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Drone Tuning: It's 90% Logic, and Only 10% "Ear"
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Drone Tuning: It's 90% Logic, and Only 10% "Ear"

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I think the number one reason people quit bagpipes is due to frustration with tuning. It's true, it's no easy task. But most people make it way harder than it should be.

First of all, there's no such thing as "in tune." Nope. Forget about it. No matter how close you get to being perfectly tuned, there are always tweaks that could be made to improve it. Bagpipe harmonics extend way beyond the human range of hearing, and therefore there are degrees of "in-tune-ness" that we couldn't even hear if we wanted to.

So, my point? Stop trying to tune your pipes! Instead, just try to get them a little bit closer to being in tune. Think you can do that? Of course you can. Today you'll get them a bit closer than yesterday. Tomorrow, you'll get them a bit better than today. A week from now, you'll be a much better drone tuner than you are today. A year from now? Five years from now?

Drone Tuning LogicAll you need to be able to hear using this process is whether or not the tuning gets better, or worse. For the rest, we'll use logic.

Cork off everything but your two tenor drones. Then blow up and listen to them. Are they in tune? Who the heck knows! Let's move one of them a liiiitle bit. Does it sound better or worse? If it sounds better, keep going in that direction. If it sounds worse, go back in the other direction. Repeat this process 10 ten times. I bet you've just gotten those two drones pretty close together.

Let's say we can get our drones in tune. Now, how do they compare to the chanter? Who knows! But, we can make a move, and evaluate whether or not our move made things sound better or worse. Repeat this several times, and viola! Your bagpipe is a heck of a lot better tuned than when you started.

You will develop your "ear" over time. Don't stress about it! Just use simple logic, and simple "better" or "worse" judgements to work yourself into tune. Remember, not even the greats can perfectly tune their pipes. They just get them really darned close! And it all came from many, many, many trial and error moves.

Try it!

Meanwhile, if you'd like some tuning help and insight, Dojo University is for you! Check out the tuning section of our site - click here now!

Also, check out the tuning gear we sell at PipersDojo.com!

Happy tuning!

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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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