Beginner question-- set won't play

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drX
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Beginner question-- set won't play

Post by drX » Fri Sep 30, 2011 10:42 am

For the last year I've been saving up for a good set, and a few days ago it finally arrived from Pat Sky. Only problem is, the thing won't sound. At first I thought it was my strength as I'm a rather petite girl, but even after using every ounce of strength in my arms that I have, I usually get nothing but a "hiss." Once and a while I get a weak squeak or squabble, but these occurances seem to be rather random instead of directly related to my bag pressure.

Now before hassling Pat about the reed, I'd thought I'd exhaust every avenue of troubleshooting first. I'd checked the set and it's all quite air-tight. Because I know things can move around in the mail, I've looked it over. However, I can't seem to find any irregularities. Even the reed is very securely seated. Seeing that it's unlikely Pat would send anyone a bad reed, the only other idea I have is the humidity difference. He made the reed in the east coast where it's around 50% humidity. Right now in Phoenix, it's around 10%. Would a humidifier possibly resolve this problem? As a beginner I'm afraid to start directly tinkering with the reed until I know what I'm doing. I'd really like to ask you arizona folk especially if any of you are from the phoenix area.

If this has been asked before, I apologize. I've spent a significant time researching before opening a thread on it. Seeing that i don't know any other felow pipers in phoenix, I thought I'd ask here :c) Thank you so much for your help!!!

-- DrX

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awilde569
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Re: Beginner question-- set won't play

Post by awilde569 » Fri Sep 30, 2011 11:31 am

Well, could be wrong here but it sounds like your reed lips are way too open if your just getting a hiss with occasional noises (air blowing through said reed but not causing lips to close/open to produce sound). If you put the staple/tube end of the reed in your mouth and inhale it should make a goodly squack without much effort. Should be an easy enough test that won't harm anything. Could be the opposite problem too where the reed lips are way too closed making it almost impossible for any air to pass through with the lips staying shut, either way the same test might shed some light on it. If you can't suck any air through the staple end than it's probably too closed and/or clogged possibly. Just some quick things you could give a try that don't involve doing anything potentially damaging to the pipes. May also want to check to make sure your not kinking the neck of your bag when trying to play also (depending on how it's shaped).
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outofthebox
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Re: Beginner question-- set won't play

Post by outofthebox » Sat Oct 01, 2011 4:22 am

If you can, get in touch with an experienced piper in your area. If there are no UP players close at hand, a GHB player in your area might give you some basic advice on reed adjustment - enough to get the reed to sound at any rate. If the bridle is too open then it will need to be closed down a touch. That would be the first thing I would try. If the bridle is ok then the blades may be just too strong - often the case with new reeds - and in that case would need some refinement of the scrape to get it playing at an easier pressure, but that would best be done by someone who has experience working with reeds. On the positive side, this problem will get you right into thinking about how double reeds can be made to work - and that is the key to understanding the instrument 8)

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djm
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Re: Beginner question-- set won't play

Post by djm » Sat Oct 01, 2011 5:17 am

Definitely try to find an experienced uilleann piper in your area first. GHB reeds work differently, and you don't want an inexperienced GHB piper messing up your reed for you.

Look down at the lips of your reed. The lips should be open about 1 mm wide at the middle. Move the bridle up or down the length of the reed in TINY increments if it is a copper strap bridle. If it is a wire wrap bridle, just use GENTLE finger pressure on the sides or in the centre to give the reed a slight squeeze to see if you can get the reed to open up if it is too closed, or to narrow down if it is too open.

The reed works by the lips opening and closing against each other. That means that, at rest, the lips have to be just the right distance apart to sound. Your severely arid climate will definitely have an effect on the reed's behaviour. Ask around to see what other local uilleann pipers are doing to get their reeds to work.

djm
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drX
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Re: Beginner question-- set won't play

Post by drX » Sun Oct 02, 2011 11:02 am

Thanks very much guys. While closing the lips of my reed helped ever so slightly, I found some pipers here and took it to them. Turned out the reed "closed down" and was unusuable from the get-go. Needless to say, a new reed resolved my problem. Why do reeds 'close down' even when brand new?

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Mr.Gumby
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Re: Beginner question-- set won't play

Post by Mr.Gumby » Sun Oct 02, 2011 1:38 pm

Low humidity will do that. Adjusting the bridle will fix it.
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djm
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Re: Beginner question-- set won't play

Post by djm » Mon Oct 03, 2011 7:36 am

For arid conditions there's lots of theories, from particular sources of cane to thickness of the slip to individual reedmaker's methods. Here where we have wide humidity swings (65% in summer, 30% in winter) many people have a summer and a winter reed, knowing that some reeds can handle it and others can't. Once you've been playing for a while you will probably want the locals to teach you how to make your own reeds. That way you can become personally acquainted to the wacky world of reed eccentricities.

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Paidin
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Re: Beginner question-- set won't play

Post by Paidin » Mon Oct 03, 2011 11:16 am

Low humidity will do that. Adjusting the bridle will fix it.

So will moving to Portland or Seattle :lol:

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marc
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Re: Beginner question-- set won't play

Post by marc » Tue Nov 15, 2011 10:03 am

And as to your question about a humidifier, yes, it will help a great deal. I use one in the winter to keep things above 45% r.h. I do have a summer and winter reed, but if I'm careful with the humidifier, I find it's not necessary.

Good luck!

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CelticHarpie
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Re: Beginner question-- set won't play

Post by CelticHarpie » Tue Jan 10, 2012 12:26 pm

Late to the game with this, but if you haven't already, check out the Irish Cultural Center in downtown Phoenix. I lived in the Valley for 15 years and took whistle and flute lessons there from John Good (I believe he also plays pipes). The ICC offers classes and if they don't have a pipes class going, they'll at least be able to refer you to someone. They're lovely people over there :)

http://www.azirish.org/

Glad to hear you got a new reed. It can (and does) make all the difference. When I got my pipes, I had the same problem and if I hadn't had other pipers able to help me adjust the reed, I'd probably still be in the same boat!

Good luck!

RCRanger03
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Re: Beginner question-- set won't play

Post by RCRanger03 » Fri Feb 03, 2012 9:11 pm

Hello, I've just got my set as well and I was wondering 2 things:

1) How much bag pressure should it require to sound any note. I can get the chanter to play but it takes a lot of bag pressure, and if its not enough all I get is a hissing sound like the OP. Maybe thats normal? I'm just starting out and my tutor plan fell through so while I'm figuring out a new plan on that front I'm trying to familiarize myself with my instrument.

2) When I get enough air in the bag to be able to play notes it rushes out my chanter. Should I be able to hold bag pressure if I'm not playing? or do you only fill the bag when you want to make a sound?

Thanks!

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awilde569
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Re: Beginner question-- set won't play

Post by awilde569 » Fri Feb 03, 2012 9:43 pm

Sounds like your reed lips may be open too much in your first question, which would both take more pressure to sound the notes and would allow more air to pass through making that hiss. Would attribute a great deal to problem two as well, although having leaks elsewhere in your bag may be a culprit there as well. Just some thoughts.
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outofthebox
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Re: Beginner question-- set won't play

Post by outofthebox » Sat Feb 04, 2012 7:16 am

There may also be a small leak where the reed is fitted to the chanter in the the reed seat. Even a tiny bleed leak at the reed seat can have a big effect and might explain why so much air is rushing through your chanter. Take it out and adjust the hemp or tape to make sure that the reed has a nice airtight fit.

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