Articles by Chris Apps

They Myth About Strong Reeds by Chris Apps Posted on 01 Apr 08:34

It is a common misconception that in order to get a good strong volume with the right tone one must play a strong reed. Some say that the struggle of playing a strong reed is worth the effort because the sound is so much better. But this is FAKE NEWS! Our instrument should be a relaxing pleasure to play. Not some kind of a wrestling match. If you are struggling to blow a strong reed how are you to play with any finesse or musicality? You need to be able to relax into playing. You need relaxed fingers if you are to accurately articulate the intricate embellishments that the music demands.

The key here is efficiency. By this I mean the response from any given reed proportional to the effect put in. Really strong reeds are often less resonant and produce less volume than an efficient reed of lesser strength.

It is true that the easier the reed the more it is likely to move pitch with pressure changes and so there is a balance to be struck when playing with a band. Whilst a reed must be comfortable to play it can't be so easy that it will vary in pitch when blowing pressure varies. The easier the reed the more it is likely to move pitch with pressure changes.

For solo playing, the pressure/pitch relationship can be easily monitored and adjustments can be made to ensure a steady pitch so it is much easier to play a soft reed successfully.

Reeds are made more efficient by a combination of the correct mouth size, length of reed and amount of cane on the blades. Getting this right comes with trial and error and experience. My book The Complete Guide to Highland Bagpipe Reeds has some very clear guidelines to help with this process.

One last thought. I have often heard the opinion that soft reeds don't last as long as strong reeds. This is not true. More FAKE NEWS! With a proper playing pressure (not over taxing the reed) and care not to get too much moisture on the reed, it can last a long time. I myself play a reed set at around 25” of water. I play my pipes almost daily and the reed I am currently playing has lasted over two years and it still sounds terrific. You can hear this reed on my YouTube video.

Quick Chanter Tuning by Chris Apps Posted on 10 Jul 16:06

We've all been in the situation where we are booked to play somewhere with another piper but have had no time get together and tune the chanters to each other. You arrive, tune up and find that you are horribly out of tune. You could start messing with the reed seating and the existing tape on your chanter but if your pipe is perfectly in tune for you and set at a pitch you're happy with you are probably very reluctant to change it all. What do you do in the limited time you have to get things in tune?

Here's a quick and easy fix that you can do without messing with the reed or your existing tape placement.

Play together and establish which chanter is lower pitched. This is the chanter you will tune to. When tuning the higher pitched chanter, you are not going to alter any of the already present tape on the chanter but place fresh tape over this in order to achieve the correct pitch of each note. Remember, we are talking about taping only the higher pitched chanter. Check the low A's and place enough tape over the hole as necessary to get the two low A's in tune.  Once these are tuned, it will be necessary to tune all the other notes the same way. Tune your drones to the low A first and then start adding tape to tune the rest of the notes on the higher pitched chanter to the low A and drones.  Start with the notes; C, E and high A then move the others to suit.

With practice, tuning two chanters together this way can be done in minutes without disturbing the reed height in the chanter or any of the existing tape. When finished, the new tape can be removed to bring the chanter back to its original pitch.