What's Causing The Flat High G? by Chris Apps
I really like to hear from my customers, especially if they are having a problem with their pipes or reeds. Reeds are volatile things and each pipe is unique so it is unrealistic to believe that every reed will work with every pipe without the need for adjustment. There is nothing more frustrating for a reed maker than to hear that a customer has had trouble with a reed but did not contact me to discuss the problem. A phone call to talk over a problem with a reed is never an intrusion on my time. I appreciate the opportunity to suggest causes and solutions. It's good for business and it also breaks up the monotony that is reed making!
I was recently contacted by a customer with a really juicy problem. Some reeds I had sent were producing a disturbingly flat high G when played in the pipes. He called me and asked if I would like to hear what it sounded like. I of course said yes and he mouth blew the chanter. The high G was perfect. 'Well,' he said 'that's strange. It doesn't do that in the pipes.' I asked him the usual questions such as do you have a good moisture control system fitted? If so, is it still firmly in place and not floating around? Is there a restriction across the top of the stock that isn't letting the air flow in, such as seasoning closing the end down or the material from the bag itself causing a restriction? Is the reed getting too wet?
He went away to check all these things and I didn't really expect to hear from him again. A few days later, however, I got another call. He had not only checked all these things and found that these were not a problem but tried all his other chanters and found the same thing with each. He had also phoned around to various makers and retailers to ask their opinion and all came up with a blank. I could not see what could possibly be causing the flat high G. For this one note to be effected and the rest to be just fine didn't make sense. I apologized and hung up feeling bad about the situation.
After more thought and some sleepless nights I came up with a theory and called him back. I thought perhaps there might be a crack in the stock. It turned out that there was no obvious crack on the outside but a small hairline crack on the inside of the stock. I asked him to push some beeswax into the crack to stop the leak and re-test the chanter. Hey presto! Problem solved. The leak from the crack was causing the high G to go flat. This is something I have never come across before and would never have believed possible. But every problem has a solution. The customer appreciated my time and effort and I appreciated the opportunity to help solve the riddle of his flat high G.
I ask all of you to never hesitate to call me to discuss any problems you might be having with your reeds. I will appreciate the opportunity to try and find a solution.