2nd octave problem

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seamusg
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2nd octave problem

Post by seamusg » Fri Jun 08, 2012 10:34 am

Hello everyone,

I am a total newbie and apologise in advance if this topic has been thrashed to death elsewhere in the forum (I must confess I only had a cursory look).
I have a practice set which sounds great in the hands of an expert player, however I seem to have to work incredibly hard to get onto the second octave (E not too difficult but then it gets harder if I want to go to eg high G). My bag needs to be at bursting point and I seem to need to instinctively employ the "death grip" (I laughed when I read that term as I can really identify with it) when going "Up" the octave.
I know this can be down to reed issues but am assuming that it may have a lot to do with me, so to get to the point, has anyone any advice - from a purely playing/style perspective on making a smoother, less physically strenuous transition to the second octave?

Thanks in advance,

- Seamus

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djm
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Re: 2nd octave problem

Post by djm » Sat Jun 09, 2012 4:05 am

The most basic instruction is that you have to ensure the chanter is completely closed to build up the pressure to move up to the second octave. If, as you say, the chanter plays well in the hands of a more experienced player then I would suggest you slowly and carefully examine your coverage of the holes. You do not have to squeeze the chanter tightly to close off all the toneholes, as every beginner attempts to do (the source of the death grip). It is more of a "feel" thing. You have to get to know how it feels to SOFTLY and completely have all holes covered and the chanter pressed down on the thigh to close off the bottom. The change in pressure from lower octave to higher is very slight, and once you get to know how it feels you will start to realize how smoothly and easily you can move between the two. For now just go slow and let your body memorize the feel of doing it right in an easy, relaxed manner.

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outofthebox
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Re: 2nd octave problem

Post by outofthebox » Sat Jun 09, 2012 4:36 am

Don't worry - this is something all beginners struggle with and it will get easier with daily practice. I would suggest that a little exercise starting off on G. First play from 1st octave G up to back D and back again a few times. Then add in second octave E and play up and down a few times. Then add in F#. When you get to high G you will find you need just a little more pressure to get on to that level - so just keep working on the G scale up and down. Once you are comfortable with that you can move on to adding in high A and B. You'll be learning all the time how to vary the pressure to your reed with your bag arm and bellows. This is quite a subtle skill - but a little practice every day will get you there.

Just to add to djm's advice you could try wetting your fingers and thumb a little to give you a better feel of the chanter holes.

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Mr.Gumby
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Re: 2nd octave problem

Post by Mr.Gumby » Sat Jun 09, 2012 4:39 am

You could give yourself a little exercise to practice along the lines of:

Aee Aee Aff Aff Agg Agg Bee Bee Bff Bff Bgg Bgg Aee Bee Aff Bff Agg Bgg AeA Afa AgA BeB BfB BgB
My brain hurts

seamusg
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Re: 2nd octave problem

Post by seamusg » Sat Jun 09, 2012 12:18 pm

Thanks to everyone for their helpful instructions. I have been trying some of the exercises and will persevere - but still having a lot of problems. No problem in first octave and no problem covering the holes in the first octave - second octave drops in and out and still seems to need a crazy amount of pressure....but I will perservere. Thanks again,

outofthebox
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Re: 2nd octave problem

Post by outofthebox » Sun Jun 10, 2012 5:18 am

Seamus - it could be that your reed is a little too open - so it might be worth carefully closing the bridle just a little to see if that helps. Just bringing the lips together a tiny bit more could help a lot if your second octave is resisting too much.

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Mr.Gumby
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Re: 2nd octave problem

Post by Mr.Gumby » Sun Jun 10, 2012 5:39 am

It could be. There is however no way of diagnosing the problem without actually playing the chanter. There have been several instances where I saw my students struggle with pressure for the second octave, only to find their chanters actually quite easy to play. The fact your practice set sounds fine in the hands of a player is an indication that there could be something similar at play here. Fiddling about with your reed without you knowing what you're doing or what you are looking for may do more damage than good.

The only sound advice to give here is for you to get your chanter in the hands of someone who can play and knows how to adjust a reed when necessary. He/she may be able to give you a hint or two on how to get your octaves right. For the moment, don't be afraid of playing the second octave, it's not as hard as it may seem and piling the pressure on is not going to be very productive. Take it slow and gentle.

Realise also that a new reed will be tougher to play than a reed well played in, it may take hundreds of hours of playing to get a great reed to perform it's best (I am playing in a new chanter at the minute and it's frustrating business even though I know the drill and can hear where the sound will go eventually) so that won't be an easy fix for you either, especially if you get one sent through the post.
My brain hurts

seamusg
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Re: 2nd octave problem

Post by seamusg » Mon Jun 11, 2012 4:18 am

Thanks again everyone for your helpful input. I am seeing a "pro" later this week. He is the same person who deemed the pipes fine so I think unfortunately that the problem lies mainly with me rather than the pipes - I think that my right hand fingers are somehow losing their place at times - I am getting away with this on octave 1 but not octave 2. I also realise that staying as relaxed as possible is important. (I presume thumb agony is not normal?)
My two "d" holes (ie the bottom two) are almost impossible to feel (ie they are not ridged) so I can be "Hit or miss" with them - and being out a tiny bit seems to cause major problems (is that normal?). Hopefully practice will rectify this. I also must get used to making 1 step forward and 2 back sometimes during this early learning phase.

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djm
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Re: 2nd octave problem

Post by djm » Tue Jun 12, 2012 4:07 am

For covering the bottom two holes (E and Eb) try practising keeping the little finger on the bottom hole as an anchor for the bottom hand. It is only when playing the E note that you would ever need to take the little finger off the bottom Eb hole, and then you can anchor your bottom hand on the first finger on the G hole tp do so.

Have you tried practising playing the first octave off the knee yet? This requires keeping the little finger anchored on the bottom Eb hole all the time, even for the E note. This is a good method for learning the feel of anchoring the little finger on the bottom Eb hole.

djm
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seamusg
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Re: 2nd octave problem

Post by seamusg » Tue Jun 12, 2012 4:34 am

Sounds like a good tip, too. Thanks

Jarlath.I
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Re: 2nd octave problem

Post by Jarlath.I » Fri Jun 15, 2012 7:31 pm

Here's a suggestion I received when in your position. Play long tones. When I started I would play a note and then hold it as long as I could, trying to keep the pitch of the note steady. Do the same thing with the upper octave. You will probably do the death grip and have to fill the bag to bursting to start, but as you hold the note you can then try to relax your hands, and let the pressure of the bag drop. It's boring as hell, but it'll work.

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the plod
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Re: 2nd octave problem

Post by the plod » Sat Jun 16, 2012 8:56 pm

where are you located Seamus?

seamusg
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Re: 2nd octave problem

Post by seamusg » Mon Jun 18, 2012 6:53 am

I'm in Belfast, I know my right hand fingers will eventually find the bottom two holes but right now I am not convinced that I am getting them covered properly every time. I wish the chanter hole grooves were more defined and not as smooth as they are (as it is I can't feel them). Is this the norm for chanters?
Thanks again.

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Draighean
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Re: 2nd octave problem

Post by Draighean » Mon Jun 18, 2012 3:46 pm

seamusg wrote:I'm in Belfast, I know my right hand fingers will eventually find the bottom two holes but right now I am not convinced that I am getting them covered properly every time. I wish the chanter hole grooves were more defined and not as smooth as they are (as it is I can't feel them). Is this the norm for chanters?
Thanks again.
Not necessarily, not all pipe makers relieve the wood around the sound holes. The borrowed Mickey Dunne chanter I've been learning on has deeply-relieved sound holes; makes it very easy to find and index the sound holes but difficult for me to close off the holes air tight.

seamusg
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Re: 2nd octave problem

Post by seamusg » Tue Jun 19, 2012 3:56 am

Thanks Draighean - maybe there is a trade-off then. I noticed yesterday that if I bring more of my finger over the hole it is easier and smoother to hit the octave so maybe that has been the major problem - that I was using too much of the first finger joint and not the second? - I sure hope so.

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