In the beginning pipers use a practice chanter to learn basic notes and movements before adding the complication of a bag and drones. It is not uncommon for a beginner to use only the chanter for a year or two before progressing onto pipes. Even after a piper progresses to the pipes, they will usually continue to use the practice chanter to learn new tunes, polish their skills, and practice without the volume and complication of the pipes.
The chanter is a smaller copy of the Pipe Chanter. It can be of a solid plastic material or hard wood. The top part is the removable blow-piece. The lower part has smaller holes similar to that of the pipe chanter. The softer sounding reed is set carefully in the top inside aperture/seat. The double bladed reed is usually of plastic for practical reasons. The longer type Long Span Chanter is recommended because the spacing of the holes is more akin to that of the Pipe Chanter.
Below are some guidelines for maintenance and care. Those wishing to play The Great Highland Bagpipe should become familiar with these guidelines.
Maintenance Tip 1: Take care of your chanter. Do not leave it around where it might come to harm, such as where anyone might sit on it accidentally.
Maintenance Tip 2: Keep the blow-piece clean by wiping with a clean cloth or handkerchief when finished. Store somewhere away from flies or the like. Consider periodically carefully washing through the upper blow-piece with some boiling water and a few drops of disinfectant to finish off.
Maintenance Tip 3: When the chanter becomes too wet with much playing, remove the upper blow-piece by twisting and turning apart carefully (to avoid damaging the reed) then blow through the lower wider open end to get rid of as much of the moisture as possible.
You might also need to remove the reed from the lower part carefully by a slight twisting and pull with the forefinger and thumb on the dark binding of the reed (not the blades), and blow through from where the reed is set to remove moisture.
Blow also through the lower part practice chanter holes to remove other excess moisture. Wipe clean the outside of the practice chanter, and re-assemble carefully, avoiding damage to the reed, which is reset straight and firmly with a twisting and push motion with the thumb and finger on the binding of the reed, not on the blades.
Maintenance Tip 4: If the reed is too hard to blow twist a small rubber band enough to fit tightly over the lower bound part of the reed then move it up to the lower part of the reed blades and test by degrees until the reed suits without being too weak. Reset the reed firmly and straight.
Maintenance Tip 5: With a joint which is bound with hemp, beware of making the binding too tight because with much playing the moisture will cause the binding to swell and become too tight to remove parts, or tend to split the blow-piece if of wood. If stuck leave for half a day or so for the hemp to dry out, when the parts can be removed. Adjust the binding to suit and re-bind firmly with new hemp as necessary, yet allowing for some swelling. (See 6 below.)
Maintenance Tip 6: Periodically you will have to renew the hemp (the yellow variety usually), which has rotted on the joint (unless a special plastic/synthetic ringed joint). Remove the old rotten hemp then rebind with new hemp, preferably a pre-waxed hemp with much longer lasting properties, until you have a firm enough joint. (See 5 above).
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