Big Comp Tunes and the McLaren Synthetic Reed

One nice thing about having 3 pipes is you can be pretty sure at least one of them will be going really well. Right now, those are my band pipes. 1950’s Hende’s with Naill-spec Rocket tenors and a Canning polycarbonate tongued bass (I prefer this over the carbon fiber bass). My fingers were going fairly well so I whipped out the big competition tunes. The biggest disappointment was having to rerecord the Lucy Cassidy/Curlew set after the MSR as I fumbled really bad in the last line of the Curlew and by the second go around my fingers were getting tired (as I had spent the previous 45 minutes testing prototype drone reeds before I decided to whip these tunes out upon putting my regular reeds back in) and hence my grip unfortunately got a little tighter with the fatigue and my E grace note problem reared its ugly little head in the 3rd part of the Curlew (just listen for all the missing grace notes in the 1st and 5th bars after the throw). I’ve been able to retrain that finger to play taorluaths (so I have some hope of playing a crunluath at some point, now you know why I don’t play Piobaireachd), GDEs, and the occasional D doubling/shake when it’s feeling cooperative but my pinkie is bound and determined to ruin every single E grace note I try to play. Relaxing the fingers helps A LOT! Anybody know how to cut the nerve between my brain and my left pinkie finger? Enough excuses, I did go on to play Crossing the Minch and Donella Beaton as a backup HJ, so there you go. Another note on the Curlew though. The first bar of each part starts with a D throw and the last bar of each part starts with a GDE on CAA. This is all well and good if you’re playing a light throw but I think a heavy throw fits much better and instead of GDE on CAA I prefer to play a taorluath from C to A; note that there is still a GDE pattern but the D and E grace notes are wrapped up in the taorluath. I feel this gives it the right amount of bubblyness to match the heavy throw at the beginning of the line. Colin Kyo chanter and Gilmour reed, but I bet you knew that! If you’re new to the blog, I place the recorder up on a book shelf and walk around in circles (when I’m not playing in the walk-in closet anyway, there it’s about belly height but I face away from it) because I hate not being able to hear the drones in recordings of the bagpipe; so the chanter might seem quiet at points because the drones are pointed right at the mic as I walk around.

The Rossshire Volunteers (John Connon), Susan MacLeod (Donald MacLeod), Charlie’s Welcome (out of Scott MacAulay’s book, adaptation of Duncan Johnstone’s setting)

Lucy Cassidy (George McIntyre) and The Curlew (Donald MacPherson, Clydebank)

Crossing the Minch (Donald MacLeod) and Donella Beaton (George Johnstone)

I’ve added a direct link to the Bob Pekaar Tune Encyclopedia on the right side of the webpage at the top of the “Non-Bagpipe Blog-oid Links” section in case you want to locate any of the tunes I play.

The newest version of the McLaren synthetic chanter reed doesn’t seem all too different from the last version I played with. Noticeably, it now has 2 rubber bands instead of 1. Previously, I had only gotten it to work in the Kron Medalist, and I have found the same to be true pretty much even now. However, I had to remove one band to get the best result. Otherwise the Medalist resembled a smallpipe chanter with a rather muffled low A coupled with the rather strong high A offered by the synthetic reed. Removing one band allowed the volume of the low A to increase significantly. Removal of both bands resulted in a wonky E that could be blown over a wide ranges of pitches. Here is a very quick snippet of the Kron Medalist with the McLaren synthetic reed:

High Drive (Gordon Duncan) and Arthur Bignold of Lochrosque

Trying the reed in a couple other chanters was unsuccessful. The McC2 chanter played well with both bands on the reed, with no soft low A, but the high G was 30-41 cents sharp even with the hole over half covered with tape, probably a function of having 2 bridles on the reed. Hear the few notes played on the McC2 here:

1st part of Arthur Bignold of Lochrosque

but discover here why it isn’t going to work here:

1st part of the High Drive (Gordon Duncan)

Overall chirpiness is what kept the AyrFire chanter from working well with the reed as well. The McC2 and AyrFire required the use of both bands on the reeds to keep the E from going wonky; otherwise the combination might have worked if only one band could have been used to minimize the tape on high G, though I’m not overly confident about that conclusion.