Home Media News & Blog 4 Reasons You're Struggling to Tune Your Pipes (That Have Nothing to Do with Tuning...)
4 Reasons You're Struggling to Tune Your Pipes (That Have Nothing to Do with Tuning...)

4 Reasons You're Struggling to Tune Your Pipes (That Have Nothing to Do with Tuning...)

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Tuning Fork
This is a tuning fork, used for tuning instruments before the era of analog and digital tuning machines.

Obviously bagpipes have to be in tune in order for people to want to listen to them.

However, at least 90% of tuning problems are caused not by a lack of solid tuning technique, but by problems with the foundation of your instrument.

Yep. That's right. Can't get the drones to lock in? I bet you don't have your instrument set up correctly, or that you're not blowing solidly.

Can't figure out how to get your drone in tune with Low A? Well... is the Low A even consistent enough in pitch to be tuned whatsoever?

"Just can't hear" whether or not something is in tune? I bet your bagpipe is just not reliable enough for you to relax and spend some time really listening in to what's happening.

Here are 4 key elements to consider BEFORE you even THINK about thinking you have a tuning problem:

Your bagpipes aren't efficient enough.

So, if you are struggling for air, or leaking air through any single solitary area of your pipes, how can you expect to have the steadiness of blowing, peace of mind (and energy), and stability that you need in order to tune your pipes?

Bagpipe efficiency, and making sure to do your 4 key "launch steps" every time you get your pipes out of the box, are the #1 priority every time you play.

Your drone reeds aren't calibrated properly.

If a drone reed is taking too much air - will it be more or less stable than a reed that's taking the perfect amount of air? (You guessed it - it'll be LESS stable!)

Making sure all three drone reeds are perfectly calibrated is an absolute pre-requisite to good tuning. No calibration? No tuning. It's as simple as that.

You aren't allowing to reeds to fully vibrate.

Just like a car, a golf swing, a hot-water heater, a speaker-system, etc -- Bagpipes have a pressure at which reeds vibrate at their ultimate efficiency.

Indeed, there is a certain pressure where the reed produces maximum harmonics, without risking any squeaks, squawks, or other unwanted sounds.

What is that ideal pressure, and are you producing that pressure consistently while you're trying to tune? If you're not absolutely sure the answer is yes, then you STILL don't have a tuning problem! (You've got a bagpipe problem, silly!)

Your blowing is unsteady

This one is kind of obvious. If you're not blowing steadily, that means your pitch isn't steady either. And, how can you tune an unsteady pitch?

Be sure, before you get frustrated with tuning, that you're blowing steadily. Get out an old-school manometer, and focus on your physical and mental blowing technique, to make sure you're steady enough to expect a good result from your tuning efforts.

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Andrew Douglas Andrew is a prolific practitioner of the bagpipe, having been active at the highest level of pipe bands, solo competition, teaching, and creative endeavors for the past 20 years. He's also the founder and creator of Dojo U and of PipersDojo.com

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