A forum to discuss the arcane art of making uilleann pipes, reeds, and set maintenance.
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Hi all, I'm playing a Neil O'Grady half set in d and lately although the higher humidity out here in Saskatchewan Canada lately has given me good chanter playability the drones have gone out of tune. I've tried all sorts of drone reed adjustments and finally I gave up and tried rereeding them. This didn't even work. It seems they will play anything but a d note. I noticed the wood inside the bores looks a bit "fuzzy" and I wonder if smoothing the bores would help. I've had this happen with my Scottish bagpipes. The uilleann drones want to play the f sharp and c and a notes during tuning. I was mouth blowing to test the tuning since it uses brass and plastic reeds I thought the moisture wouldn't hurt them. Any advice appreciated. Regards, Joe.
I don't think the drones themselves could be at fault if they played ok previously. I'm thinking that there is some problem with the plastic tongues of the drone reeds. It could be that the bridles aren't tight enough - they can work themselves loose with vibration. Did the reeds sound ok - buzzing at the right pitch - when you played them with your mouth?
The reeds are held against the brass seats with shrink tubing. Except for the medium drone they were working fine with no extra bridle. I tried moving the shrink tubing (I think it works the same as a conventional bridle if it fits right) and this use to adjust the pitch around the d note. Now they won't settle down and want to move in full notes. I used hemp twine as well as Teflon tape for a bridle when experimenting with them last time. The drones do play the same notes mouth blown as when in the stock. The reeds played before setting them into the drones tend to blow a g note. When in the drone tubes they want to play a c then if you move the bridle jump to e and then f#. Neil O'Grady suggested I try different material for the replacement reeds , types of plastic and natural cane. I might try cutting up some old saxophone reeds or maybe I'll try thinning out the plastic strips I'm using. I'll post the solution when I get them working again. Joe.
I think that with drone reeds it's important to get the length of the tongues just right, I don't think that bridle adjustment could raise the pitch satisfactorily by a whole tone from C up to D. Also I don't like my drones with the tuning slides all the way up - I find I get a better more stable tone with the slides extended to at least the halfway position. So I'm guessing that you need to try shortening the tongues to bring the buzzing pitch of the reeds to match how your drones want to play. Hopefully a little experimentation will get you there .
You might want to try replacing the shrink tubing with some O-rings. Get a selection of sizes at Canadian Tire and see what size keeps the base of the tongue tight while allowing you to shift the ring up or down the tongue in increments of 0.010" to find the right tongue length.
Sex and drugs and uilleann pipes
I can definitely see the advantage of using o rings after having to tie and adjust hemp and Teflon tape bridles and will try them in the future. It seems each drone had a different problem. The small drone bore needed smoothing, the middle had wood fragments closing over one bores end and the low drone brass seat was dirty and rough. I ended up making new reeds for all out of .030 inch styrene plastic and found they worked well after beveling their bottom edges. I found that its fun to play the drones in different pairings for different effects. On a side note, what I'd like to try next is recording the drones separately and altering their pitches with recording software to produce regulator like chords for multitrack recordings. I'm glad this got sorted and thanks for all your suggestions. Joe.
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