Drone Reed Squealing

Copyright 1996 David C. Daye
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For drone reed squealing you have to have a working knowlege of what's right for your drones. If you've reeded these pipes often before, it can be straightforward to check out your current reeds and spot the problem. If you're a new piper it may take some detective work.

Drone reed squeals have a few common causes.

If the reed is basically made right and is the right dimensions for the drone, the bridle is likely too tight or too high up on the tongue (may have needed to be put there if the tongue has been bent up too much). Re-wrapping the bridle a bit looser would cure a tight bridle; if the bridle is high because of an over-sprung tongue, the tongue can be straightened or re-sprung to a lesser amount. Tie the free end shut, or using some sort of wedge, propped just slightly higher than desired for playing. Carefully run a match flame along the tongue from bridle to mid-length to re-set the bend. It (cane) just has to get hot, doesn't need to discolor or burn. Replace the bridle at a lower location. Click here to see a 20kb diagram of heat-setting the drone reed tongue.

There could be problems in the manufacture of the reed. The tongue might be too thick & stiff. In dry-blown pipes this is easily cured by removing the bridle, carefully scraping the outside bark of the tongue to thin it very slightly in the region from the base of the tongue and extending up 1/2 the length toward the free end. Personally I've usually ended up with unstable raucous reeds in the Highland pipes when I've done this. I've experimented with drilling out the interior to thin the tongue from the inside (you have to wrap the whole reed with string or thread to effectively rejoin the tongue to the body, so as not to twist or break while you file or drill out the interior) and had a little more luck for Highland drone reeds than by scraping the outside.

The last common reason for squeals is that the reed may be the wrong dimensions for your particular drone. The bore diam of the reed should be just a bit less than that of the first section of drone into which it fits. If it's much smaller, the reed tends to be loud and unstable and may squeal. If it's too big, you get a dull muted sound.

That's everything I know, and possibly more (!), about squealing drone reeds.

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