MG Reeds

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Setting Up And Optimising Your Drones

With the drones now inserted in the bagpipe, cork the chanter stock, blow up and tune the drones. Do not worry at this stage about where on the slides they are tuning.

Gradually increase the pressure of your blowing until the drones start to stop. As you increase the pressure your drones will start to drift out of tune, this is because pitch is partially pressure dependent, we are not concerned with this at moment.

You will find that your drones may all stop together all at once, if so great this is what we are looking for, if not then put your chanter in blow your normal pressure and see which, if any, drone stops. If they all stop then you will have to open up the bridles a fraction, to make the reeds slightly stronger, as you have set them too high. If one or more drone keeps going then take note which one (s) and remove the chanter.

Re-cork the chanter stock and strike up again. Having noted which drone (s) kept sounding above, gradually increase your blowing pressure until this drone (s) stops. You now want to adjust the bridles on the remaining drones so that they too cut off at the same pressure. This may take a few attempts to get right but a little patience shown here will pay its rewards later.


Tenor Drone Tuning Position
Tenor Drone Tuning Position

Now that we have the drones operating at the desired pressure we want to have them tuning in the sweet spot. Although pipes vary from make to make it is usual that this spot will be found  on or just above the hemp line with the tenors and bass top joint, as shown above. The bass bottom joint will normally be a little lower, on older pipes it can be very close to the bottom mount. You have to bear in mind when setting the drones to tune in these spots that the pitch of the chanter will increase as it is played until it reaches it’s steady window, so if you are setting up from a cold blown reed you will want to start with the drones tuning a little higher on the pin than desired.

Bass Drone Bottom Joint
Bass Drone Tuning Position

Although this is normally where the sweet spot will be found it will vary from pipe to pipe and depends also on the entire set up of the instrument. The important point to bear in mind, especially with tenor drones, is  that the lower down the tuning pin the drone tunes the harder, and to some extent louder, the sound will be. This may well be a desirable characteristic of the pipe being set up if they are an inherently quite set of drones compared to the volume produced by the chanter. 


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