AyrFire chanter and drone reeds in the MacPherson’s

The illustrious Colin MacLellan is throwing his hat into the “big name piper having helped design a chanter” ring with a collaboration with Ayrshire Bagpipes Company. This company is known for making the Big Bore blowpipe and bagpipes made out of crazy materials like Tufnol and polycarbonate. Other chanters designed by big name pipers include Willie McCallum and another reed maker, Chris Apps. Colin and Brian Mulhearn call their new chanter the AyrFire, which is emblazoned across the top of the chanter. Colin has been a reed maker for a while. The last batch of reeds I got from him several years ago were straight cut reeds but he looks to have joined the ranks, or perhaps lead the way (I don’t know), in what is a growing number of reed makers making hybrid chanter reeds. That is, they aren’t true straight cut but they aren’t ridge cut either. Other reed makers I’ve noticed with this design include the Caldwell reed and the Husk reed. The idea is to capture the best of both type reeds. I prefer straight cut reeds simply because they can last a while and when set at the right pressure don’t need to be fiddled with. I really have never had a ridge cut reed that was the right strength, they’re either too bloody hard or too easy, and I can’t get them in between. I digress. If you shell out a couple extra bucks your AyrFire chanter comes with a MacLellan reed and a chanter cap with no opening but made of a soft wood which I presume is to absorb the moisture off the reed. I ordered a medium and what I was given came in at about 31 inches of water operating pressure. Just a teeny bit on the light side as I prefer 33-34 but dang, that’s being nit-picky. I’m quite sure Colin doesn’t consider himself a mind reader, though I’m unsure if he measures the strength with anything other than experience. It’s a nice reed. It’s also a nice chanter. The finger holes are comparable to the Colin Kyo except the E may actually be a tad higher and the B and low A holes are a little lower and aren’t round but elongated (as opposed to oval). However, there’s no funky business as far as the relative hole spacing goes so I had no trouble finding the holes for C taps and those pesky heavy D taps even. In the recordings below I set the high A just a tad flat as I’m lazy and taped the high G, F, and E. Note the C isn’t flat, even from the get go, which is cool. The first recording has a quick scale that features my out of tune drones which is nice. It came in with low A right around 478-9 Hz which is comparable with just about every other chanter on the market excepting the McC2 and Medalist which I find a few Hz flatter. It is dry as Mars here in Lubbock so high G’s tend to be quite sharp which took a little tape to the high G and even so, there was no chirping on G grace notes on low A. Ridge cuts, and dry reeds in general, are infamous for this chirping so I’m glad I don’t have to bother with that. About now you’re wishing I’d shut up and “get on with it” (think I can work a Monty Python reference into every post?) but ONE more thing. There are four recordings below, though shall not count to three unless thou proceedeth to four, five is outright. I be doodling with drone reeds as usual so you’ll find different combinations. I’ve also never recorded some of these tunes before even though I’ve known them a while. This is unfortunate because I totally messed up the 6/8 swing in them, so my bad, I know now, gotta fix that. So, if you’re not recording yourself, I promise you have no idea what you sound like! Laters.

Miss Ishabel T. MacDonald – AyrFire chanter – MacLellan reed – MacPherson bagpipes – Henderson Harmonic Deluxe reeds

Mrs. Lily Christie – AyrFire chanter – MacLellan reed – MacPherson bagpipes – Henderson Harmonic Deluxe tenor reeds – Kinnaird bass

The Sweet Maid of Mull – AyrFire chanter – MacLellan reed – MacPherson bagpipes – Kinnaird reeds

Bonnie Dundee – AyrFire chanter – MacLellan reed – MacPherson bagpipes – Kinnaird tenor reeds – Henderson Harmonic Deluxe bass

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