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Old 21-04-11, 06:28 PM   #1
John Bolt
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Default Drone tuning advice

Hi all,

I have been on the pipes for about 7 months. I have 21 tunes memorized which include tunes like Lord Lovit, STB, Highland Cathederal, Flowers of the
forest, 79's Farwell to Gibralter etc and the book I play has about 30 tunes total.

I practice a lot and I play pretty good for a newbie and I know that from recording myself and it sounds pretty darn good to me. I was taking lessons but I haven't been for a while because playing for my instructor gives me stage fright and I really start messing up and my lesson time is spent telling my instructor "I can play that perfectly just not for you" so I'm on a self teaching program.

Ok here's my problem I have no clue about tuning and basically my drones are where they were last time my instructor tuned them. I have read everything there is on the net about tuning and if I had a tuner it would be no problem. I just bought a new chanter for nearly $400 and I don't have the guts ask the boss lady for a tuner.

Anyway I had a go at tuning yesterday and I taped my chanter so I could play Low A one handed and tuned the bass with the tenors corked, then the same same with the tenor the, then the inner tenor to the outer and it seems to sound OK

So some questions

With the tenors corked and it's out of tune will the drone wa wa and what will it sound like when in sync with Low A
Will a tenor or bass wa wa when not tuned to each other?

What about this online tuner

http://www.seventhstring.com/tuner/tuner.html

And what about using a tone generator for a reference tone

http://www.ringbell.co.uk/software/audio.htm

Thanks for any advice
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Old 21-04-11, 07:27 PM   #2
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Tuning is one part of piping that took me the longest to learn. I wanted to say master but it takes me far to long to say I've mastered it. So let's break it down abit.

1. If you can't play infront of an instructor then the room full of guests is out of the question. He's not going to beat you! Calm down and get back in there. A good instructor has much to teach you, inclueding how to tune the pipes! If that particular instructor can't put you at ease (and many out there can't) then find a new one.

2. A tuner is a very useful tool once you are blowing steady. A korg tuner won't even set you back that much. But they are useless until you are blowing steady. Please refer back to point 1.

3. Often while uncorking the next drone you may find that the first drone is no longer tuned. This is because the increase air taken to get the next drone going has caused you to not blow steady. It is best to get all three drones as close as possible one at a time and then fine tune them while all three are going. It is hard to do by yourself when you are first learning. Refer back to 1!

4 The wa wa sound is indeed the drone not being tuned to the chanter or the other drones. when perfectly tuned I find that suddenly you can hear the harmonics ringing. You will know when its done right.

5. As far as a tone generator I don't see how you would be able to hear it to compare it to your drones. They just are not that load. An on line tuner? Never heard of it or tried one. It most likely would have troble picking up just the drone instead of the chanter and you would have to ensure the chanter was tuned to the tuner first. But as I said, I've never tried one so that's just my best guess.

Any way, get out there and find an instructor that you are comfortable with or join a band. The pipie will be able to show you all this far better than anyone of us could explain it to you (in my opinion). A good instructor is worth his wieght in gold.
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Old 21-04-11, 07:28 PM   #3
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To be honest, I wouldn't bother with the tuner - I only bought one when I started looking after my local band to speed things up.

If you've read everything, then you'll have read http://www.bagpipejourney.com/articl...e_tuning.shtml

It's pretty good I think.

I'd avoid online tuners and tone reference software altogether. Stick with your ears for now - they're more reliable too
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Old 21-04-11, 09:10 PM   #4
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Very useful link indeed. Still, a competent instructor could do much in showing you how to apply these principals to thier fullest.
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Old 21-04-11, 09:46 PM   #5
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I have a tuner and rarely use it. Your ears are the best.

Also I agree with going back to your instructor, I did not play as well in front of my instructor either, but you will get there. I started to get more comfortable when I started practicing with the band. My instructor is the band PM, but I was less nervous when everyone was playing. I think I would get nervous for my instructor because I thought he played perfectly and expected the same from me. My instructor is a very good piper, but he is not perfect and he will admit it. I know that piping in front of other pipers is a little nerve wracking, they know when you screw up right? Well I think it is a good thing, as they should help you become a better piper with instruction and advice. This forum would not be what it is if we all kept to ourselves and did not want to better each other. Unfortunately we can not tune and un-tune your drones over the forum so you can hear the differences to help you out. Another piper you can get with in person, such as your instructor, will be more suited to that.

Relax and play the very best you can, enjoy what you have accomplished, and try to pipe better every time you play.
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Old 22-04-11, 08:06 AM   #6
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No one ever got better by playing with people who were consistently worse than they are
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Old 25-04-11, 05:37 PM   #7
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I have had a chance to play with.

http://www.seventhstring.com/tuner/tuner.html

And it seems to work fine an all I do is blow a low A (478 Hz)
and then tune the drones to 239 Hz and the bass to 119 HZ
and all is good.

The other thing that works too is you can play tones with

http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

and tune by ear or record the tones on my recorder as a reference for tuning.
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Old 25-04-11, 06:28 PM   #8
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The thing you've got to think of John is that you maybe don't always want to tune low A to 478Hz. Getting bogged down in numbers & worrying about how close you are to 478 is pointless.

Where did you get 478Hz from anyway?

Get your chanter balanced to a pitch you like and then tune your drones to that.

If you start off with using electric tuners, you're going to find yourself come unstuck when you either don't have one handy or it runs out of batteries!
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Old 25-04-11, 08:36 PM   #9
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John,

Could I back all Mark's comments up? Tuners are generally designed for bands, and then only as an AID. If we still ran with 12 pipers, 4 sides 2 tenors and a bass, there would be no great need for them either.

You need to tune your own pipes. If you can't do it, then the bad news is, you haven't made it yet. Do more work. Don't try to take short cuts, there aren't any.

Just work at it. After 41 years, I only got comfortable and competent tuning well this year. What happened, was I learned to be patient.

All gadgets are aids only. Frequencies go up or down according to loads of variants. Your ear, once trained, will instantly know where to tune the drone without a tuner.

The net is a great thing, but 90% of the advice out there is unnecesarry, or just plain crap.

Also, is yer old instructor the only option you have? I suspect you will save time and money if you get a competent instructor. Never one to miss a turn, I believe I could teach you to tune acceptably over Skype. If you get fed up with me, just turn me off. I don't cost as much as any tuner either.

Ditch the gadget, go human!!
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Old 26-04-11, 09:06 AM   #10
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I'll let all the experience guys give you the advise on tuning.
When it comes to stage fright in front of your tutor I was the same. It was horrendous, to the point I was sure he thought I didn't practice at all. I could play in front of the PM and other band members with no problems. I just had to persevere and it did get better.
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