Humidity and its effect on chanter tuning

I’m in Houston visiting the in-laws and even in the winter it is a lot more humid than dry dusty Lubbock. We had two dust storms in Lubbock within a week just prior to Christmas. That’s how dry it is in Lubbock, the north wind just picks the dirt off the cotton fields and blows it into town. So, I brought my Jeffers pipes along with me with the Atherton chanter and my old crowing Gilmour with 3 corners missing. As usual, the chanter reed needs to be seated deeper into the reed seat when it is humid because the first thing I had to do was take all the tape off the high G AND push the reed in, relative to where the reed seats in Lubbock. You’ll find in the YouTube videos linked below that I’m constantly fighting not only the crow of the high A (this reed always does that regardless of where I am), but a flat high G, despite the fact that in Lubbock I need 1/3 of the hole covered to get it in tune. It would really seem that a lot of chanters (and chanter reeds) are designed and manufactured in humid environments and subsequently they behave very differently in dry environments. One of my important tests for a chanter is whether it squeals on low A with G grace notes. A lot of people attribute this problem to just having a dry reed, and that can be the cause. However, when you live in a place like Lubbock where your reed is going to be dry regardless of what you do, you have to have a chanter and reed combo that never squeals. Some don’t squeal until you start applying tape to the high G hole. In my experience, Dunbar and Shepherd chanters always do this (current humidity in both locations where these two companies are located is in the 80%’s, Lubbock is at 24%). Perhaps they’re manufactured and tested in environments where the humidity changes the setup enough so that the chanter reed is already moist and the high G never requires tape. Maybe that’s one reason I like Colin Kyo chanters so much, I’ve never had them squeal because of a dry reed or tape on the high G hole (even if half covered). Alrighty, enough of my wandering thoughts.

So, we’ve got Jingle Bells because Christmas was 4 days ago, Star Wars because someone asked me for the music and so I listened to some YouTube videos and wrote down the best one, and finally some hornpipes that I thought went well together. Selbie tenors for some good overtone action and a Crozier glass bass for some nice buzz.

Jingle Bells

Star Wars

PM Calum Campbell’s Caprice and The Big Yin

9 thoughts on “Humidity and its effect on chanter tuning

  1. Pretty good sound. Gilmour reeds are made here in Victoria Australia fairly dry climate and bloody hot in summer 42c is common.

  2. Great job with Star Wars! Could I bother you to send me the music you have for that? My sons are Star Wars fanatics.



  3. I am with you Patrick in that I don’t prefer a crow all, though i do find it is much more forgiving if one is having humidity/stability issues, then the crow does a fine job masking a flat/sharp top hand on the A.
    I try to use that to my advantage when I know I am going to be competing in nasty summer weather. i keep a reed/chanter setup just for that scenario.
    Setup sounds real nice though.
    David NY

  4. Patrick, What are the names of the Hornpipes? The first one has some similarities to Jimmie Mithchell’s “The Rock” which you introduced me to through your blog…I like it a lot…fun to play. I do like the sound of the Jeffers pipes…they are fun to play as well. Yet another thing you introduced me to.

    Thanks for both

  5. Thanks Jim!

    Kent, the first is PM Calum Campbell’s Caprice and the second is The Big Yin. I really dig the crozier glass bass, it really brings a strong buzz for a really unique tone.

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