I hope everyone’s’ 2017 is off to a great and bagpiping-filled start! If you happen to be one of my students, or a member of a bagpipe band I teach in Pittsburgh, then I’ve probably mentioned how important proper maintenance is to having an efficient and stable bagpipe. Whether you have to play your bagpipes for a wedding, funeral, or special event in Pittsburgh, or elsewhere, there a few tips I wanted to pass along to help you get a “new” bagpipe for this year!
When I say “new,” I basically mean a re-vamped bagpipe from bass drone to chanter sole! Taking your pipes apart and giving them the TLC they want and need will pay dividends down the road in 2017 when performing or competing. So, a few tips:
1. Re-hemp! It’s important to re-hemp drone joints, stock joints, blow pipes, and even the top of the chanter. Having smoothly turning drone pins that aren’t wobbly even when tuning up higher is key to having stable sound. Make sure that your stock joints for the drones and blow pipe are nice and tight in order to prevent air from leaking. The hemp at the top of the chanter should allow you to smoothly twist the chanter in order to orient it in the proper direction to reach the holes with your fingers, but not so loose that it risks falling out!
2. Check for efficiency! Making your bagpipe as efficient as possible without having the chanter going will make your playing much more enjoyable! To do this, first take out all drones and the chanter, then cork up the stocks while leaving the blow pipe attached to the bag. After that, blow up the bag to make sure no air is leaking out. Once the bag stays tight without leaking air, put the drones back but still leave the chanter stock corked up. Blow up the bag/drones, then blow/squeeze extra hard. Your drones should shut off fairly easily, and stay off for several seconds until the air slowly moves out of the bag. This will ensure that you are playing an efficient set up!
3. New reeds! If your pipe chanter reed is a year or more old, and it’s squeaking, too easy to play, and doesn’t have a lot of “pop” then it’s time for a new pipe chanter reed! Do some research online and order up a fresh reed to start the year. It’s better to blow in a new reed now, than later in the year right before a big performance!
I hope these tips help you get the most out of your bagpipe in 2017!