I asked a few players in and around the band - what's you're setup routine at the beginning of each practice? Most people sort of blinked at me, and there were a few who took at stab at describing their haphazard process to me. And this is a Grade 1 band I'm talking about!
I was stunned to find that folks didn't have an easy, reliable, repeatable process that they used every time. That's what I have! That's how I can get my sound zoned in each time I play.
Aaaanyhow, here's what the Pipe Major and I came up with to teach the group, and ensure we could get a great sound every time:
Every time you play your pipes, you should have an easy checklist you perform to make sure you set yourself up to be able to produce great tonal quality and tuning. Here are 5 sure-fire steps that you should use:
- Check bag for air-tightness
- Check stock-joints for air-tightness
- Check reed-seats for air-tightness.
- Calibrate 1 drone to your chanter reed.
- Calibrate the other 2 drones to the first drone (thus completing the calibration process).
This is a very easy, logical list to remember, so it's easy to repeat every single day.
(By the way, you can click here for a tour of how to actually perform these steps. We also have an instrument fundamentals course that exhaustively goes through all of this stuff!
Now, the first few times you go through the 5 steps, there are elements that may take a while. You may need to season your bag if you haven't done it in a while. You may need to re-hemp some joints and reed-seats. You may need to spend a good amount of time getting the calibration right on your drone reeds.
However, the next time you play, this process will go much faster. If you play every day, within a few days these 5 steps will simply be a mental checklist that you just need to double-check before you start playing.
Try these steps for a full week of practice sessions. I betcha you'll experience a huge improvement in your comfort and sound quality!