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Old 19-02-08, 02:11 AM   #1
Bentley Wall
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Default Reeding up a vintage chanter

Searched the FAQ but didn't come across anything specifically relevant. If I missed anything in the search engine please redirect me.

Otherwise, I have a 1918 Henderson chanter and I wonder if it can be reeded up. I have tried a lot of brands and everything is very chokey. I have tried to modify reeds to reshape them, to change their vibrational properties and have had no luck.

When I have gotten close, it seems to be pitching at roughly 450-470 when it is sort of balanced. Using a flat modern reed has not been any better than anything else. It is not simply a pitch thing, it is a physics thing.

Does anyone know of any double reed makers, GHB or otherwise, that are experienced in reeding up vintage chanters?

If there are any vintage reed makers on this forum, I could provide dimensional specs if that would be helpful. Which ones would be helpful?

Thank you for your help.

Bentley Wall
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Old 19-02-08, 02:18 AM   #2
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You are best to get in touch with reed makers and ask specifically about your chanter. Chances are someone will be able to make up something specifically for you. Reeds now a days are being made to pitch quite a bit higher.

Jamie Troy used to make reeds for older chanters, I'm not sure if he still does.
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Old 19-02-08, 12:16 PM   #3
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I have an old Henderson chanter as well (not sure of age, but I don't think it's as old as yours). Using a modern reed, It pitches at about 460-464. However, it sounds like CRAP. I've been looking around as well for decent reeds for it and there just doesn't seem to be anyone making reeds for old chanters anymore. There's only one so far that I've seen who sold reeds for old chanters, with extra long staples (old chanters need much longer reeds with wider blades apparently). I contacted him, and he said his supplier no longer makes them. He told me to contact his supplier directly because he hoped that it would light a fire under him to make more.

Iain Sherwood of www.cuillinn.com is the merchant, and Mark Wygent was the reed maker. Iain told me to email Mark (might take a few tries) and call him as well to see if he'd make a reed or two for me. I haven't tried yet as I've had lots of other stuff on the go. But it might help you to try. If so, let us know how it pans out.
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Old 19-02-08, 01:53 PM   #4
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If you have an orchestra in your area, try contacting the bassoon or oboe players. Don't laugh. Where I grew up, we had a professional oboe player from our national orchestra living down the block, and when he found out I played bagpipes he said he always wanted to try to make a reed for them. Most of them make their own reeds and may be quite willing to try it out for you.

The other consideration is that the chanter throat is quite likely closed up / out of round after all this time due to shrinkage and lack of use. If you're still in the Cleveland/Willoughby area, try contacting Jerry Gibson to see if he can help you on that.
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Old 19-02-08, 02:54 PM   #5
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Andrew Frater (Scotland) was making chanter reeds for 19th-century chanters.

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Old 19-02-08, 04:00 PM   #6
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There was an interview on pipeline a while back about reeding up an 1830 Glen chanter.

The reedmaker said that the secret was to use a longer staple and put more volume in the soundbox, while keeping the reed slips about the same size.

I don't recall the name of the maker, but they played a recording of the chanter, and it sounded great.

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Old 19-02-08, 04:27 PM   #7
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Default Promising leads

Thanks to all for the varied possible patsh to follow.

Chose to pursue the jsragman lead first because I thought it would be the easiest.

Poking around using the name "Andrew Frater" and various other keywords, I came across this on the Cuillinn Craft web site. It appears that the jsragman lead is a good one and there is also some info about reeds for vintage chanters in general that I thought others might like to read.

Taken from: http://www.cuillinn.com/notesApr01.html
--------------------------
"Speaking of reeds, here's a few facts about older chanters:
The story of the '440 chanter' is a myth. In the first place, examine old drone reeds. In order to tune a set of drones to a 440 A pitch, the drone reeds would have to be considerably longer, otherwise they'd tune off the pins. Old drone reeds, from the 20s and 30s, are about the same length as reeds made today; most of them are less than 1/8" longer, which tunes down to the low 460s - at their lowest. In addition, the drones themselves would be longer in order to achieve the lower pitch; drones made in the 1850s and 1880s are the same length as modern drones, and pitch at the 470+ tuning of today's chanters without any problem.

The reeds Andrew Frater made for THE BEAST - my early 1800s MacDonald chanter - have a 1" staple (as opposed to a modern 15/16" staple), and the blades are 1/8" longer than typical reeds of today. This pitches my chanter slightly lower than B flat - around 462-464 hz. This chanter, when fitted with a modern reed, is flat on the F and B, but pitches to about a 470 A on the rest of the scale; with the longer, wider, old-style reed it balances perfectly at a pitch SOMEWHAT flatter than played today - 460-464 - but, realistically, not THAT much flatter than modern chanter pitch. There's NO WAY it could pitch to concert A without being completely off balance. As Andrew, Dugald MacNeill, Barnaby Brown, and others have commented, "...this chanter was made by a master instrument maker. ALL the holes are undercut, carefully scraped by hand to produce the correct balance and pitch for its day...."
As Ringo Bowen says, "...I always thought the '440 chanter' story was bunk. The drone pins would have to be a LOT longer on older pipes to tune down that low...." In addition, old recordings of pipers and bands reveal that the chanters, while flatter than today's standards, still hover around Bflat.
Old chanters, made before the 1940s particularly, won't tune properly without the longer stapled reeds. There's NO way they can tune to modern pitch; but the difference is by no means as great as is commonly propounded. The story of the '440 chanter' is a MYTH - pure and simple, put forth by those who DON'T KNOW what they're talking about."
--------------------------

I will pursue the Frater route and post how it goes at some later date.

Thanks to all for the help.

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Old 22-02-08, 01:54 PM   #8
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Default Old chanter spec

Someone threw out that the chanter throat might have closed down over time due to the age of the chanter and that opening it up might be a good idea.

I have a set of tools that allows me to measure the ID of chanter throats to a 0.001" accuracy and I went and looked up the spec of this chanter which I measured some time ago. The throat on this guy is very slightly bigger than 0.173" (my tooling ends at 0.173). I have some chanters that are in the high 0.150's and a few that are low 0.170's but most are in the 0.160's. The throat of this chanter is within the range of chanters that I have that are easily reeded up with modern reeds. I have chanters that are almost exactly the same throat ID (.0172, 0.171, and one that is very slightly bigger than 0.173) and reeds that work in them do not work in the old one. Obviously there is more to this issue than throat ID, but I am sure it is one of the factors that requires coupling to reed design.

Just throwing this out there for those who care.

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Old 22-02-08, 04:03 PM   #9
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Hey Bentley :

Have a look here... http://www.piping.on.ca/browseproducts.asp?catID=101

Jimmy is flogging a low pitch chanter on his website & perhaps he could steer you in the direction of which reed whould be best suited for this sort of (concert B'b) type of thing.

Let's hope your organist will appreciate all the effort your putting into this one !! ;)

Cheers, P.

P/S How's the fam these days ??
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Old 22-02-08, 04:12 PM   #10
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I think The Gael is designed to use modern pitched reeds in it that will produce a lower pitched sound.

I don't know if there's special reeds for it similar to what would be required for our old Henderson chanters. I know with mine, the low A tunes between 460-464 with a modern reed. The bottom hand sounds good, but the top hand is a nightmare. It's impossible to get a stable/true scale with my old chanter and a modern reed.
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