Making a quieter reed?

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pipers_holiday
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Re: Making a quieter reed?

Post by pipers_holiday » Sun Jan 03, 2010 4:15 pm

I have had some experience making reeds before, mainly for practicing so I don't wear out my good reeds. I use plastic (from a soda bottle) and shrinking tubing, as well as a small metal tube I get from Home Depot. Experimenting with these, I found that the thicker the plastic (reed), the softer the sound of the chanter. Hope this helps!

-Pat

billh
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Re: Making a quieter reed?

Post by billh » Sun Jan 03, 2010 5:07 pm

A plastic reed is not going to do the trick for uilleann pipes - at least not until someone comes up with a radically improved construction or polymer. I've only heard one or two anecdotal reports of a playable plastic uilleann pipe chanter reed, I've certainly never seen one. (By playable I mean that it plays both octaves with acceptable tuning and technique).

outofthebox
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Re: Making a quieter reed?

Post by outofthebox » Mon Jan 04, 2010 6:48 am

pipers_holiday wrote:I have had some experience making reeds before, mainly for practicing so I don't wear out my good reeds. I use plastic (from a soda bottle) and shrinking tubing, as well as a small metal tube I get from Home Depot. Experimenting with these, I found that the thicker the plastic (reed), the softer the sound of the chanter. Hope this helps!

-Pat
That's interesting Pat. I've been having a go at making plastic reeds too. First I tried the yoghurt pot type white plastic (I know it has been used successfully for GHB and other bagpipe chanters) but I found it just too unstable to get anything out of my uilleann chanter. So I tried again with a stronger, thicker flexible plastic (the opaque kind from an empty fabric conditioner bottle which I just happened to have here at the time). This time, with a lot of sanding down, I was able to get the chanter playing up to high G, but it collapsed at high A. It played in tune, but it had a tone which is very different to the sound of a cane reed. I made the head to standard dimensions for cane, but I'm going to try making a smaller head next, as plastic is so different from cane, and I'm hoping that smaller might mean increased stability for my plastic double reed.

fiddlinshim
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Real Name: Joel Shimberg

Re: Making a quieter reed?

Post by fiddlinshim » Wed Feb 24, 2010 2:00 pm

Could you clarify, please. You speak of inserting a rolled-up piece of glossy paper two inches clear of the end of the chanter. Which end do you mean, and how wide a strip of paper? If you're talking about the bottom of the chanter (and that's what it seemed to be), what do you do about blocking the lower-hand ring-finger and/or pinkie holes? If you're talking about the top end, do you have trouble with the roll of paper falling down towards the thigh-end?

outofthebox
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Re: Making a quieter reed?

Post by outofthebox » Wed Feb 24, 2010 3:18 pm

The size of paper I used was about 1/2 wide by 4 inches long. I inserted it into the bottom end of the chanter and then slid it up until it was just short of the second last tone hole - so that it was between the two holes. I found that this method did give me some reduction in volume though it did make playing bottom D rather more difficult. I'm now using the staple method only, as I've found that it has given me all the volume reduction I need.

It's best to be careful when inserting anything into the bore of your chanter. Use something plastic - like a toothpick - to push the paper tube in and to remove it. Metal could scratch the bore.

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Goldy
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Re: Making a quieter reed?

Post by Goldy » Wed Aug 04, 2010 12:03 am

it is possible to make a reed that plays well and has a good tone and is quiet. All of my reeds are quiet. Basically, you have to scrape the bejesus out of the reed so that it can still vibrate freely enough when the lips are majorly closed (it's that simple).

If you take a typical reed out of someone's chanter and close it right down, you're going to get tuning and tone problems because that reed wants to be more open (i.e. it can't vibrate freely being so closed and so thick).

Now since scraping the reed more flattens the pitch, a typical length reed will play flat and the back D will be majorly flat. Therefore a heavily scraped reed needs to be shorter than most (mine are typically 27.5mm from staple top to lips). When most pipers try my reeds, they hate them because they take so little air and the pipers therefore end up in the second octave all the time. However, given that I am used to my reeds, it works great for me (I can easily jump between octaves with just a tiny change in pressure).

Have a listen to this recording I did - it's playing at concert pitch, doesn't have a muted tone and the octaves are in sync (if anything, the 2nd octave is leaning ever so slightly towards being sharp in comparison to the 1st). FYI, the opening between the lips on this reed was about 0.3 or 0.4mm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4uZEYLyDCVg
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We could learn a lot from crayons. Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull. Some have weird names, and all are different colors, but they all have to live in the same box.

outofthebox
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Re: Making a quieter reed?

Post by outofthebox » Wed Aug 04, 2010 4:51 am

Thanks Goldy - that sounds like a good method. My chanter already has a smaller headed reed - but I've been reluctant to sand the lips down too much in case I go too far and lose it. But when I get down to making chanter reeds I am certainly going to give this a try. Like you I am aiming to achieve lower volume and lower pressure for my full set. I've taken the drones down quite a bit with narrower drone reeds and your suggestion should help me bring down the volume of my chanter and regulator reeds a little more.

What is the width of your reed head at the lips and is it tapered or straight-sided?

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Goldy
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Re: Making a quieter reed?

Post by Goldy » Thu Aug 05, 2010 1:18 am

outofthebox wrote: What is the width of your reed head at the lips and is it tapered or straight-sided?
I make my reeds from a 12.5-12.7mm wide slip of softish cane (from a large batch of catelonian cane I bought from Brian Howard a few years ago). I guess the reed is technically 'boat shaped' (24mm head & 30mm tails with rounding off of the shoulders). I go for an edge thickness of exactly 0.3mm and don't worry about the centre thickness, but that usually comes out at about 1.2-1.4mm). The lip thickness is typically 0.25mm-0.3mm (i.e. 0.5-0.6mm when I measure the combined thickness of the two lips pressed together). The opening between the lips is about 0.2-0.3mm (no joke) - that is where the easy blowing and low volume come from.

The picture attached to this post is of the last reed I had in my chanter. The reed had its lips chopped back a couple of times and therefore had the staple retracted a couple of milimetres from its original position within the head.

Good luck with it all.
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We could learn a lot from crayons. Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull. Some have weird names, and all are different colors, but they all have to live in the same box.

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