OVERSQUEEZYITIS by Chris Apps
*Advice in this article relates specifically to molded reeds only
OVERSQUEEZYITIS > noun : a dreadful affliction of the great highland bagpipe reed caused by relentlessly pinching, clutching, flattening or otherwise squeezing the crap out of the reed.
DIRIVITIVE > noun - oversqueezerer; someone who causes oversqueezyitis
PHRASES > that reed is suffering from oversqueezyitis
ORIGIN > from old English ofersquise; from obsolete huperqueise, of unknown origin
CURE > A masterful wiggling with the magical mandrel while chanting ‘piobaireachdadididdimus’
On my travels I am often presented with reeds the owners claim are ‘blown out’, ‘too weak’ or ‘sharper than a witches tongue’. A thorough inspection of the reed will most often bring a diagnosis of oversqueezyitis.
‘Do not dispare oversqueezerer.’ I declare ‘For I am equipped with the majestic mandrel and have mastered the magical incantation which will rid your reed of this dreadful affliction.’
Like excallaber rising from the lake the majestic mandrel is pulled from my pocket. Nimble fingers insert the tool in the staple. A smooth twist of the wrist is accompanied by a deep echoing chant of ‘Piobaireachdadididdimus’ and hey presto! the reed is cured. In a final dramatic gesture I ride off into the sunset of smugness.
Reeds often arrive too hard, or harder to blow than ideal. On many occasions this is because the mouth of the reed is too big. A gentle squeeze is a good fix for this and ‘trains’ the mouth to stay the perfect size during the blowing-in process. If however, the mouth size is ideal but the reed is still too strong, squeezing the reed will cause oversqueezyitis and render it next to useless. The only practical solution to easing a reed with a perfect mouth size is to take some cane from the tongues, thus allowing them to vibrate more efficiently and at a lower pressure.
What is the ideal mouth size I hear you shout! Well there is no true answer to this question but there are some guidelines which will help.
The mouth is too big when:
The reed produces an overall lower pitched sound with the E.C and F noticeably flat when compared to the other notes of the scale.
Squeeze the reed and re-test. If the E,C and F notes and the general pitch comes up producing a true scale then the reed has reached it’s optimum mouth size.
If it is still too strong weaken by:
Shaving the tongues down until the reed is free and blowing at the desired pressure.
Mouth too small when:
The reed produces an overall higher pitched sound with the top hand and especially the F being noticeably sharp when compared to the other notes. It will also sound at a low pressure.
This is easily fixed with a mandrel. This is a simple tool which enables the closed end of the staple to be opened and this in turn will open the reed blades making the mouth larger. This process can be repeated if necessary until a true scale is achieved. The reed will be naturally harder to blow.
Oversqueezerer take heart. There is a cure. Make use of the majestic mandrel, follow the guidelines, practice the magic phrase and together we can eliminate oversqueezyitis for eternity.