Drone Reed Setup
As with the pipe chanter reed , volumes could be written on drone reeds . This month we'll focus on just one of the major factors affecting them, and the set-up and playing of your bagpipes with ease - Air Pressure.
1. A Drone Reed must take only enough air to make it sound while the pipe chanter is being played.
Put corks in the middle tenor, and the bass drone. Move the bridle of the outside tenor drone reed down to shorten the tongue enough so that when you sound the chanter the drone stops. Now move the bridle up to lengthen the tongue (move it just a hair) and sound the chanter again. Have patience; continue this process of moving the bridle in infinitesimal steps until you can sound the chanter and play the scale without the drone shutting off. (Do not try to play a tune at this point). Now cork the outside tenor and open the middle tenor and repeat the process until the middle tenor sounds as you play the scale. Finally, repeat the process with the bass drone reed . The next step is to make sure that all three of the drone reeds are taking the same amount of air.
2. All three Drone Reeds must take the same amount of air pressure.
Remove the pipe chanter and put a cork in the chanter stock. Inflate the pipe bag and do the best you can to tune the drones. Now increase the air pressure in the bag. If all three drone reeds are taking an equal amount of air, all three drones will stop (shut off) at the exact same time. If one drone stops, then another then another, the drone reeds are all taking different amounts of air to sound. You won't be able to tune a bagpipe properly if all the drones take different amounts of air. The Drone that shut off first is the one using the least amount of air, so shorten the bridle on the others until you can increase the pressure on the pipe bag and all three of the drones shut off together. Your Drone Reeds are now taking the correct amount of air in order to sound.
Question: Gerry, I followed all the steps in setting up the Drone Reeds and I can play up and down the scale no problem, but when I play a tune the drones stop; should I open up the drone reed bridles some more?
Answer: No! Don't touch those bridles; you are suffering from unsteady blowing or the clinical term "operator malfunction".
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