MG Reeds

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Chanter Reed Manipulation


  Step 1 Selecting Your reed When selecting a chanter reed it is advised to start with a reed that is slightly stronger than is comfortable, a new reed will soon weaken slightly as it is blown in and absorbs moisture.

Step 2 Preparing your new reed

 Any cane reed requires a certain amount of moisture in order for it to perform to its best. Without this moisture the top hand notes will tend to be slightly sharp and sound thin. This moisture increases the reeds response and helps to balance out the top hand. In order to introduce a little moisture prior to setting up your chanter it is recommended that you first of all take 5 minutes or so just to blow through the open end of the staple, this will partially rehydrate the reed and better prepare it for initial set up.  

Bagpipe Chanter Reed

  Step 3 Fitting the chanter reed Fit your chanter reed into the reed seat ensuring that it is securely seated and is not loose. Depending on the make of chanter it maybe necessary to add or remove some hemp from around the bottom of the staple. When doing this ensure that no loose ends of hemp are trapped in the open end of the staple and that the bottom edge of the staple has a covering preventing the staple edge from touching the reed seat wall. 

Bagpipe Chanter Reed Pitch Adjustment

  Step 4 Balancing your reed Once seated, test your chanter reed to obtain the correct balance between low A and High A, the reed can be sunk further into the reed seat to raise the pitch or lifted in the reed seat to lower the pitch.  

Chanter Reed Staple

  IMPORTANT when adjusting your reed care should be taken NOT to do this by gripping the blades of the reed, ALL adjustments should be made by gripping the staple ONLY. 

  As with any chanter reed it should be remembered that when raising the pitch by sinking the reed, the top hand notes will sharpen at a greater rate than the bottom hand notes and when lifting the reed the top hand notes will flatten at a greater rate than the bottom hand notes.  

Chanter Reed Sound Box

  Step 5 Gentle manipulation to obtain a true scale Having obtained the desired balance and pitch, at this stage in the reeds life it is advisable to only carry out very gentle manipulations in order to obtain a true scale.  It is not uncommon for a new reed to initially have some notes that are slightly flat. In particular C and F, the F may even have a slight double tone. This is caused by an enlargement of the lips aperture during the drying out period when the reed is made and will disappear as the reed is blown in and absorbs its own natural moisture content.  A gentle squeeze of the reeds sound box, just above the staple will lift the pitch of these notes and remedy any double tone on the F.  

  Be aware that this gentle squeeze of the sound box will also raise the over all pitch of the reed.Any note that is slightly sharp can be flattened by the application of a little tape over the top of the open hole below the note. 

  Step 6 Blowing the reeds in Over the course of the next week or two ( depending on the frequency of playing) the reed should be played to break it in. As we have selected a reed that is slightly uncomfortable, and as the reed absorbs its initial moisture content, you may find that it gets slightly stronger and lower in pitch. This is perfectly normal. 

Make Chanter Reed Easier

  To bring the reed back into your comfort zone and to bring it up to pitch apply gentle pressure (enough pressure to make the lips just meet) just above the sound box and hold this for 30 seconds or so.

This will happen more frequently in the first few days of playing.

 Step 7 Further manipulation… if required
Once your reed has been blown in further manipulation of it can begin IF it is required. Do not try to make a good reed better. By now your reed should be feeling quite comfortable to blow, have a good response and be well balanced, with fine tuning carried out by the application of tape to the chanter holes, if this is the case, leave it alone.  
There are no secrets when it comes to manipulating chanter reeds but it is important to be aware that carrying out one operation results in multiple effects.  A word of caution… many a good reed is destroyed at this stage so be prepared to experiment before your feel for this stage matures. 

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