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TOPIC: Finding it tough........

Finding it tough........ 10 months 1 week ago #546

  • Sanderson1361
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I bought a set of 90's poly Kinnear pipes a couple of years ago, but have done very little with them in that time. Ian has made me a new reed. New valves have been fitted. There are no leaks in bag nor bellows.

Now I am making a concerted effort to actually play the things, I'm finding it's taking me a lot of physical effort. I have been in long term recovery from an accident, and have had damage to both hands and wrists, and my left arm had to be rebuilt with plates and pins, but I have recovered well and don't think that's the problem.

My right arm is getting tired easily, when it does I find it impossible to make smooth strokes, and the fingers on the low notes keep slipping off the chanter holes, only very slightly, but enough to make the notes wobble. I also seem to need nearly as much pressure on the bag as I do for my GHB, which came as a surprise to me. I literally build up a fair sweat after a few minutes of pumping and squeezing. I am also finding the bellows are actually bruising my right arm from where I pump them, leaving some nice shades of blue and green. :blink:

I read on other forums about people picking up bellows technique in an afternoon. I am finding it physically tough. Do I just need to build up muscle tone a bit? I can't think it's that necessary as I see some young girls getting good results without turning into red faced sweaty gargoyles. :blush:
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Finding it tough........ 10 months 1 week ago #547

  • Tunni
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Personally I'd give absolutely no credence to the brigade of instant masters. Have a listen on youtube to some of the conceited, self indulgent bull that gets posted there and know that perception can be very different for different people.

You play GHB, there can barely be a harder instrument to get a decent sound from. How long did it take before even Scotland the Brave sounded half way right, 2 years?

Don't expect any other instrument to be any different. They all take long periods of practice and manipulation before muscle memory is established and technique relaxes. If it is any boon to you I've had my border pipe almost 2 years now and still sweat like an MP filling an expenses form every time I pick the thing up and yep the bruising on the arm and the pain in the wrist all feature too. There is nothing to do but keep with it and work through it if you want to get there.
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Finding it tough........ 10 months 1 week ago #548

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Adam,

There is no way that you should be having the problems you describe. I do not believe that YOU are the problem. The key is in your statement that you seem to be playing at as high a pressure as your GHB. This is wrong. Your smallpipes should be playing at about 15 inches of water gauge, maybe a little more but nothing like GHB. So the question is 'where is all the air going and why are you having to pump so hard to get a decent sound?'
Ian makes great pipes, so if he actually laid hands on them, you would not be having these problems. No doubt the chanter reed was okay when it left him. But is it now? My guess, and it can only be a guess since I haven't seen your pipes, is that the chanter reed has opened up. That can mean that the gap at the 'working end' is now too large or that it is leaking along the side.
Take the reed out and look at it along the edge where the two pieces of cane meet. Any sign of a leak? Put your finger over the end of the reed (to close it off) and suck through the staple end. NO air should come in when you suck. Under NO circumstances blow into the reed. Any leak is bad news but not necessarily terminal.
If the working end has opened up too much, this is easily rectified by gentle pressure on the reed itself or by gentle pressure on the bridle. I would recommend sticking to finger pressure on the bridle - too risky to use anything else.
Hope that is some help,
George.

afterthought, in addition to the above, I suppose that the drones might be taking too much air, but I still suspect the chanter. Close off some or all of the drones to see - bluetack works very well.
Last Edit: 10 months 1 week ago by ggreig. Reason: typo
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Finding it tough........ 10 months 1 week ago #549

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George has a good point there. My piping is a struggle against physical limits as we have both described but my piping was also made considerably easier when I mustered the courage to treat my border pipe reeds like I would have my GHB ones. When I closed my chanter reed with a judicious pinch the air use became significantly more efficient and the tone and stability of the tone improved massively. If you've had experience manipulating ghb reeds it may well be worth a go putting some of that knowledge into use.
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Finding it tough........ 10 months 1 week ago #550

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Gentlemen, thank you very much for your replies.
I checked the reed for leaks and it is airtight. It looked as thought it might have opened up a bit. I closed off the chanter reed mouth a small amount, but the difference is not small.
It's a B flat chanter that I have never managed to land on B flat without enormous effort, but now it sits there quite comfortably without too much effort. The chanter is also quieter, sounds a bit more mellow, and I can hear the drones more clearly.

I have just played for about 10 minutes without breaking sweat or feeling that I was training in a gym rather than learning to play a musical instrument. Now I have to learn to play with less pressure, as the drones are all over the place when it comes to tuning. Still, it's very early days yet, and I am feeling a lot more hopeful, I really was considering bunging them up for sale a couple of days ago.
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Finding it tough........ 10 months 1 week ago #551

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Adam,

If you go to the 'Tutorial Videos' section of this site, you will see the video files which accompany 'More Power to your Elbow' Go to the last track which is of Iain MacInnes playing in Roslyn Chapel. His playing demonstrates a wonderful bellows technique. It looks effortless. This is what you should aim for. Time spent working on keeping a constant bag pressure is time well spent. Just play something simple that you can play without thinking about and concentrate on keeping the drones steady. Any change in pressure will show in a fluctuation of the pitch of the drones.

Glad that a gentle touch on the chanter reed has proved successful. Very small changes to smallpipe reeds, both chanter and drones, can have a big effect. Treated carefully, they last for a very long time.

George.
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