Today was very frustrating. I was getting my Colin Kyo pipes going again after the flapper valve broke off and I gave Bryan his Canning reeds back. So I installed a new flapper and put my Canning drone reeds in. I bought these Cannings earlier this year and we noticed that one of them was much more brash than the other. I contacted Ryan Canning and he has sent a replacement that has yet to arrive (edit: received!). But today, putting them in the CK pipes, they both wouldn’t hold tuning for anything. The slightest pressure variation and they’re going out all over the place. It was driving me nuts. These Cannings are nothing like the Cannings Bryan had in these pipes so I imagine the brash tenor is going crazy. I’ve got an older used set I’ll dig out and try in these CK pipes but until then, Ezeedrone tenors and a Kinnaird low pitch bass worked flawlessly. Nothing worse than dinking with drones for an hour when you’re trying a new chanter. Evidence that these Cannings work fine in other pipes can be had in this post (listen to the ones at the very bottom, made the same day as the recording in this post) and even in these Glencoes in a recording just the other day.
So, about that chanter. Below is the only decent recording I got of the new to market RJM solo chanter, designed by Roddy MacLeod and manufactured by Naill bagpipes. I was exhausted by the time I finally got this recording where the drones started in tune and stayed that way for more than 5 seconds, all I had to do was switch drone reeds. Below you’ll find some pictures. The first thing you’ll notice is how far down the low A is compared to my regular CK chanter. I could definitely feel my pinkie covering the low A hole from the top (see new EDIT below, added 9-9-2015). Tuning wise, I found the D flat. I tried brand new Husk and Melvin reeds, both drooled all over and squeezed to my strength. Both were in pretty far. But, both had a flat D and so I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a reed issue so I plugged my year old Husk that I’ve been using in all the most recent recordings on the blog in to see what happened. It had a flat D too. So in all the pictures below, you’ll see the tape where I had to tape the RJM holes down to the D, the only other hole not having tape being high A. Speaking of high A, it certainly has a different tone than you’ll get out of any other chanter, a selling point is being able to achieve Roddy’s famous high A. Concerning how far these reeds were in, the reed seat is quite cavernous, at least compared to the Colin Kyo I’m used to. I wonder if this is how he accomplished the feat of having both the high G and Piobaireachd high G tuned to the same pitch negating the usual adjustment of tape necessary between those two notes? Something I forgot to test. Oh yeah, the tone holes got taped too, about a third of the holes. It’s unfortunate that I couldn’t get the D up to pitch. Just balancing the A’s initially gave me a good octave everywhere, but D, right at 480 Hz, as claimed by Roddy. However, in taping down to meet the D I think I ended up around 475 Hz. If I keep this thing, that D hole is going to be oval. I’ll note 2 of my 4 blackwood CK chanters have had the D hole sharpened some by undercutting. I’ve done this to Bryan’s laminate CK chanter too which is how I know its easier to undercut the laminate material than blackwood. I also had a flat D with the McC2 chanter. Something about flat Ds, I dunno.
Fair Maid, Gallawa Hills, Leaving Port Askaig, and the Quaker – sorry about the bass dominance once I start marching, I guess I should march perpendicular to the recorder and not parallel to it, doh! Slow airs are taken over several orientations relative to the mic so you get a feel for chanter drone blend.
Photos below compare the RJM solo chanter (left) next to a Colin Kyo chanter (right), my standard chanter brand. They are both taped up for Husk reeds. You’ll notice the F# hole is a little lower on the RJM. On the bottom hand the D starts it off just a little lower than on the CK with the relative spacing to the C# and B about the same, but then the low A is much lower on the RJM.
EDIT November 4, 2013
I have been in contact with Roddy about the chanter and he says the flat D is unusual. He says he plays Troy McAllister reeds and so I’ve ordered a couple of those today to try. Roddy has offered to have a look at the chanter and so I’ll be posting it back to him for a look. Meanwhile, he’s sent me a picture of his RJM solo chanter as played at the Bratach Gorm in London on Saturday, November 2, 2013. Pretty cool he’s using his new chanter in competition and not his old one. Seems to work pretty well, he won the Bratach Gorm with it! You’ll note he’s got tape on D, so certainly not flat for him.
EDIT September 9, 2015
Roddy has redesigned his chanter a wee bit to raise the low A hole of the chanter to be easier to reach. He has kindly provided a picture with the old design on the left and the new design on the right. See below: