Playing in The Cold by Chris Apps
Playing in cold or freezing weather is never a pleasure but at times a necessity. Usually when playing at memorials or funerals when you would like to sound your best. The schedule for these events usually has piping at the start of proceedings then again at the end. In freezing temperatures that interval can seem an eternity but is usually only 10 or 15 minutes. Long enough for the cold to effect the pipes.
Your chanter will naturally be lower pitched at these temperatures so ensure that drone reeds are set up so that they wont fall off the pins when tuned higher. Your joints must be properly hemped with waxed hemp as the condensation that will inevitable fall down your drones will not cause the hemp to swell up potentially splitting your stocks or jambing them in place.
Before leaving for your performance give the pipes a good 20-30 minute blow. this will put some warmth into the pipes and moisture on the reeds. Attach the StockSox© whilst the wood is still warm holding in the latent heat of the wood. This should be done at home when the wood is at it's warmest.
Try to arrive early (30 minutes or so) so you can play the pipes without disturbing anyone. Turn off the engine and get the pipes out sans chanter. Gradually acclimatize your pipes to the -0 degree weather. Sudden extreme changes in temperature can cause the pipes to split unless you are playing poly pipes.
Blow the drones outside and tune them. Do this for a couple of minutes just to get the pipes acclimatized. Then get back in the car without starting the engine. This way the interior is not going to overheat the pipes. Give it 10 minutes and play the pipes for a couple more minutes with the chanter this time. Get back in the car - again without starting the engine. It's now getting near performance time so give the pipes another short blow just to make sure they are still in tune. Do not play the pipes for a long time. Keep it as short as possible. Playing for longer and expecting the pipes to settle down and stabilize is a fools errand.
You will most likely find that your top hand will go sharp in the high A, high G and F despite the fact that overall pitch of the chanter has gone down. It is easier to move the tape to flatten these particular notes than raise the reed in the reed seat.
When playing in conditions like these a lot of condensation will build up in the bores of the drones. It is very important to dis-assemble the pipes and brush them out to remove excess moisture. This will also let the joints dry out and stop them from swelling.
The use of StockSox© will keep your reeds warm for longer. Extending the time before a nice sound turns into a squeak.