Kinnaird Evolution, Mikey Digital, Drone reed Mismatch, Wedding Tunes, & Colin Kyo!

Got the new Kinnaird Evolution drone reeds in the other day. They may look very similar, but they’re very different beasts.

Below are two recordings. I’ve used regular Kinnaird’s in my Gellaitry’s as standard for quite some time now. So I figured the best test would be to try the Evolution reeds in there first.

Gellaitry bagpipes with old Kinnaird drone reeds: Gallawa’ Hills & The Quaker

Gellaitry bagpipes with Kinnaird Evolution drone reeds: Gallawa’ Hills & The Quaker

Here are the same recordings but made with the Blue Mikey Digital for iPhone 4 located in the same spot as my Zoom H2 utilizing it’s auto-gain feature for comparison to the Zoom H2 recordings above. Recorded using the iPhone’s native Voice Memo app. Next time, I’ll try the AudioTools Recorder.



What happens when you don’t practice in 3 months (skip it):

Kinnaird Evolution drone reeds: Some Jigs

Insert random stuff here. Here are the Evolution reeds in the Jeffers pipes, drones only. This part goes along with an experiment having to do with mismatching tenor drone reeds to get a broader spectrum of overtones. I hypothesized that this makes tuning easier because once the tenors are pitched close it is harder to hear frequency beating in the fundamental so you resort to overtone frequency beating to really dial it in. If the tenors are mismatched then perhaps they emit different overtones (as determined by amplitude, or the lack thereof, not that the overtones occur at different frequencies) and so there is less overlap to generate frequency beating. Therefore, they sound in tune once the fundamentals are really close because there is not enough overlap in the overtone spectrum to make frequency beating that is audible “enough”. So, I screwed the tuning screws all the way into the nose cone and made the first recording and then, without moving my feet to preserve relative orientation to the microphone, I screwed one tuning screw all the way out until it was flush with the end thus requiring that I flatten the drone by pulling the drone top way up. The results are below. Mismatching the drones seemed to decrease the overall volume with both the first and second overtone losing significant amplitude (again, assuming my efforts to only change the one variable, the pitch of the reed, was successful). My expectations were that the first overtone would increase because generally, in my experience, the longer the tenor drone the more pronounced the first overtone and more diminished the second overtone; and vise versa (see this post for previous experiment showing this relationship). However, both overtones diminished as can be seen in the frequency analysis below. Further down is the .wav file, matched first, mismatched second.

Jeffers bagpipes with matched and then mismatched Kinnaird Evolution tenor drone reeds (bass untouched)

All that is beside the point of this post (sort of, it’s a mixed bag as it is). Well, what did I think of the new Evolution reeds? Well, I put my old Kinnaird’s back in the Gellaitry’s. The new Evolution reeds are very well matched together, the bass with the tenors. The tenors are also very bold, very similar to the cane tongued Ackland reeds I was trying for a little while. However, in that boldness, they sound a bit dirty. There’s just tone in there that is a little off putting. Not an overtone as above, but just a dirty sound. I’ve found the tenors to be a bit harder to tune because of their massive boldality. Of course, I’m indoors and such.

I’ve also tried the Evolution reeds in many other pipes. In that regard, they are always well matched in strength from bass to tenor, and if your band is getting hits for quiet drones, these reeds are definitely a place to start. However, in no case did I think that the Evolution drone reeds sounded better than what I had already decided sounded best from the previously commercially available drone reeds. I’ve spent a lot of time getting the tone out of each set of pipes to be just right for that set of pipes and so to expect one set, the Evolution, to displace all those is unreasonable. But, I just haven’t found the match yet.  Pipes tried with drone reed preference listed to the side:

Gellaitry: old Kinnaird

Jeffers: Selbie

Dunbar: I forget, but have heard better

Robertson: Rocket

Colin Kyo: Canning

And that is my segue into the last part of this post. I LOVE the sound of Canning tenors in Colin Kyo drones. However, the carbon fiber bass is just a tad on the quiet side, in my opinion. You can hear what I mean in this post and this post. So, having been lent the pipes again, I figured I’d have another go at matching a good, bolder bass drone reed. I’ll note that the Canning’s in Colin Kyo are the exact opposite of the dirty sound you get with Evolution reeds, it is as smooth as silk without being mellow.

Last segue is that a piper friend is getting married next weekend and I need to know what to play for them, so I recorded some wedding music for him to listen to and approve. The last link is an MSRHJ for some more traditional music. These were recorded with the Canning tenors and a Henderson Harmonic Deluxe bass in Colin Kyo bagpipes. Of course, a Colin Kyo chanter with a Husk reed.

bridal_chorus_faithful_and_true_lohengrin (sight read)

recessional_wedding_march (sight read)

recessional_a_midight_summers_dream (sight read)

Other wedding type tunes include Mairi’s Wedding, Unst Bridal March (old recording of Dunbars, I think), and Highland Wedding.

msrhj (take note, I haven’t played any of this since November)

16 thoughts on “Kinnaird Evolution, Mikey Digital, Drone reed Mismatch, Wedding Tunes, & Colin Kyo!

  1. Great analysis as always, Patrick.
    That was great.

    Nice tunes, nice tuning and great food for thought.

    David NY

    p.s. Robertsons getting packed up to send you :)

  2. I will say the Evolution reeds are a great out of the box solution to getting a lot of harmonic presence out of just about any pipe, it would seem. But with that, the draw back is that in order to make them be able to do that, there can be some roughness to the tone. I’m quite curious to see how these would go in a set of old Hardies or a set of Shepherds, pipes commonly associated with being rather quiet. I wonder if they can take the edge off and benefit from the harmonic-ness of these reeds. I would like to give them a go still in my 1950’s Henderson’s and Bryan’s Marr bagpipes. So, don’t take this review so much as negative, but I guess I had different expectations (less roughness), or, I wasn’t sure what to expect, as their old design was a very good one and I wasn’t sure where else the tone could be taken.

    Looking forward to playing some Robertson’s David!

    I will say those Colin Kyo pipes were solid as a rock. I only bothered to tune the drones once at the very beginning. Then followed about 3-5 shots at playing each wedding tune correctly before arriving at what you hear above, so not bad, very stable; especially considering the harmonics off those tenors (wiping the drool off my keyboard). At band practice when tuning these Colin Kyo pipes on Bryan’s shoulder I’ll stick my head between his tenors and just bask in the tenor glory. Now I just gotta pony up and buy my own set of Colin Kyo pipes!

  3. Hi Patrick,

    Glad the Henderson reeds arrived safely to you.

    I was curious about these reeds, as I had heard that they had “a brighter, more brilliant sound”. I usually associate brighter with buzzier, and higher harmonics. And these recordings are pretty much what I expected. Still nice nonetheless, Just not my kind of sound.

    On to the Kyo’s, Now I’m not a giant fan of Cannings, despite his customer service. They just didn’t sound that good in my pipes, in my opinion. However, I’m completely amazed at how the tennors sound in those Kyo’s. I’m astonished. That is an excellent tone right there, and I agree with you about the glory that they produce. My personally sound would be that tennor sound, with a mor domminant bass. Try both Kinnaird bass’ in the Kyo’s, and let me know how they sound and perform, because that’s and awesome sound, I’m just curious to see if they can produce my refined sound that’s in my head.

    I’m searching for a new solo instrument also, so I’m looking and listening.



  4. Definitely Austin,
    The flat old Kinnaird bass was a little odd, the new Evolution a little buzzy but I’ll try it and record it for you along with a regular old Kinnaird bass. I’ll go do that right now! I’m still looking for a bigger bass too!

  5. Very interesting comparison with the new Evolution reeds! I love the use of the graph, very scientific of you :) But really it does help us get a better footing on whats really going on.

  6. You guys are killing me here. I’ve been playing 3 years and still trying to hear what you hear. I’m pretty good at knowing when I’m out of tume anyway. Oh yes, I’m using the new Cannings in my drones and tenors on my Kyo pipes with a rather week Husk reed. (If there is such a thing) I wondered why they sound so good. Great post Patrick!!!! Love playing your music, even with all your “mistakes.” ;-)

  7. Hey Keith,
    So, when can I buy a set of Jeffers drone reeds? I’m not sure these Evolution are the ticket.

    Yo Braxton,
    Glad to hear you’re using Cannings and Husk in your Kyo’s, good combo.

  8. Haha! Well, I have been talking with some tone guys and pros (including you and the stuff we talked about some time ago) about materials for bodies and tongues….. I have some really good ideas! I made a bass reed that would melt any piper!

    My biggest problem right now is time, not ideas! I haven’t had a chance to stop making drones for custom orders to even begin working something up for the drone reeds.

  9. Melt any piper? Keith, send it right over, and I’ll just have to see how hot it is.. :)

  10. Haha! Working on it Austin! If I can catch up on drone orders then I will send you one right over. I have decided to change the idea with them a little bit as I think the thin Cane tongue I put on the prototype won’t last very long. So there is a little snippet for you, it does have a “treated” cane tongue on it. Of all the stuff I have tried for making drone reeds I just can’t find any material that has the tone I get from using a cane tongue on a synthetic body. The problem is that, cane is cane is cane so there is always the obstacle of keeping them stable, I have some Ideas, however.
    The body material is yet to be determined, but, I have narrowed it down to two different ones. I’ll probably have to send both out to all of my “testers” to know which one works best….. Hey, I know a lot about piping, but I don’t know everything, that’s why I ask for the help of my fellow pipers ;)

  11. I’ll note the Ackland reeds I was testing for Terry had cane tongues on a synthetic body but ultimately they were no different than cane reeds because they wouldn’t stabilize. I’m just wondering if all we need to do is have a tongue with a rounded top like cane. Just something to change the waveform a little bit.

  12. I made a full set of glass fiber tongued reeds that had rounded tips to them. They were nice, but…. not quite right in the end, I had strike-in issues with the bass reed. I think I played them a couple of times and then just put them away and I’ve never touched them since. I do think the rounded tips are a good idea and they are cool looking to boot. If I remember correctly it did smooth the sound out a bit on them. The interesting thing about these reeds was the tongue nor the body was curved, I’ll let you figure that one out on your own :)
    Having said that I play a cane bass reed in my pipes right now until I find or make something that I’m happy with.


    1. Hey Keith, actually I wasn’t thinking of the tips of the reeds at all, but the actual body of the blade. Cane tongues are cut from cylinders, so what if the synthetic tongue were literally some part of a cylinder, that is, round on top the whole length of the tongue. Imagine cutting a cylinder rod of carbon fiber in half and using that as the tongue. Probably wouldn’t work in half exactly, probably a little less.

      In other news, to prevent spam, comments are only open for 14 days, so I have no idea if you’ll be able to reply to this because I had to use the admin features to reply.

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