Monthly Archives: December 2012

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

Brownwood Gellaitry’s with Crozier Glass and Selbie

I was singing a melody to myself the other day and it dawned on me the similarity between it and my recent composition, Burden of Innocence. I was afraid initially that I had totally ripped off some other tune. Alas, I didn’t, but I did spend a few minutes to jot down the other tune from the Battlefield Band recording.

Happy Days (John McCusker)

It turns out the I was mistaken about being able to compare my blackwood to this brownwood set of Gellaitry bagpipes. It would seem the bushings on my blackwood Gellaitry are about 1/16″ larger in diameter than the brownwood Gellaitry. So, now we’re left wondering what the difference between the woods really is since there is another variable to account for. The plan is to tape over part of the bushings (the holes at the top of the drones) on my blackwood set to see what happens, but that experiment is to come at a later date. However, I’m currently trying to showcase these brownwood Gellaitry bagpipes. Remember, they are for sale! Tim is just letting me try them out! You know you want them, get a hold of Tim.

But first, there is a great website called It is home to Island Bagpipe run by Gordon MacDonald, but as a side project he hosts a bagpipe identification site. Gord just so happens to be the only North American retailer of Tim Gellaitry bagpipes, that I know of anyway. He had a set in his shop for a little while and we were going back and forth about drone reeds and he said he liked the Crozier Glass drone reeds in the Gellaitry. I told him I thought they were a bit much, but in light of the fact that my blackwood set is not standard spec Gellaitry (the bushing difference mentioned earlier), I figured I’d give the Crozier Glass another go. It is obvious from the previous post just a few days ago that the brownwood is a little mellower, less edgy, than the blackwood; just enough to take the edge of these Crozier glass which can get a little buzzy in BIG pipes (e.g. D. MacPherson). So, Crozier glass is what you heard above (along with a new chanter reed being broken in that goes a little flat on C and F when I’m not blowing it out) and now below. I think Gord was on to something!

Scale, Scotland the Brave, Wings, Murdo’s Wedding, Lord Lovat’s Lament, Rowan Tree, The Battle of Waterloo, and The 51st Highland Division

Kalabakan & Crooked/Twisted/Broken/Famous (Don’t know the Gaelic translation) Bridge

Here’s one more where I’ve switched to Selbie drone reeds:

Spanner in the Works, Scots Air Hornpipe, and Kelsey’s Ree Reel: