I’ve had a couple McLaren synthetic reeds laying about for quite a while. I purchased them new when they first came out (2009) but never had any luck with them. I could never balance the scale in any of the chanters I had/have. Correspondence with Malcolm McLaren, the manufacturer, resulted in me getting a second batch that wasn’t much better than the first. I chalked it up to long distance shipping and Lubbock’s climate, as the youtube demonstration of the reed had it sounding decently well in what I believe was a Naill chanter (I didn’t have the same result).
As I was trying to put together a recording of the Kron Medalist chanter for the blog I found a hard time reeding it without getting a flat F# and C#. I tried many brands and while the severity of the flatness would change, it would never go away. So, before I put it up, I figured, why not put a McLaren in there and see what happens. AND BOY WAS I SURPRISED! I’ve got 1 piece of tape (high G) on the Kron Medalist with a strength 15 (~23-24 inches of water) McLaren synthetic reed.
First thing I noticed, you have to blow these reeds out. I regularly play a smidge above 30 inches of water so I felt I had to go easy on the reed, however I found the pitch would drop off just a bit and the reed will cut out, as you’ll hear in the recording below. Also, my drones weren’t set well for this easy of a reed, so they tended to drop out when I didn’t keep the pressure up, so in the first tune I played with this setup (Hector the Hero), you’ll hear the tuning go in and out as I unnecessarily baby the reed and show off how poorly my drone reeds are set to play at this pressure (and how poor my blowing is in general).
Lastly, I noticed (outside of blowing/pressure issues), my whole pipe NEVER had to be retuned. It stayed right where I set it (low A = 480 Hz). Yes, as you go up the scale, it starts sounding a bit, well, thin isn’t the word I’m looking for. If a cane reed on high A sounds like a fine wine glass, the McLaren sounds like a regular wine glass. One last thing. Since I didn’t have much to lose with the reeds, I’d moved the bridle all over the place and have just approximated where it was when I received it from Malcolm, so the state of this reed as I’ve played it isn’t necessarily what you’d get straight from McLaren.
Long list of tunes – first time out on the reed
Oh yeah, pipes are 1950’s Henderson’s with Crozier Cane tenors and Colin Kyo bass on a Monarch medium swan neck bag, Crisler adjustable blowstick, and a TrueFit cover.