the bag

Post by Glenarley »

Tone Enhancers

I was just sent this from a newish piper who was led to believe such devices would allow her to play the pipes with reduced air demand:

“Tone enhancers proved to be an immediate and outstanding success allowing players to maintain a tighter pipe bag with less air as the main escape route of the drones were now filled with the tone enhancer which regulated the air leaving the drone.”

Has no one ever learned basic physics? How dumb are GHB pipers that this cannot be debunked? Find a pretty average grade 4 elementary student and you will find that even a grade 4 student could debunk this marketing pitch and save you $50 to boot.

The reed is the air flow restrictor so the reed efficiency is the answer. If the “Tone Enhancer” further restricted the air flow to the reed as is suggested, the reed would not have enough air to produce the correct sound. Think about it!

To “Enhance” is “to improve the quality, amount, or strength of something”! How is reducing the air to a reed going to do this?

And if you ever need proof of the ignorance and gullibility of some of the GHB pipers, how would a bag remain tighter with less air supply?

These things are “The Emperor’s New Clothes” on steroids.

On a factual note, restrictors on the stock inlets have long been used (I was shown them in the 1960’s) to reduce the inrush volume of air as an effective method to prevent drone roaring on strike-ins, especially on the base drones. This is easy to prove and demonstrate with cane drone reeds but is not so often used on the more common synthetic reeds.

I take no pleasure in making clients feel awkward and embarrassed when explaining to them they have been duped but I will not sell my soul to protect what I see as deceptive marketing. To date, I have never had a client agree they spent their money wisely when buying these things after I have explained and demonstrated what they do.

If you want to get better at piping have a good tutor teach you good technique and then do lots of practice. Looking for a quick fix is just folly and will leave you poorer for the exercise. There is no known substitute for practice.

Cheers

-G
Glenarley
Posts: 97
Joined: Mon Jan 04, 2021 2:20 am
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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 »

B flat (Bb 466 Hz) chanters

By construct, the generic GHB chanter is a Bb chanter, that is, on the musical scale it plays at 466 Hz. An A chanter would play at 440 Hz so the Bb is just the normal scale progression.

The current GHB chanters are not manufactured to any known consistent scale so they vary from each other in both musical pitch and in physical construction unlike most typical orchestral instruments.

The fact that I have had so many questions/statements and utter bulldust sent to me about Bb chanters I am writing this post to highlight some points.

As I always state, it is reasonable to believe that pretty much all chanters left their maker in tune at a pitch and playing pressure. While I have tried to avoid specifying the pressure in many previous posts, this has been in error regardless of my intentions.

I am using data from 2 currently available Bb chanters from 2 well respected makers. I am using a third chanter which is a historic War-Mac as it serves the purpose to make a point.

Bb chanters, like all other GHB chanters, do not comply with any manufacturing standard, they are still all over the place like a f_rt in a milk bottle. The only common spec is that they are tuned to play at Bb (466Hz) as were, almost all chanters made before the early 1970’s. They are nothing new or special apart from the current creative marketing that seems to be suggesting otherwise.

From the records I have, it was Hardie in the 1960’s that decided to increase the chanter pitch from Bb and only because it was around this time that GHB bands really started to become aggressively competitive on a band versus band status. Previously all bands were basically at Bb pitch because they played in tattoos with conventional orchestral band instruments that played at A440 Hz so the GHB had to be pitched at Bb so as not to clash with the conventional instruments, as is still the case.

To put some numbers to it, both the current chanters I am using have been used by my boy to play in Tattoos and were specially selected and bought for the purpose. Chanter 1 is manufactured by a maker that also makes Bb reeds to suit the chanter while chanter 2 is sold with no specific reed suggested.

Chanter 1 plays in balance at 466 Hz at the playing pressure of 29” H2O with a Bb reed made by the chanter maker although the low A is a couple of Hz sharp at 24 deg C. This very acceptable as a lick of tape is the norm for tuning the GHB chanter.

Chanter 2 played in balance at 466 Hz at the playing pressure of 27” H2O using a generic chanter reed at the nominal pitch. If this chanter was played at 30” H2O, the high A increased in pitch by 8 Hz and this would not be within an acceptable range to tape the hole as it would require a third of the back A to be taped and the sound loss would be noticeable to some.

While the D to low A finger span was very similar on both chanters, the low A hole on chanter 2 was a full 1mm larger than the low A hole on chanter 1. From a player’s perspective, the larger A makes the burl more problematic, especially for older pipers with stiffening fingers and young pipers with small fingers. While chanter 1 had a smaller low A making burls a bit easier for the same group, the extra pressure required to play the chanter in pitch/balance requires a higher level of strength and stamina.

For these reasons, an experienced tutor and PM becomes very important as to which chanter is selected based on the pipers that will be playing it.

If I was the PM of FMM where all my pipers were highly skilled and able to accurately adjust their bag control to suit the chanter, I don’t have an issue one way or the other so my selection criteria would probably be more about the tone and reed I wanted to use however, if it was a low grade band with diversely aged pipers or a youth band, the pressure and the hole size both become issues that need careful consideration. The risk assessment for the PM then becomes, do I risk dodgy burls or do I risk flat notes due to loss of pressure resulting from loss of stamina?

Because of the 466 Hz, the higher pitched band reeds, especially the aggressive ridge-cut style like McGarrity and Chesney are not an option so I will need to find lower pitched moulded style reeds to suit the pressure range of the chanters. Keep in mind that these current model chanters were designed with the currently available reeds to be used.

This also becomes problematic because even the specific Bb reeds made by one of the chanter manufacturers can vary in strength from 30” to up to 60” H2O and as we have already established the nominal chanter tuning/balance pressure, we are still going to need the services of a reed technician to configure the reeds to suit the chanters and pipers. Sure, we can use stronger reeds but this would require a more aggressive taping process which is less than ideal and a greater stress on the pipers no matter what their skill level.

Now let’s look at the pre-1970’s War-Mac chanter. Because it was designed at a time when Bb was the norm, this chanter is designed to pitch at 466 Hz, and it does. Because this chanter was also used by many a fine solo/pibroch piper of the day, the nominal tuning/balance pressure for this chanter is at a very comfortable 26” H2O and, the D to low A span is about the same as chanter 1 & 2 along with the low A hole being just as small as the chanter 1 low A. And still there is more, the B hole size is actually smaller than the C hole so there is even less chance of the piper feathering the B while reaching for the low A when burling. Clearly, and more so than the currently available chanter models, the War-Mac was actually designed by a competent and very experienced maker that also played with a very diverse group of pipers and I would guess, was also a competent tutor to boot.

The Bb chanter is no different to any other chanter except that it has been designed to play at 466 Hz. None of the Bb chanters I have documented are compliant with any manufacturing standard and like all other chanters, very reliant on knowing the pitch of the reed and the pressure that was used to design the chanter to have it play at 466 Hz and in balance.

I have bought a band load of War-Mac chanters over the years for as little as $10 a piece. By adding a custom imitation ivory sole and a reed, I have had no problem selling them at the bargain price of $100 without so much as a quibble. Why pay $250 for a chanter that is not superior to the sound quality of a chanter that is perfectly suitable for a fraction of the cost?

Marketing, that’s why. A fool and his/her money are soon parted.

On a closing point to the poor cousins in the GHB fraternity, listen to Fred Morrison playing his concert GHB at 470 – 472 Hz and then listen to one of the current elite solo pipers playing solo up at band pitch (484 Hz). The contrast in harmonic tone against the drones of Fred just cannot be compared to the edgy ring at 484 Hz of the elite solo piper. To give the comparison some relevance from the straight male perspective, when you wake in the morning, do you want to hear the voice from the pillow next to you of Cher or Roseanne Barr? Smooth and a little husky or fingernails down the blackboard? I will accept that there will be some personal taste issues but what is the majority wanting?

Cheers

-G
Glenarley
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Re: How to leard to blow the bag

Post by Glenarley »

Marketing and the Gullible – Chanter Selection

I have covered this topic from several angles and I feel, with the actual data figures and examples provided by me, it should not be too difficult to select a GHB chanter that meets a selection criteria.

I was sent the following with a please explain the “trademark high A” and why this chanter has a “trademark high A.”

“What piper hasn’t dreamed of having a high-A like Roddy MacLeod’s? The tinkling, perfectly pitched note has become a trademark of the legendary piper, and now he’s designed new “RJM” chanters with bagpipe makers David Naill & Co., ready to hit the market at £200 for the blackwood solo model and £95 for the polypenco band version.”

I found the entire article in the Pipes and Drums website and this is just advertising to promote a “new” chanter model being produced by Naill. It is just marketing, there is no “secret recipe”.

As stated by me in several posts, the high A can be a problematic note on the GHB chanter. Many high A’s are very scurley and 2-toned. Many are scurley and very thin, often referred to as the “disappearing A”. Some GHB pipers will actually state that they deliberately play this scurley thin type of high A because they like the sound, in the same way some will tell you they enjoy the sound of fingernails being dragged down a blackboard.

The issue is that a traditional cane reed is limited in its physical strength because it is what it is, organic cane. The high A is the note that requires the cane to vibrate the fastest so if the low A is pitched at 480Hz, the reed is opening and closing at 480 times a second therefore, the high A, an octave up, is vibrating at 960Hz when in balance with the low A. This rate of deflection is pretty much at the physical limit of cane so what happens is that the lips of the reed do not fully close across the entire width of the reed lips. At high-speed viewing, it can be seen that the lips close in the middle of the lips but not all the way out to the edges. It looks a bit like an elongated figure 8 and where the lips do not fully close there is leakage and this causes that horrible scurley sound. Just plain physics when it all boils down.

This can be somewhat fixed through reed selection and reed manipulation and this is where the issues start. The GHB fraternity have, through their dependence on ready made cane reeds, all but killed the art of reed skills. Finding GHB pipers with reed skills is no longer easy and from what I believe, many of the current reed makers are basically monkey-see-monkey-do.

Reed selection is a way the scurley high A can be minimised but this also requires reed skills. A good oboe or clarinet player will look at the reed through a bright light to see how uniform the fibre structure is in the reed. The same can be done with GHB reeds although with the double blades it is a little tricky. The more dark fibres uniformly present across the reed lips, the less likely the reed is to collapse only in the middle and figure 8 so the scurley thin high A is far less likely.

The other technique is to sand the reed lips at about 45 deg for a very short distance, about 1mm will do something. This softens the entire width of the reed lips and this will also allow the reed to close across the entire width of the reed. This sanding will help remove the scurley thin high A but it will also shorten the life of the reed whereas, selecting reeds on their fibre structure will not have an adverse effect on the reed longevity.

My guess is that this piper has learned or been taught reed skills so that he was able to get a reed to play the high A without the scurley thin sound. Clearly it is not possible to “trademark” the sound so the term is being used to make something special out of something he has learned. Nothing special here apart from some skill.

The chanter is a conical bore instrument that plays nine basic notes in the mixolydian mode. By altering the throat height, bore and or length, the pitch of the chanter can be altered. By moving the series of holes up or down the chanter the pitch can also be altered. By changing the finger hole sizes the pitch and sound level from each hole can also be altered. Changing the bore taper can also affect the pitch but will also alter the finger spacing of the holes when the instrument is tuned.

I believe that in this particular instance, the chanter maker is down on sales and is looking for some cleaver marketing to improve chanter sales through to use of an elite piper to endorse the “new, u-beaut, super improved chanter as used by “RJM” with his “trademark high A”.

I believe the telling fact that this is just snake-oil is that the chanter is being marketed as a solo model and a band model. The solo model is the expensive wooden option while the polypenko, (resin) model is the band option. While the chanters seem to measure up as identical, the marketing blerp will try and convince the unwary otherwise. The blerp reads:

“The RJM solo chanter he said has bright projection and is designed to go well with reeds from most prominent makers. “I spent a lot of time trying to ensure that it was straightforward to get a good stable piobaireachd high-G and alternate between the normal high-G without adjustment, which is a big consideration for solo players and, of course, it had to give me my trademark high A!””.

Reeds from most prominent makers but no details given. The “piobaireachd” high G is a normal high G with the F hole covered. It gives the high G a slightly more plaintive tone but any fool can play the high G with a finger on the F hole yet it is made to sound special. The piper bag control gives stability, not the chanter. What adjustment for the high G’s? And what I see as the master stroke in marketing, “The Trademark High A”. You may also notice that “bright projection” is never defined or quantified but often used by chanter makers.

What this chanter will not be provided with are the essential details that were used to design and tune it. The reed pitch and the playing pressure. These are the real items that make a chanter special, not the endorsement. The sound quality comes from the reed, the pitch and tuning come from the chanter.

A fool and his/her money are soon parted. Do not believe what I feel is marketing snake-oil, you will only end up poorer for the experience. I have provided all the data in prior posts that will allow a piper looking for a new chanter to find the fundamental chanter pitch, the required reed pitch and the pressure used to tune the chanter. If the chanter pitch is suitable and the chanter tuning will balance at a pressure you find comfortable to play at, then you don’t need any marketing snake-oil.

Do it yourself and enjoy what you learn from the experience. I have had feedback from more than 60 pipers doing what I suggest with great results and a nod of appreciation. I have also had a couple of the others but such is life.

Cheers

-G
Glenarley
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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 »

Snake-oil or savior?

I have been asked if I would do the technical testing on a device with a view to deciding the suitability for a junior school band. The device is marketed by a reed maker and its purpose is to prevent over-blowing the chanter reed through an adjustable restrictor fitted internally in the chanter stock.

https://appsreeds.com/collections/acces ... itch-guard

Devices to prevent reed over blowing have been around since the beginning of time however, none have been adopted by the mainstream and I don’t see this situation changing anytime soon.
Uilleann pipers are used to seeing taps and valves on drone and chanter stocks where they are used to close off airways rather than create a restriction however, I have seen such used to restrict the air to the chanter reed but have not used one for this purpose. In contrast, GHB pipers would not be likely to have ever come across keys or valves on GHB stocks.

Is there a need for a reed airflow restriction device? If you have been well tutored with good technique, absolutely not. If you have poor technique and poor bag control then you may be in the market for a potential “miracle cure” to fix such bad aspects and this is what I believe this device and the such are supplied to do.

Once again, I must direct the Poor Cousins in the GHB piping world to the more refined world of the Uilleann piper. Uilleann pipers have to jump in and out of 2 octaves through bag control, controlled over blowing if you like. The reed must be of a strength that will allow this octave jump to occur in both directions so it has to be a “Goldilocks” reed. Too soft and the reed will not come back from the octave and if too hard, jumping into the octave without upsetting the drones can be an issue with some individual notes being particularly twitchy, and this is even before we fit the regulator. The answer is a well-made for purpose reed and good bag control.

To look at some of the issues to be addressed. My family have been making uilleann pipes and reeds for more than 25 years and I myself have been developing synthetic GHB chanter reeds over the last 4 or so years. I started with the synthetic chanter reeds because my son went to a full bag by the time he was nine and he was not able to find conventional reeds that he was able to control and play due to the pressure required. The elderly pipers in his band were suffering the same situation so I looked for the alternatives. I started using synthetic reeds made by McLaren and found these to work well enough in the sub-20” range however, they would not respond well as the pressure increased and did not like playing some of the fast movements without chirping and scurling so I looked at the options.

I tended to make individual reeds to suit the exact pressure and pitch requested by the piper and made some good progress however, the skill level of the piper was always the issue. If the piper was not steady, the pitch variation was obvious. This is the main reason I am reluctant to market a generic synthetic reed because poor control will result in poor sound and a poor workman blames his/her tools to wit, the reed would get the bad press. This being said, I do make a lot of reeds for pipers where the exact values are known.

The pipe sound is about harmonics and harmonics can be demonstrated and measured with mathematics because harmonics are an integer of the fundamental. If you do not have good bag control you cannot get the maths to match so instead of a nice harmonic sound, you will have an in harmonic sound and your ears will just not enjoy listening to it.

Listen to a good uilleann piper playing a slow lament, when he/she holds those long plaintive notes in (near) perfect harmony with the drones, he/she could bring a lump of rock to tears. Now listen to the same tune being played by a weekend hack and it all becomes clear why steady is so important.

This following video has been sent to me many times because of the synthetic reeds being reviewed and, because the pressure is displayed, it makes it easy to see the control range required to produce an even harmonic sound. I don’t know this piper and am not suggesting he is a good example of control.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_scPzBwYRc

You can see this piper is varying up to 10” H2O in pressure and the sound is just woeful. Because of where he is using synthetic reeds, the reed does not need to be played in and normalised so the sound you are hearing is the sound you will get. Because of his poor bag control, it would not be possible for pipers with this amount of variation to produce a reasonable harmonic sounding bagpipe.

In fairness to this piper, he would not be playing in solo’s, he is probably playing in a community band for street events so his piping would just meld into one big band sound however, it is clear that pressure variations more than 2-3” will not produce nice harmonics.

Back to the reed pressure restrictor, it now becomes clear why such a device would be useful. As in the reed video, if the piper was able to keep from blowing such wild variations, the sound would be much easier to listen to. A reed takes a higher pressure to start up than it does to run but this is only 2-3” and for a weekend hack, this is very acceptable so this restrictor device is looking quite attractive.

If it was impossible to over blow the chanter reed more than 2-3” as is claimed, a woeful sounding piper should be able to at least sound acceptable and would not have to learn good bag technique as well as not having to spend many hours woodshedding. And then, just when you start to get your credit card out, reality kicks you in the butt. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The GHB is a harmonic instrument and alas, the chanter is only a small part of the issue as the chanter must harmonise with the drones to produce a full harmonic sound. This restrictor device may actually prevent the piper from over blowing the chanter more than 2-3” but, it will not prevent the drones from being over blown. So, as with the reed video, if a restrictor was used for the chanter and the chanter over blowing was kept within 2-3” as claimed, the drones would still be subjected to the 10” of pressure variation as per the piper in the video. As an instrument, the pipes are still going to sound woeful because the alleged steady chanter is never going to harmonise with drones being played at a 10” variation.

At the end of the day, there is no substitute for good technique and woodshedding. It is not the wand but how you wave it.

While I appreciated the offer to have one of these devices given to me to test and keep, I refused to test this item because the physics just don’t add up. The harmonics from the GHB drones are not of less importance than the chanter when the sound is considered in its entirety. A steady chanter with unsteady drones is not kind to the ear and even less kind to the craft.

My advice would be to spend the money on a good tutor and leave what I see as gimmicks to the gullible and uninformed.

Cheers

-G
Glenarley
Posts: 97
Joined: Mon Jan 04, 2021 2:20 am
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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 »

My Chanter is Broken Because it Can’t be MY Fault.

I get sent this type of forum thread on a regular basis and I usually answer the emails directly but this thread is a 24ct example of just how out of touch the and under skilled the poor GHB cousins are.
I will comment on each thread response.

Piper:
“I’ve been having fun with my new b-flat setup, but need some advice. The chanter low A is 466.6… but every other note is taped. I’m playing an “easy” MacPhee reed (it’s my spare for my solo Naill chanter). The search function suggested a harder reed… but the b-flat set is for enjoyment (non competition tunes, played on alternate days).

Education opportunity…. If I carve (sharpen) the low A, I’ll need to pull out the reed (flatten) witch will reduce the amount of tape? I don’t mind taping… (carving is a bit beyond my rookie level)… but if I did sharpen the low A… would it reduce the amount of tape?“

The first thing that stands out is that the A’s have not been confirmed as in tune with each other prior to having to tape all the other holes. Not very bright! A lack of reed skills.
I have used and reeded many of these RGH Bb chanters and they are a good product and a pleasure to reed at medium playing pressure. The chanter would have left RGH in good tune as CNC does not get it so wrong that the chanter would pass the quality assurance testing by the maker.

This is, I believe, a classic example of “NO REED SKILLS”. This piper wants to start carving a perfectly good chanter before doing the most basic diagnostics. The worst part of this issue is that the carving” WILL” fail and the chanter and RGH are going to get the bad press because of ignorance and foolishness. It’s just not fair for the maker, but neither is life I suppose.
Now, look at how dumb and dumber try to help with their input!

Respondent 1:
“Pulling out the reed should flatten the other notes. I would do that first, however, before carving (I'm sure you already thought of that, though), for it may not affect the low hand (and A) as much as the higher notes. Mileage varies, of course, with reeds et al.”

This respondent has few if any reed skills as he is not asking anything that would allow diagnostics. He should be asking for the chanter pitch when the A’s are in tune with each other as balancing the tonic is the only starting point.

Respondent 2:
“If it’s new....I’d send it back and ask for another. It should be perfect...Hardie & Co would instst.”
This is, what I see, as “Bozo the Clown” demonstrating an abject level of GHB piping ignorance. It is reasonable to believe that RGH sent out a working chanter and as there have been no objective diagnostics carried out at this time, all sending the chanter back is going to do is waste time and money and demonstrate ignorance.
Piper:
“Really? Or are you just pulling my leg …. I’m tuning my low A to 466… every other note is sharp (now taped)… I will give them a call, but I would think the production tolerances must be tight? I really wanted this chanter to be my break in chanter… to make ready my MacPhee reeds for my Naill chanter or the Troy reeds for my RJM chanter.

I do have 3 Chris Apps reeds but they played 483 on my Naill.

I really like the 466 set up… it’s worth experimenting.”

While Piper is correct in believing the RGH tolerances would be tight, he should have woken up to the reed based on his/her comments about the other reeds and the Naill chanter. There has never been a Naill chanter made with a fundamental pitch at 483, even the model Murray Henderson designed for Naill so it should be obvious at this point that the reed (pitch) is the real issue but, as what I see as a void in the reed skills department, the penny still has not dropped, so we go on.

Respondent 3:
“I wouldn’t do anything until you see where it balances in the octave with that reed. Tuning is reed dependent. There’s nothing magic about a Bb chanter that’ll make it tune to Bb with any reed.

So get back to us when you know the natural pitch of the chanter/reed combo”

While this respondent is far from clear, he/she is asking for reed analysis so we are heading in the right direction. I think he/she is telling Piper to balance the low A to the next octave A, (high A) which is the correct first step.

Respondent 4:
“Hi #######; Judging by the amount of tape you have on the various holes (Hi A, Hi G & F half covered - and then progressively less down to the Lo A), I’d say that the chanter reed is positioned too low (too sharp).
I’d suggest raising the chanter reed until the Hi A and Lo A are balanced (without tape), and that should considerably reduce the amount of tape needed (if at all) on the other holes as well.

I also have a poly Bb Infinity chanter, but I haven’t done much with it in several months (I’ve set my Bb ambitions aside for now, and am focusing on the mid - low 470’s range).
I use MacPhee reeds in my mid-90’s Naill and a MCC2, but my Bb Infinity seemed to prefer a ridge-cut reed (I think I was using an easy G1 Platinum).
it would be interesting to know what type/brand of reed was used in the development of the Bb Infinity chanter.

Anyway, my thoughts would be against carving the Lo A hole of your chanter - I’d recommend starting out by balancing the Hi A and Lo A without tape, and see what that gets you.”

This respondent is also focusing on balancing the A’s as the starting point however, while he/she is focusing on the reed, the emphasis on the reed brand is not going to solve the issue. The real issue is the actual reed pitch and so far, this is being overlooked. Any idiot can keep going into the reed box until a reed of the correct pitch is found but it really is just a case of the blind sparrow eventually finding a worm. None the less, respondents 3 & 4 are getting away from blaming the chanter.

Respondent 5:
“Easier reeds 19"-24" H2O will often tend to lean flat on B and low A. If you can live with the tape I would do so. Depending on the chanter, carving low A can also sharpen E more than you might like.”

This answer is just plain dumb. None of this comment could be demonstrated with any consistency and in my view, demonstrates an abject lack of GHB bagpiping reed skills and knowledge.

Piper:
“All good discussion. I was targeting the low A at 466… I’m there… but the rest of the chanter is sharp… I totally agree I need to pull up my reed (flatten)… but then my low A will be flat… hence my thought on carving it sharper. It’s a hobby… Rod, I’ll pull the reed and balance high/low A and see where I end up.

####### “So get back to us when you know the natural pitch of the chanter/reed combo”…this is helpful… as opposed to targeting a frequency (in this case 466)… start by finding an octave jump low/high A? I suspect I’ll be less than 466 (with this reed).”

If Piper does balance the A’ as being stated, he/she will be able to see at what pitch the chanter will tune at. If the pitch is over 466 (Bb), the reed pitch is too sharp so a flatter reed needs to be found and vise-versa for a low pitch. This needs to be done with a reed that has been fully moisture normalised (played in) as a too dry a reed will give a (usually) false sharp reading. To find the fundamental pitch of the chanter it is best to use the low G to jump the octave.

Respondent 3:
“The top notes are way more affected by reed position than the bottom notes. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if it all balances at 465 Hz. That probably is not the case, I’m just saying I would not be surprised if it was”

This is correct as it is about 3:1 from low A to back A but in this case, because the low A is at 466, it is still looking at a reed pitch issue.

Respondent 6:
“So oddly enough, I just talked with R.G. Hardie about my Bb Infinity chanter and I almost came here to post a question about experiences reeding it.

I asked if they have a reed that the 466 version of the Infinity was designed around or general suggestions for reeding it. My reeds are mostly all 25 inches of water strength (easy) and varying degrees of used, and all were producing very sharp High Gs (read: registering as flat High As in some cases) with a fair amount of tape on all notes. These were worn Chesney's, a Troy, a couple Apps, a Melvin. I don't play with other instruments and I'm not particular about hitting 466Hz myself; I'm happy at 465Hz, 469Hz, even 470Hz etc. But this was a lot of tape and an unplayable HG, sometimes F.

Alastair Dunn's answer was that the Bb Infinity was designed around regular, standard pitch reeds but that they find the G1 Platinum works well. I like G1 and I haven't had them in a long time so I went ahead and ordered two G1 Platinums. I went with the 'Bb' version instead of the regular pitch because I figured it wouldn't hurt and because my other chanter is also 466 (Shepherd Orchestral).

I received the G1s last week and they're certainly much better for me. Less tape, HG is tamed, and it's easier to balance the scale now. They're blowing around 27 inches of water for what G1 calls
This is not really a helpful commentary as once again; reed brand is being referenced when the real issue is reed pitch. The sharp high G is a common problem that is also a reed issue but that’s for another post. The pressure is a very relevant point as a chanter can vary in pitch as a result of differing pressures but this issue is all about the reed so the reed pitch issue needs to be corrected first."

If I was using a synthetic reed, on a GHB tuner a D + 30 cents @28” will balance this chanter however, E – 30 cents will have the low A @ 471 Hz with the A’s in balance. The tolerances are not wide.

Piper:
“####### I was just trading notes with Isla at Hardie and ordered 3 “standard” shepherd reeds easy/24-25”)… we should trade notes (or do a reed exchange LOL).

I really enjoy this form… the people posting are helpful and I’m learning a lot as I start of this hobby. So I removed all the tape… and abandoned at target 466 low A and sought out a natural A/A octave… it made a HUGE difference… I was initially at 463 +/- but tweaking playing over the course of an hour I ended up with a BRAW calibration of 466 (a little over blown) but low A at 464.2. It looks like in my next session I can sharpen the reed just a wee bit more.

No tape on the chanter… for this pic. Certainly a lot cleaner… and a great learning experience… appreciate the the help!”

Now we see proof that the reed is the real issue and the chanter is just fine. It is still somewhat of an annoyance that the chanter makers will not specify reed pitch but because of the variables with cane reeds and makers, this is probably an unreasonable suggestion.

The term “regular, standard pitch reeds” is a bit of a furfy, I suppose it’s one of those times where, if you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bulldust! Why not provide numbers? Even “Bozo the Clown” can likely count to 100.

Reed skills saved the day and now this piper has a better understanding of the importance of reed skills. The other aspect of note is that this piper notes the pitch was at 466 with a small increase in playing pressure. It can now be deduced the playing pressure of the chanter maker that tuned this chanter. This is not to say the chanter cannot be played at different pressures however, the correct reed will be required and some trim tuning with some tape.

Respondent 8:
“Over and through... in The Piping Game... all of those tussles...
with that Old Rascal... Time... I have never even considered...
whittling on a chanter... much the less... actually attempting it.
(Says right on my chart... "No Sharp Objects." :-)

And why??... Because... and at least in my case... more than
likely... to wind up... with a self-induced bollix... and simply...
an injured... chanter... (Sigh...)

(Though I am... well pleased... to see the Skill Set in our far-
flung mob... having the acquired skills... to take on these
whittling "adjustments"... and without fear of catastrophe. :-)

Those wonderful Old Fellows... in my first band... and damned
near back... to when Steam Was King!!... had a much easier
approach... and solution... to such...

Work!!... Tussle!!... Waltz About!!... with the chanter reeds...
and how ever many... that might take... :-)

And while... this can seem... a sometimes up-hill slog... there
is much to be learned... and... you... and your chanter... and
the proper pitch... can... all wind up... in happy conclusion... :-)

And wishing... Good Fortune with it... to All,”

I only included this response as an example of the type of nutbag that can involve themselves in forums. All the periods suggest to me a serious English literacy and grammar issue or a text conversion problem, and as there is no relevant piping info, probably not even a piper. Not to be taken seriously, just one of the costs of participating in forums.

Respondent 1:
“I do appreciate the view and sentiment. However, having played in a Grade 2 band, and instructed in a Grade 3 juvenile band, the knife did periodically come out, especially on the competition field (often, it was the high A that got carved). Yes, a bit radical; and, with time and experimentation, most issues would have been solved. But that was a luxury we didn't always have.”

I feel this is just another example of “plain dumb”. If you were unable to balance the back A with the low A before you took to the paddock, you should not be touching reeds at all. This is the type of comment to avoid as it only confuses and misleads. Perhaps this respondent is wanting to cover for his/her initial comment, either way, I see this as just a dumb, unhelpful comment to post. Yes, undercutting holes is sometimes unavoidable due to chanter design and reed availability but to claim to be competent in running bands and having to gouge the high A on the paddock is what I see as a demonstration of incompetence.

Respondent 9:
“"If you are confident you have a good reed, then it's the chanter that needs fixed" - a paraphrase of a wise comment by an Uilleann pipemaker.”

I see this post as another really “dumb” thing to state. We have been making uilleann reeds for more than 25 years and I would never claim that a uilleann reed that was great in one chanter could be relied upon to assess the design properties and play-ability of a different chanter. While it could work out, (the blind sparrow thing) you could never be confident without testing. Sometimes it is just better to say nothing than mislead.

Respondent 3:
“Give this a whirl: tape over the top of your low G holes (the tone holes). Looks like low G is a tad sharp and a side effect of taping the tone holes is that it should sharpen low A.”

This is another of those irrational, unhelpful comments as it will achieve nothing. Surprisingly, this respondent made some helpful suggestions earlier, maybe he/she was just parroting someone.

Conclusion:
The winner was Piper when he/she contacted the manufacturer and the correct reed selection was demonstrated to resolve the issue.

As I have stated on numerous occasions, it is reasonable to believe that a chanter was in tune when it left the maker and, when the correct reed pitch and pressure are discovered, the chanter will play in tune and balance when the correct parameters are applied.

Reed skills is the answer and while this art is dying and becoming scarcer, it is worth the effort to hunt down those that have them and learn from them.
In this case, a piper is now playing an unmolested chanter and the chanter maker’s name is kept intact. Everyone wins.

Cheers

-G
Glenarley
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Re: How to leard to blow the bag

Post by Glenarley »

Playing Steady – There are no short-cuts

I have had a good number of emails regarding my posts on fundamental pressure of chanters and playing pressure. I will address playing pressure in this post and chanter pressure in a following post with a view to being clearer with my explanations.

An experienced tutor will very quickly assess the blowing technique and physical effort of a piper on the bag because they are core requirements to a piper being able to play well. Much the way a golfing pro will assess your swing long before they are concerned with where the ball is ending up although, where the ball is going is as a result of problems at the swing process.

Look at this video of a band tutored by the late Bob Shepherd. Just skip through to the closeup shots of the pipers and look at their blowing technique.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARtfEtgxWHo

You will see they all use long steady blowing. This is because every time you transition from blowing to squeezing you have the potential to drop pressure and/or overblow so, if you limit the number of times you transition, you limit the number of times you can cock-up. This is a fundamental skill and it needs to be learned. This will require practice and good technique, there are no gimmicks that will circumvent good technique and quality practice time.

Secondly, you will notice that you don’t see any of the pipers with red faces or the veins popping out of their necks and foreheads, or their cheeks blowing out like bullfrogs. This is because the tutor made sure the bags were set up to a pressure and air flow demand that was comfortable for the piper to maintain control over a reasonable playing period and that the blowing was done from the diaphragm, not the cheeks.

Unfortunately, both these techniques can only be achieved through tuition and lots of practice but in stating this, the bag needs to be correctly configured so reed skills become very important.
Most of the better tutors will use drone only setups to determine the best playing pressure for the piper as correctly performing drones are very easy to hear in isolation to the chanter. It is very easy to hear at what pressure the piper is physically struggling to maintain good bag control because the sound of the drones will be up and down and out of sync if excessive airflow and pressure are being required to operate the bag due to physical exertion/exhaustion.

There are 2 aspects to this process and this is where the experience of a good tutor in invaluable. Are the reeds using too much air and are the reeds requiring too much pressure to operate? Reed skills again.

In the early days, a wall mounted water manometer would be used to display bag pressure/control variations to both the piper and tutor however, this device could only be used in a static location. Today we use split chanter stocks with a pressure gauge threaded into it so the device is completely portable therefore the piper can observe their bag control while both static and marching and at different practice locations. The gauge can be turned around so a tutor can also observe and analyse bag control while the student is mobile and at different locations.

In this video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_scPzB ... =NorthOlbo it can be seen on the gauge and heard, just how unsteady the piper is playing and, by looking at the behavior of the gauge, we can analyse where in the breathing cycle this piper is losing control. This particular commercial gauge kit plugs the supply air tube into one of the drones so while the poor blowing control can be displayed, the fact that the air demand from one drone is being eliminated by the gauge supply tube, this kit is not ideal for the purpose of bag control diagnostics and training.

The split stock system allows all the drones to be operational so the air demand is realistic and therefore, a more accurate representation. Both systems allow the chanter to be used with the gauge so the chanter air demand is being included for the exercise/practice.

One of the biggest hurdles we come across from pipers using the gauge system to practice is noise. The GHB is very loud and will often not be tolerated by other house occupants and neighbors which seriously impacts upon actual available practice time. With our split stock system, we include a chanter plug so the only noise is from the drones and the noise from only the drones will be tolerated in most urban environments. The piper can just go to the rumpus room or the garage to do drone only bag control practice without disturbing too many of those in close proximity.

What we have found is, a piper as unsteady as the chap in the video, (say 10” variation) will cut that variation in half with 10 – 15 minutes practice 4 or 5 times a week for 2 – 3 weeks. We provide a chanter plug with a bleed hole to replace the chanter so there is no chanter noise to disturb other people and the bleed hole is sized to simulate the air demand of the piper’s chanter. This is around a number 46 drill size for most medium blowers. This setup allows for practice simulating full air demands with only the sound of the drones so the opportunities for practice become more available. No more reasons/excuses for not practicing.

At the end of the day, there is no substitute to woodshedding! You need to practice with a good technique for as long as it takes to achieve the level of control you are wanting to reach. All the gimmicks in the world are never going to replace good quality practice time, just ask any golfer. Just make sure your bag and reed configuration are suitable, your PM or tutor will be able to check this for you. Be sure your technique is sound and appropriate for your size and strength and with the aid of objective feedback devices, (pressure gauge and tuner) and practice, you will improve your piping.

Good pipers will play with around a 2-2.5” pressure variation on the gauge, great pipers will have the control to play around 1” pressure variation. If you are only wanting to be a reasonable social and informal function piper, the general public will easily tolerate playing with pressure variations under 5”. Playing with 8” or more of variation will start to get eyes twitching and teeth grinding.

Cheers

-G
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Re: How to leard to blow the bag

Post by Glenarley »

Cane and cane reeds

I make synthetic chanter reeds and I target them at two selected groups, those not in my target groups generally will use cane chanter reeds and, in my view, they deserve cane reeds.
This is not to say I don’t use and configure cane reeds and I do encourage the use of cane chanter reeds because with all the variables and idiosyncrasies, the eventual outcome of using cane should be reed skills, or really poor sounding pipes.

The variables in a natural living breathing material and knowing how to identify and work with these variables are the skills needed to work with cane.

Cane by species, Arundo Donax is the same all over the world and in my view, to state that cane from a country or region is better or inferior is just bunkum. I am often told about French, Spanish, Californian and now Chinese cane as being “the best” and yet, the best cane I ever used to make chanter reeds was sourced from the side of the railway lines at Thronleigh in Sydney. It is all Arundo Donax.

When you cut the cane storks you will need to dry them and this process can be natural or done with dryers, the result will be about the same except the dryers will be quicker. Once the cane is at a defined moisture content the hardness is tested, usually by pressing a hard object into or running it across the cane to see how easy it is to mark the cane. This process is largely redundant with GHB chanter reeds as most GHB reed makers strip all the bark off the cane, unlike uilleann and small pipe reed makers who leave the bark on the body of the reed.

Once we have a round section of cane, we will cut it into quarters to be turned into reeds. The better reed makers will polish the end of the cane tube to see the fibre pattern as the fibres in the cane will give the reed it’s strength and because cane stems grow with leaves, there is usually one quarter that has a poor fibre pattern as a result of being the part where the leaf was growing from.
In this picture it can be seen that the section in the circle has a lower population of fibres so this quarter would usually be discarded by fussy reed makers.
Image
https://imgur.com/gcvvddq
https://i.imgur.com/gcvvddq.jpg

Where this can be seen more clearly is in a single blade clarinet reed as in this picture. My son picks his clarinet reeds out of the box by shining a light through the reeds and selecting them based on the dark fibre structure and he will then hand scrape the reeds to preference. The reeds with the gaps in the fibre pattern at the tip will scurl and be problematic up at the third octave and will suffer longevity issues compared to the reeds with full length dark fibre structure.
Image
https://imgur.com/yx6SjcV
https://i.imgur.com/yx6SjcV.jpg

While it is a bit more difficult to clearly see the fibre pattern in the GHB chanter reeds, by holding the light at the correct angle, it is easy to see the reeds with the most populous full length dark fibres. In this picture of two GHB reeds you can also see that reed B is very poorly made and of poor cane as the reed does not have uniform thickness or good fibre structure compared to A. Reed A will be more responsive than B, it will not scurl much on high A’s and it will be much more stable in pitch.
Image
https://imgur.com/lKxm6gi
https://i.imgur.com/lKxm6gi.jpg

In this next picture, it is clear to see on reed A that the two halves of the reed are dissimilar in thickness whereas on reed B. both halves are well matched. The dots on the part line show that at the tip of the reed, part A of reed A is obviously much thinner. This will result in a reed that is not steady and could have scurls and chirps when attempting complex fast movements and this is regardless of the reed’s fibre pattern. Because many GHB reed makers do not use reliable jigs when cutting the blades, this lack of consistency in GHB chanter reeds is quite common. Reed makers like Shepherd do not suffer this type of inconsistency because of their CNC reed cutter however, they still have the same issues with reed fibre structure because of the nature of cane.
Image
https://imgur.com/Kvt9yc8
https://i.imgur.com/Kvt9yc8.jpg

Uilleann reed makers tend to cut their reeds from the one blank and bend it in half to form the two blades and this gives a much higher chance of both blades being matched in both scrape and fibre structure. The GHB reed makers seem to make their chanter reed blades as a single blade so if they do not take care in matching the two blades by scape and reed structure, the chances of getting good consistent reeds are greatly reduced.

In the washup, selecting reeds based on the manufacturer is not a reliable benchmark as all makers suffer the natural variations in cane, the reason I make synthetic reeds. The one thing that will be specific to a manufacturer is the reed scrape and this can have an impact on which reed will work in a particular chanter however, in stating this, the pressure the chanter is to be played at will also have a major impact on reed selection also.

In this earlier picture the reed scrape of the two different makers is obvious. Reed A scrape will be more responsive on the top hand and will most probably have a brighter tone from E to back A however, because the reed in this example has poorly matched halves, I would not expect this reed to play and sound great.
Image
https://imgur.com/Kvt9yc8
https://i.imgur.com/Kvt9yc8.jpg

Some of the dumbest things I have heard about the GHB are to do with reeds.

Use only Spanish cane because it is different to other cane, (even though they are all Arundo Donax!)

Copper staples are best for solo pipers.

Stirling silver staples produce the purest sound.

The lightest colour has the better tone.

I could go on but the point is, learn some reed skills so when you get an unexpected or undesired result, you have enough skills to start a diagnostic process otherwise, you are just going to go down the old Black Arts Rabbit Hole.

I will cover synthetics in another post but needless to say, because of the consistency of plastic sheet when compared to the variables cane offers up, it becomes obvious why I use plastic reeds when analyzing different brands and types of GHB equipment.
Glenarley
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Re: How to leard to blow the bag

Post by Glenarley »

African Blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon) is a con?

I make and alter GHB bagpipes on a regular basis as part of the service I offer pipers so I see plenty of different makes and models come through the door. Lately I am seeing GHB pipe sets that were sold as ABW (African Black Wood) but do not have any characteristics of a timber that was actually grown in Africa.

I believe the timber is likely Dalbergia melanoxylon by species but has never been within a bull’s roar of Africa.

In this image the grain can be seen as very coarse.

https://i.imgur.com/TLNC4Is.jpg

If this was grown in Africa it would be very fine grain with the lines very close to each other as the tree grows very slowly in the hot arid conditions in Africa. The grain in the picture better resembles a plantation grown timber where the growth is fast. The width and light colour of the rings on this piece are not consistent with African Black Wood from Africa.

In these pictures it is possible to see the large capillary grooves and machining chips in this wood and this is also not consistent with ABW, a very slow growing timber.

https://i.imgur.com/74rctAc.jpg

https://i.imgur.com/zypwoHB.jpg

https://i.imgur.com/EWgMlOO.jpg

https://i.imgur.com/DVk1kmU.jpg

The images also show chips that have dislodged during machining and this never happens on genuine seasoned ABW. When machining ABW the timber peels off in long ribbons of strongly scented oily wood shavings. The timber in the pictures comes of the tool in chips rather than ribbons and it has hardly any smell to it. The worst aspect of the timber is the number of large marks in the finish from the wood chipping out of the capillaries. Yes, I do know how to sharpen my tools and I do use very sharp tools when machining.

What is in my view, the worst feature of this alleged African Black Wood is the fact that it can absorb liquid like paper. Genuine ABW is a very dense and oily timber and it will not readily absorb moisture, this is one of the reasons it is used in wind instruments.

I am already seeing high numbers of cracks and distortions in GHB models made with this alleged ABW and I am seeing a large number of instruments made with this material that cannot hold good hemping tension as a result of the large size deviations of tenons through swelling once there is moisture present.

African Black Wood by species (Dalbergia melanoxylon) maybe, but not African Black Wood by source of origin. I believe a misrepresentation, a con.

I have not found any reliable information on the origin of this wood but I feel certain it is not from Africa, it is not even black (in most cases mid & dark brown at best) leaving the “Wood” part of the ABW sales description as the only factual description as best as I can tell.

The good news about this Fake ABW is that all the genuine ABW GHB sets are finite so they are appreciating as time goes on.

Cheers

-G
Glenarley
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Re: How to leard to blow the bag

Post by Glenarley »

Cane & Reeds

Further to my last post and in response to some firmly stated commentary I have been receiving I will better expand on some of the issues I raised.

Reeds with asymmetric halves are not going to perform well as the thinner side will always vibrate more than the thicker side, it is just basic physics. Yes, as stated to me, the reed will operate as a reed however, it will not be stable as a symmetric reed and as the thin side will normalise with moisture quicker, the reed will produce some undesirable results at warmup.

One of the main undesirables will be herd on the top hand as the back A will usually be scurley and thin. Asymmetric bladed reeds will also be prone to chirps and squeaks as over blowing becomes an issue. As the thinner blade will vibrate more easily than the thick blade, less pressure is required however, because the thick blade requires more pressure to get it vibrating, the differential pressure of the two blades being on the same reed will reduce the working range of the reed. Small pressure variation will result in very noticeable pitch variations.

A very steady piper may be able to maintain the narrow operating pressure tolerance, most cannot, and if you have some reed skills and can identify the poor-quality reeds, you will not have this issue in the first instance.

Because the top notes are most effected the back A can really suffer so it is very difficult to balance the back A to the drones. This leads to the thin back A’s we often hear pipers playing although some of these pipers with this thin raspy back A will try and convince listeners that it is intentional, something they call the “disappearing A”. This is really a euphemism for “I have no reed skills”.

The reeds where each half has a different fibre density and pattern will cause the same sort of problems as above although doing so for a different reason. Where one reed half does not have fibres that are present all the way to the lips, the section with no fibres will collapse more easily and this leads to that part of the reed touching the other half before the part with the strong fibres. This means the reed is not closing evenly across the width of the reed as it vibrates and this leads to chirps and squeaks.

Uilleann reed makers tend to make both reed halves from the same blank and bend it in half so that the cane at the tips on both halves are a pretty good match. Because GHB reed makers generally do not follow this methodology it is very common to find GHB reeds with poorly matched halves causing all sorts of stability issues.

Because there are GHB reed makers that do not have good manufacturing processes and poor-quality control, it is difficult to get a really good GHB chanter reed without reasonable reed knowledge and the necessary reed skills to be able to manipulate a reed to play as you require. It is common to see pipers being aggressively protective of their chanter reeds and this is because of the difficulty to find good reads.

The reed B in this picture I previously posted is an example of a poorly made reed because the sides are thicker/stronger than the heart of the reed. This poorly manufactured reed is commonly found and will play poorly. This reed will not vibrate well on the top hand notes and will be overly strong if cane is not removed from the outside edges.

Image

Some reed makers will send rubbish reeds like this to clients and still sleep at nights like dead pigs. The view seems to be that it is the responsibility of the piper to manipulate the reed to get it to work well. The only way to guarantee you will not be sent rubbish like this is to cherry pick through the maker’s reed box to get the good reeds. Unless you are the likes of Mr Park or Mr Liddell, no reed maker is going to allow this to happen, it is just commercial reality so buyer beware.

I totally reject the assertion a particular reed brand is “best”. Buying reeds based on brand is also no guarantee as all cane reed makers are at the mercy of a natural material. Reed makers like Shepherd with their CNC reed cutter or other reed makers with high quality tooling can offer very consistent reeds based on physical dimensions, but all are still at the mercy of the natural variations of cane.

No reed maker is going to tell the client about the faults in their reeds and most reed makers I know of will grade reeds based on the clients they are providing reeds to; it is just commercial reality and not totally unreasonable. It is therefore incumbent on the reed purchaser to gain some knowledge about reeds before purchasing or, rely on someone with good reed skills to select and manipulate the reeds for them.

Where I demonstrate using a light to inspect the cane reeds, I have had some real aggression directed at me from reed re-sellers when I pull out my cell phone torch to inspect reeds at the time of purchase. I even have one reed re-seller refusing to sell reeds to me at any time.

Hope these explanations give better meaning to my earlier post.

Cheers

-G
Glenarley
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Re: How to leard to blow the bag

Post by Glenarley »

Cane & Reeds 2

Because of the number and references to “alleged formal technical instructions”, I will address these new assertions.

Several emails have referenced reed selection based on the tuning of the high G to the required chanter pitch and then taping all holes down to match, that is if all the other nots are actually higher in pitch.

This would have to go into the bucket of the “dumbest statements ever made” with regards to reed selection. I cannot find a source for this ludicrous assertion but as it was directed at me from multiple emails which reference (an anonymous) GHB training resource, it is written on a GHB training site somewhere. Someone please send me the link!

The high G is a flow sensitive note and it responds poorly to being taped down on most chanters.

Because of this note being the flat seventh in the mixolydian mode and our ear being commonly tuned to the major scale, most people will tolerate the high G being a little sharp as it comes closer to the major scale the sharper it gets. Most people, especially classical musicians, will not tolerate the mixolydian scale at any time let alone if it has a flatter flat seventh so most pipers are happy to have a high G a hertz or so sharp rather than flat.

As the high G is not a tonic note or a harmonic integer of the tonic note, to suggest that this note be used to tune a reed to the chanter is just abject dumbness.

It is because of idiots or the uninformed making such dumb assertions that pipers go and try it, get frustrated with their pipes to the point of just giving up and retiring their pipes to that spot under the bed.

Look at some of the chanter manufactures specs and a patten starts to show itself. G1 chanters have their roots in the Shepherd workshop yet one of the most significant differences between the Shepherd hole configuration and the early G1 configuration is the high G hole. It would seem that because the G1 was pitched up to suit the demands of the then current band requirements, and these bands wanted to use a reed that was not a G1 reed, the high G was moved down which flattened the high G. Clearly even the chanter manufacturer was not using the high G as the note to select reed pitch.

It is also interesting to note that on the early chanters (sub 470 Hz) the high G is placed further up the chanter whereas on the higher pitched chanters (+ 480 Hz) the high G is being flattened by moving it closer to the F hole. This strongly suggests that the reed is not capable of being adjusted to allow the high G as the pitch selection note.

I would like to know the source of this high G reed selection assertion so that I might try to understand the context so please, send me the link if you have it however, to use this technique will only lead to frustration and torment as it is pure folly and is now permanently on my list of the dumbest things I have ever heard about tuning GHB reeds to chanters.

Cheers

-G
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Re: How to leard to blow the bag

Post by Glenarley »

Synthetic Chanter Reeds

I make these reeds and get plenty of questions about them so I will do the life story of these reeds.

I started making them for my boy who was on the full bag at age 9 but was unable to comfortably play a cane reed due to the strength and variables that are cane.

At first, we used synthetic chanter reeds from another synthetic reed maker who specifically catered for the light blowing pipers however, as my boy got better very quickly, the synthetic reed would not play some movements so I developed my own reeds that would meet the fast response requirements of some advanced finger movements.

As it became known that my boy could play as he did with synthetic chanter reeds, I had many older pipers wanting to use these reeds mainly because with synthetic chanter reeds, it is possible to set the blowing pressure quite low and still maintain the response. Most of these elderly pipers were quite steady pipers with sound technique but no longer had the strength or stamina to play the cane chanter reeds, nor the skills to select and manipulate the available cane reeds.

My reeds are cut and pressed from plastic sheet in a press tool so the consistency and accuracy are assured however, the plastic blades do not have the mass at the staple end of the blade like a cane reed does and this becomes a real problem for playing fast movements that jump between the octaves. The solution was to give the synthetic blades mass through the use of a strengthening spine being pressed into the blade after cutting.

Because I was formally trained as a Tool & Die maker, making a press tool to do this is a very simple process for me however, to get the reed to work well, especially with the fast movements jumping the octaves, the length, width and depth of the spine, in relation to the aspect ratio of the blade, became the most important part of the development process.

The plastics I use are Acetate or high-quality PVC sheet. The Acetate is derived from wood pulp so the fluffy green environmentalists do not have to worry about the environment being destroyed because of my reeds. Acetate and PVC do offer a tone difference as well, one produces a brighter top hand which some pipers do like. Some pipers tell me the tone is too “brash, shrill, steely or edgy so for them, the slightly less edgy material is preferred.

Other plastics like Poly Propylene and Poly Carb, while good tough plastics, have some problems with consistency due to the difficulty in scraping these plastics to a design pressure and they are also resistant to being formed.

The reeds are not cheap in direct comparison to cane because, unlike cane reeds, the synthetic reeds need to be fully finished before they can be passed on to the pipers. This means a bit more time making and tuning the reed so the cost has to be passed on.

Cane reeds are made and sold with the expectation that the piper will finish the reed to suit their needs so even though you may order a pack of ten cane reeds rated as medium, the pressure range in the pack of ten could vary from 30 – 60 inches H2O. This range is not uncommon but even a range of 10” H2O, 30” – 40”, is problematic as most pipers I am dealing with, would not be able to play a 40” reed when a 30” reed is where they are comfortable. If you have no idea about manipulating reeds you will have some reeds in the pack of 10 that are going to be firewood because they are so far out of your playing range or the cane is of inconsistent hardness.

Like cane reeds, synthetics are still under quite a bit of stress from being tied to the staple and like cane, can take a week or so for the inbuilt stress to normalise. The advantage with synthetic reeds is that this normalisation process can be sped up with heat whereas cane reeds, not so much. Synthetic chanter reeds will stay in their normalised state once settled unlike cane that will take, sometimes weeks, before the squeezing and bending the reed is no longer required. Synthetic reeds do not get attacked and broken down bacterially like the cane reeds do so a synthetic is still in the same condition years after it was first played and we have some synthetic reeds that are still playing well after 5 years of moderate use.

While some Synthetic reeds do have problems with some fast octave jumping movements, most pipers don’t play this class of tune so it is a bit of a moot point. Probably the biggest impact on the use and acceptance of synthetic chanter reeds is the “Nay Sayers”.

I remember when synthetic drone reeds were introduced and how all the "old trads" and the "nay sayers" ran around doing the “Chicken Little” thing. Now synthetic drone reeds are the norm and for very good reason. They are stable and consistent, require little maintenance and are not greatly affected by moisture. The same can be said with synthetic chanter reeds and yet, the nay sayers will not stop beating their anti-synthetic chanter reed drum.

I have sent dozens of sample synthetic chanter reeds all over the world at no expense to the recipients and all I requested was feedback yet, less than 30% of those that requested and were sent reeds did so. This has made the development of these reeds a longer process than it could have been as the only way to identify issues is through large data samples. What did become clear was that the lack of reed skills and sound technique was the biggest obstacle to many pipers playing well. Many had never been taught good bag control techniques basics and this was very obvious in their playing videos.

One of the most mean-spirited, know nothing pipers I sent free samples to has turned out to be the worst example of an internet forum Troll I have ever encountered. So disturbed is this bloke, he even openly attacks and trolls some of the recipients of synthetic chanters reeds that post their experiences in some forums. While I did not expect this type of vindictive conduct, it just has to be accepted as part in parcel with developing something new so I just have to suck it up and keep moving forward.

The irony of this experience is one of the most helpful pipers that contributed to my synthetic reed development was also from Lubbock Texas, go figure. The helpful bloke worked in a university and digitised a lot of chanter/reed outputs for me using some flash lab equipment at the university and this took months off the development process whereas the troll, who also, as it happens, works for a university in Lubbock Texas and is known by the helpful bloke, could have put me back years if I didn’t have a thick hide and a “go F you” disposition.

As it now stands the synthetic chanter reed code has been well and truly cracked and the results speak for themselves. Pipers competing in 3 of the previous World Online Piping Competitions have received prizes while using synthetic chanter reeds. Pipers with these reeds have achieved 6th to 2nd place prizes up to grade 2. This would suggest that the sound of synthetic is acceptable to the ear of some pretty well credentialled judges, as long as they do not know they are listening to synthetic reeds I suppose. Because these pipers are online it is as close to an objective synthetic reed blind test as possible because the equipment is not really up for physical scrutiny, just the sound and player skill.

In the wash-up, while cane reeds can and do produce a fine sound, a degree of skill and reed craft is required to manipulate and play these reeds. These skills are becoming harder to find so a ready-made PnP solution is seen as the answer in much the same way drone reeds are being marketed and selected.

Cane reeds have a limited life which is largely beyond the control of the piper where synthetic chanter reeds do not have such limitations. In this light, synthetic reeds are actually more cost effective relative to their longevity.

Synthetic chanter reeds have a narrower playing range than cane. A cane reed will not choke as soon as a synthetic if the pressure drops. A cane set to play at 30” will still play as low as 22” whereas a synthetic will choke about 25”. The cane playing 480 Hz at 30” could drop to 470 at 22” and this will sound woefully flat. A synthetic that chokes at 25” will drop to about 476 Hz so it will not sound so flat before it stops. Some band managers prefer no sound rather than a woefully flat note, some do not. The reason the elderly pipers seem to cope with the synthetic chanter reeds is that while they lack strength. Most were formally taught good bag control techniques so they can still maintain a steady playing pressure.

Synthetic chanter reeds do not require warmup or to be played in at the start of sessions so a one-hour practice session with a student or band can result in one hour of actual piping. This is a key reason some tutors and bands use my synthetic chanter reeds. One youth band uses synthetic chanter reeds for all practice sessions and use their good cane reeds for competition events. The band manager sees this methodology as a way to preserve the longevity of their good cane reeds while maximising practice sessions.

Many wedding/funeral pipers use my reeds because they do not have to warm up their chanter on arrival at the gig, they can just pull the pipes out of the boot and start playing, a big advantage as many wedding/funeral directors do not appreciate the pipers spending ten minutes tuning up at the beginning of the event.

For the piper, having to play the bride or coffin in to the event, then having to wait some time till the end of the event to play the bride or coffin out means the cane reed will have cooled down and could be out of wack for the first minute or two on re-start. The synthetic reed does not have this issue so re-starts after a delay are not cause for piper concern.

The pitch and playing pressure are easily set with a synthetic reed where on cane reeds, this is just not the case. Because synthetic chanter reeds are more user friendly and can be made less demanding, I am able to keep older pipers playing on longer where they would have stopped due to the physical demands if still using cane.

I think it will take a huge upheaval in mindset for synthetic chanter reeds to become mainstream and I don’t ever see the synthetic chanter reed replacing the cane chanter reed. It’s like electric cars, nice to have but will never be able to replace the fossil fuel vehicles completely. I don’t make my synthetic reeds with a view to replacing cane, I make them to suit a piping need.

It also needs to be acknowledged that the synthetic reed is being made to suit a chanter that has been designed to use a cane reed. These chanters are not made to any physical or musical standard other than mixolydian mode, so one brand can be significantly different from another, especially in tone and pitch. Where I make a chanter to be used with a synthetic reed, I have the luxury to place and size the finger holes in optimal locations to suit the characteristics of the synthetic reed. This is also true of many chanter makers that also make cane chanter reeds.

I have not posted technical details or dimensions however; I am happy to provide anyone with specific details. I started making these reeds as a bit of a hobby and it is now turning into a bit of a job. There is plenty of room in the market for others to be making synthetic chanter reeds and the more that do, the better it will be for the craft.

This type of reed will allow younger beginners to manage a difficult instrument with less physical effort in the same way they will also allow older pipers to play at a time when their physical limitations become more restrictive. The key is to formally teach good bag control techniques right from the start, something uilleann pipers are more aware of than the poor cousins playing the GHB.

Cheers

-G
Glenarley
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Re: How to leard to blow the bag

Post by Glenarley »

Ebony & ABW

I get asked about ebony quite a bit and this post from a pipe forum with the opinion from a self appraised "expert" was included with a recent question.

"Greetings. I'm considering purchasing a set of old pipes, of a time and make I'm very interested in, with drones made of ebony. The stocks appear to be of cocus - the wood I would prefer - but probably not the drones. I've played pipes of ABW, cocobolo (MacLellans, still owned) and cocus (an old Henderson set, still owned), but never ebony. I'm aware of the reputation that ebony has for cracking. Is this a serious problem, especially in drones more than 100 years old? I take very good care of my pipes, but I don't particularly want a set that has to be babied too much - I like to play them, not keep them bottled up.

Does ebony produce a tone comparable to blackwood or cocus? Pros and cons?

For the fair asking price, and these being of the age and make I'm searching for, I'm inclined to get them.

Just looking for others' experiences with ebony pipes.

I thank you in advance. "


The "Expert" opinion:

"Ebony is often talked about as being prone to splitting but I am not sure that's actually true; you don't see many sets I think because it wasn't in use all that long, between the fall of cocus and the rise of blackwood. In my limited experience of ebony I've not seen it splitting any more than other sets of that age, and I have seen a few that have had extraordinary lives.

One point of interest is that bellows pipe makers as a rule will advise the use of ebony over blackwood for reasons of tone quality.


To state that Ebony has a preferred tone quality over ABW is is just a really ill informed statement borne of ignorance and I believe you would have to be as dumb as a stump to listen to this often stated nonsense when selecting a set of pipes.

There are many varieties of Ebony and we use the three main varieties and it is just not possible to detect a "tone" difference between the varieties. The oldest Ebony we have is Indian and it is basically jet black and very hard. It is terrible to work with because it is very chippy when turning and combing so we will usually only use it when replacing a damaged part of an old set just to keep the set looking authentic. Not for tone or any other "ill informed view".

Ebony also lacks the oil found in good quality ABW which is on of the reasons it is more difficult to machine than ABW.

Don't listen to the ill informed self professed experts when selecting a set of pipes. If they have a look that you like, and they do not have any visible damage, and you can afford them, buy them.
You will find many wanna-be experts telling tales about special tone from special woods however, you will find the best sounding pipes are a result of the person playing them, not the material, so don't go down the material rabbit hole.

We love to have customers prepared to pay for the rare materials but never will we suggest they will sound better for the expense.

Cheers

-G
Glenarley
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Re: How to leard to blow the bag

Post by Glenarley »

Why do so many GHB pipers sound so bad.

The standout issue comes down to bag control.

Pipers that see me to have their pipes configured do so as a last resort in resolving issues they have with sound and tone.

I use a split stock manifold fitted with a pressure gauge to see the extent of the problem and in nearly all cases, the lack of bag control is the primary problem or is exacerbating the equipment problems, poorly set reeds and such.

Many are embarrassed to see the needle on the gauge oscillating over such a wide pressure range as they are playing. Most did not believe they were so unsteady until they viewed the gauge and after seeing the sad truth, have to concede that the issue is more about the piper, not the pipes.

Most have been tutored by accomplished pipers or experienced tutors but almost all tell me they were never coached on how to play and monitor their bag control. They were all told to play steady but not shown good technique to actually play steady.

I spoke with Bob Shepherd one time and he directed me to a video of one of his junior bands and pointed out to me that they all had a very similar breathing pattern. He said this was a result of his teaching good bag control, long steady breaths with no short cycling and hyperventilating. He also informed me that this was not taught by many tutors as the chanter work was nearly always given priority.

This would seem to be the case with my clients as most of the presumed equipment issues are not present when a good steady piper plays their pipes, allowing for the initial reed settings being adjusted.
Good quality practice time has always been the answer to good bag control however, the reason many pipers state they cannot spend time practicing is because they need to travel to a park or hall so they are not going to disturb neighbours or the general public with the noise of the pipes.

This has always been the case with the GHB and many pipers often only get to play their pipes at band practice.

As far back as the late 60’s I was always taught to do drone only practice when noise was an issue and this methodology has not changed, it just isn’t promoted any longer.

With drone only practice it is possible to practice in an apartment for a good ten minutes every day without becoming too much of a bother and if you have a garage or free-standing house, there is no excuse not to have extended drone only practice sessions. You will quickly learn to tune and balance the drones and because you do not have the chanter squawking, it will be easy to hear if your blowing is steady.

While in the early days we used a large immobile wall mounted water manometer, today we use split stocks and pressure gauge manifolds as aids to develop good bag control and the lack of the chanter means this can be done almost anywhere.

The gauge can be turned to face the piper or if the tutor is trying to analyse the issue, the gauge can be turned to face the tutor.

The main issues are overblowing the bag when taking a breath, lifting the arm off the bag when starting to blow into the bag and both these issues can be clearly identified by watching the gauge.

Some gauges plug into one of the drones using a small tube and while this does the job, the air demands of one drone is now no longer part of the process so the practice is not conducive to simulating a fully functioning bagpipe.

Because we do not use a chanter with the drone only practice process, we use a plug with a hole that is calibrated to simulate the air demands of the chanter to be used. This allows the piper to now do non neighbour disruptive drone only practice on a drone only bag setup that will simulate the full air demands of a fully functional bagpipe.

Using this technique, we see pipers that use this method to regularly practice several times a week for up to 15 minutes, cut their pressure variation from poor bag control in half in about two weeks.
In this video from about the two-minute mark, the poor bag control can be observed on the gauge. Keep in mind that with the drones plugged and only the chanter being played, the pitch variation at 8 to 10 inches of pressure variation is difficult to listen to, and far worse when the drones are unplugged.

If more attention was paid to good bag control, the sound and tone of many pipers would vastly improve. Poor bag control equals poor sound, something no number of gimmicks and marketing can fix.

In the following image are the different items for the different configurations we use.

A = Large diameter bag stock
B = Split stock chanter spigot
C = Extended blowpipe for testing chanter and drone reed pressure
D = Large bore split stock gauge manifold
E = Standard diameter chanter stock
F = Small bore split stock gauge manifold to fit in standard chanter stock
G = Calibrated chanter bleed plug to fit in split stock manifold
H = Standard chanter

Image

Cheers

-G
Glenarley
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Joined: Mon Jan 04, 2021 2:20 am
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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 »

It is GHB pipers that are the demise of GHB piping.

The GHB is a difficult instrument to master and an instrument that has limited opportunities to be played to audiences. For these reasons, the number of younger pipers joining the craft are dwindling at a rate that is going to see the craft all but disappear in many communities, so why then, do so many current pipe band pipers make a difficult instrument to master, almost impossible to master?

All they do is discourage the young from wanting to take on the task of learning to play the GHB and discourage the elderly novice pipers from continuing to participate once they are past their prime.

I make plastic chanter reeds, as do several other reed makers around the world. Our main clients are those pipers that just want to play the GHB with the minimum amount of bother. Synthetic reeds fill this niche as they do not have the variables that cane reeds do as a result of moisture and the variations in hardness and density of natural cane. They do not need to be warmed up to play to pitch, they have longevity and most of all, they can be made to operate at low pressure without sounding insipid and bendy, something that is difficult to achieve with low pressure cane reeds. This makes synthetic chanter reeds a good option for some pipers, not a replacement for all cane reeds.

These reasons also apply to synthetic drone reeds that are now accepted as a reasonable replacement for cane drone reeds by the world champion bands and the elite solo pipers. It would seem to be reasonable to believe that if synthetic drone reeds were seen as an acceptable option to cane drone reeds, synthetic chanter reeds would also be looked upon in a favorable light, but this is not the case.

To my point, here in Australia, like many other countries, we have no top-grade competitive pipe bands but we do have many lower grade social type bands that do compete in various competitions over the calendar year. These bands also participate in social events like the ANZAC Day marches and in street marches for carnivals and the like. Most of these pipers are well past their competition use-by-dates but still like to play their pipes and participate in events. As the number of pipers is dwindling, why would anyone want to discourage such pipers from participating? And yet here in Australia, many in the piping community do just that.

Port Macquarie is a coastal town here in Australia with a large number of elderly retirees that moved there for a quieter life. One of the community bands is known to me because I provide synthetic drone and chanter reeds to a couple of the elderly pipers that have health and age issues that physically limit their ability to play the GHB. The drone reeds we make use less than half the air requirements of a typical Ezee drone reed and the chanter reeds will reliably operate below 24” H2O. As a result of the low demand reeds, these pipers have participated in this band without any major issues, until recently.

The PM for this band recently discovered that one of these elderly pipers was playing a synthetic chanter reed and she blew her foo-foo valve, informing this piper that the only reed they use is a Shepherd cane reed. While Shepherd cane reeds are probably the most consistent cane reeds on the market, the variables of cane and the difficulty in finding cane reeds that will play consistently at low pressure is problematic for this elderly piper, and as it happens, the PM has very limited reed skills so the problems just keep getting bigger for this piper.

Both the pipers playing synthetic chanter reeds have always passed the bands tune-up scrutiny at practice sessions for the last year or so. The PM has always accepted the sound and balance of their chanters when using her ear to scrutinize but, as soon as she used her eyes to scrutinize the chanter reed, she blows the foo-foo-valve. Clearly, she could not tell a synthetic chanter reed was in use until she saw the reed as she had always accepted their chanter pitch and tuning previously.

This is not an uncommon circumstance and has resulted in pipers having to leave bands because of this attitude to an alternate item being implemented. I have many clients that ask me not to inform anyone they play a synthetic chanter reed. I am sure the other synthetic chanter reed makers have had the same.

I have pipers that have won prizes in world piping competitions, all the way up to grade 2 using synthetic chanter reeds. The World Online Solo Piping Competition the ran through covid period engaged judges from all over the world and they gave prizes all the way up to second place to pipers playing synthetic chanter reeds. These judges were using their ears to judge, not their eyes however, I am not sure the results would have been the same if the judges knew which pipers were playing synthetic chanter reeds. And that’s the point.

In the instance of the local band, one of the pipers is having to look to move to another band if he still wants to play in a pipe band as the cane option is just too problematic for him. The PM clearly could not tell her piper was using a synthetic reed until her eyes told her so but as a result of her ignorance and inflexibility, that band is going to lose at least one, possibly two pipers, something they really cannot afford to do as replacements are not to be found, and all because of a misguided inflexibility.

Luddites like this PM are common place in the GHB circuit and are responsible in large for the diminishing numbers wanting to participate and take up learning the GHB.

Now, contrast this issue with the Uilleann piping community. Look at all the different ideas and methodologies readily accepted by the uilleann pipers in the interest of keeping the craft alive and well.
An uilleann piper would rub the bag with a dog turd if it meant he/she was able to produce a better sound from their pipes. The focus of the uilleann community seems to be clearly focused on the music, no matter how it was being achieved. You look at all the different makes of pipes and bellows and system designs in the uilleann community and all seem to be accepted if acceptable music is the end result. No luddites to be found here.

To make my point. I was referenced to a post by Mr Wooff, one of the worlds most renowned current uilleann pipe makers, regarding putting masking tape on the blades of a reed. This is a technique we have been using for decades on GHB reeds. It will allow a soft reed to be stiffened up a little, by taping only one side, or a lot by taping both sides. Where the tape is placed, and how much tape is used will determine the tone and pitch variations. If this manipulation technique was suggested openly to the “trad GHB stalwarts” they would blow their trad foo-foo-valves yet, the uilleann mob simply see this modification as a means to the end. They are only concerned with the music they can hear with their ears, not their eyes.

The GHB mob are the masters of their craft’s destiny and if they refuse to consider the needs and requirements of all those participating, rather than the “Nose Tapping Black Arts” proponents, they will self-destruct.

They could take a long hard look at what happened to the uilleann craft revival from around the sixties and lean the lesson.

Cheers

-G
Glenarley
Posts: 97
Joined: Mon Jan 04, 2021 2:20 am
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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 »

More subjective marketing for the gullible?

I recently received a request for a synthetic chanter reed to match a currently available chanter.

This client purchased a new ABW chanter for around AU $400 from a reputable maker and bought this particular chanter because it was claimed by the maker to have “a good stable Piobaireachd High G” and “my trademark High A”.

This client was happy with his current chanter sound but he thought the investment would be worth the expense to have a “good stable Piobaireachd High G” and the “trademark High A”.
After receiving the new chanter, the client was unable to achieve the “trademark High A” despite trying several reeds from different manufacturers and was not even sure if he was getting to play “a good stable Piobaireachd High G”. How would he know?

As I previously provided him with a synthetic reed for his old chanter, he thought he would see if one of my reeds would get the chanter to play the “good stable Piobaireachd High G” and the “trademark High A”.

To the first item, a high G is just a G in the next octave. As long as it is in relative tune to the other notes on the chanter at the same given pitch, it is a high G. A Piobaireachd High G is the same high G only it is played with the F hole covered. What this does is lower the pitch of the high G a Hz or two and it removes some of the overtones changing the timbre of the note. It gives the high G a slightly more plaintive tone.

If the chanter design has all the notes in relative tune, the only way you could get a “good stable Piobaireachd High G” would rely upon the reed selection and a good steady piper. The chanter is a moot point so I see this claim is purely subjective marketing.

The “trademark high A” is also a rather bizarre claim for the same reason as the high G claim. As long as the chanter design has all the notes in relative tune, the high A will always be just a high A.
The timbre of the high A can be changed by altering the size of the high A hole but it would not make sense to do so. The maximum output from a hole is achieved when the hole is the same diameter as the bore at the point the A hole is drilled. As the high A is the smallest hole on the chanter, you would not want to make the weakest note weaker by drilling the hole smaller than the optimum size so the reed becomes the issue.

Many high A’s are played with very thin, scurley sounding reeds often referred to as the “disappearing A”, a euphemism “poor reed selection skills”. If you want to play clean high A’s on the GHB, develop some reed skills as no chanter is going to have an effect on the high A the same as a good, or bad reed will.

I believe the “trademark high A” claim is just creative marketing and a fair sized lump of ego. The piper that markets this particular chanter is a fine piper and it makes sense that he would use his success to brand a chanter to make a quid, after all, profit is not a dirty word and buyer beware.

I have asked my client to ask the chanter maker to define the colorful terms used to embellish the chanter however, I feel sure the reply will contain many purely subjective vagaries to support the claims.
My advice to my client, and anyone else looking at changing up their chanter to improve their playing, don’t. Just like a golfer that changes putter brand rather than changing technique, it’s not the wand but how you wave it.

If my client spent half the cost of the chanter on tutoring lessons with a good reed setter, he would achieve a life time skill set, save money and be a much happier piper.

Cheers

-G
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