Bagpipe Tuning Exercises
These Bagpipe Tuning Exercises are for a beginners first time up with the bagpipes and ready to play. I suggest that you also read the article entitled Positioning Your Bagpipes, ready to strike in and play. These bagpipe tutorials are included with my Comprehensive Beginners Guide Tutorial., that also has a helpful and relevant, detailed reed setting and general maintenance section.
Steady Blowing Exercise With One Drone Only
Take pipes while in the case, or out of the case carefully by the bass drone, and proceed to block the bass drone say with suitable adhesive tape over the top of the lower drone pin to make airtight. Do the same to the pin of the middle tenor drone to make airtight.
Remove your chanter turning at the uppermost ball shaped top (not farther down where twisting tension can break the chanter). Take out the reed carefully by its dark binding and block that hole to prevent escape of air. Replace the chanter in its stock. Positioning of the chanter to suit your fingering can be done later when up and sounding the drone. This exercise is meant to establish confidence in holding the pipes well with good upright posture, and to maintain a constant even sound of the drone without having to worry about the chanter at this stage.
The remaining tenor drone is the only one for now functioning. Have the upper part of the drone tuning at a point that shows a few millimeters of the binding hemp, not far down the pin. You may test mouth blown as I test on the video and match closely against the pitch I produce by moving the upper part of the drone up or down. If the tone sounds rough, adjust the bridle as per the reed setting video below.
This will have the pipes ready for the first progressive stage of playing with the initial object of allowing practise in blowing the pipes steadily for about one to two minutes periods with only one drone sounding smooth and steady along with holding the pipes in a comfortable good position with good posture. While up and ready with the steady continuous sound you should turn your chanter to suit your fingering and steadily finger up and down the scale to test suitability of position. Have a break and make a mark on the chanter stock to align with the High A hole for correct replacement of your fingering setting.
Bagpipe Tuning Exercises For Introducing The Chanter
The chanter can be introduced after practising periodically enough as above. Remove the chanter and the stopping. Carefully place the chanter reed firmly in its aperture. The reed should not be too strong to blow at this stage. You can weaken temporarily a reed that is a bit too strong by pinching the blades midway with thumb and forefinger – additionally you can compare my chanter test on the video as a guide for a balanced scale. If necessary, raise and sink the reed as appropriate with the end thread binding adjusted to achieve a good balance.
After striking in and sounding the chanter on E with steady blowing tune the single drone to your keynote low A by turning the drone up or down as required with your lower hand while sounding steadily high A. Test as you go on low A, and, if necessary, continue until reasonably tuned. Play the scale and low G steadily a few times, to check for an agreeable balance. Try some doublings and taorluaths etc., and attempt a slow tune. Concentrate on maintaining a steady good air pressure and good tone.
Take breaks as necessary and build your stamina and lip muscles as you go. As you become stronger the bass drone can be introduced and your range of other tunes played.
Bagpipe Tuning Exercises For Introducing The Bass Drone
The bass drone would be next to insert the reed firmly, test setting and tune in unison with the tenor drone to your low A* and test with careful listening the balance the balance up and down the chanter steadily. Play other tunes when ready. Much later when stronger bring in the other tenor drone in a similar manner. Re–tune as necessary to maintain good unison, usually after a minute or two, then again a few more minutes later when the reeds might have settled and become steady and remain in tune for longer periods of play before having to re-tune and remember to always maintain your instrument well.
* If having difficulty in achieving good unison of the drones, consider tuning the drones without the chanter a few times, with a stopper in the chanter stock
To conclude this tutorial I have commented in the video below, some additional guidelines to consider and remember to ...
... always be aware of the need to re-tune and appreciate good tone.
If you have not done so already remember to review this lesson: Positioning Your Bagpipes, ready to strike in and play
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Good Day Sir,
I just want to thank you for the excellent information on your website.I've always thought I was tuning my bass drone correctly and after watching your online videos I found out I was tuning wrong.When I took your advice and tried tuning your way I could just hear how sweet the drones came all together from my Hendersons. So a big thank you to you for taking the time to pass on your great knowlege of The Great Highland bagpipe.
Be well and take care Pipe Major.
24th November, 2012
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