Once set up in the chanter, a Northumbrian Pipes reed will hopefully be trouble free. However, they are affected by knocks, temperature and humidity and they made need some settling in time in a new environment.
The Chanter reed is made from Arundo Donax. This is a natural material. There are two vibrating blades and the opening between them is carefully set. This opening may open up or close down, or the pitch may change slightly depending on the environment you play in. This is normal and one of the challenges all Northumbrian Pipers live with!
If either your chanter reed goes out of playing condition for any length of time they may need some minor adjustment.
The reed needs to be positioned correctly within the chanter so that the chanter plays in tune. This can be confirmed by checking the octave between the top and bottom G notes.
- If the top G is too sharp compared to the bottom G the reed needs to be positioned further out of the chanter. You may need to add a couple of wraps of waxed thread around the Staple (the metal tube) at the base of the reed then re-insert it in the chanter.
- If the top G is too flat compared to the bottom G the reed needs to be positioned further in to the chanter. You may need to take away some of the thread wrapped around the staple.
There are two vibrating blades and the opening between them at the tip is carefully set. However, this aperture may open up or close down, or the pitch may change slightly depending on the environment you play in. This is normal and one of the challenges all Northumbrian Pipers live with!
If the Chanter will only sound at high pressure the aperture has opened and needs to be closed slightly.
Before you make any changes it’s wise to check a few things-
- Is the Chanter airtight – make sure there are no leaks where the Chanter meets the stock, the end cap, from your fingers or the key pads.
- Is there any damage to the Chanter or Chanter Stock – check for cracks and breaks.
- Is the reed seated firmly in the Chanter?
Closing The Aperture of a Smallpipe Chanter Reed
Hold the metal wire bridle around the base of the reed and gently squeeze your fingers and thumbs together. This will close the aperture slightly.
If the Chanter reed cuts out before full playing pressure is reached the reed has closed and needs to be opened slightly.
Opening the Aperture of a Smallpipe Chanter Reed
Hold the sides of the metal wire bridle gently (you might need some pliers). Gently squeeze and the aperture will open slightly.
Both of these operations are very delicate and it’s easy to damage a reed is they are done too roughly. Ideally, the first time you do this you will be guided by someone who already knows how to do it. However, if you are careful you can learn to do this safely and if done properly either or both can be carried out, testing the reed as you go, until you have the reed adjusted to your liking.
For further information about Northumbrian Smallpipes contact Kim@northumbrianpipes.co.uk