We built the “bagpipe tree of sound” here at the Dojo to show, quite literally, how to “grow” your bagpipe sound from the ground up. Every single thing you do with your bagpipe - from tying on the bag, seasoning it, blowing it, and of course tuning it has an effect on the sound that it makes. It seems obvious, but the objective, of course, is to produce the best bagpipe sound possible at all times.
We think that working to achieve a great bagpipe sound is easy - we just have to do things in the right order. For example - how can you tune a bagpipe that isn’t airtight yet? Or, how can you tune it if the reeds aren’t set up properly? Or, and even better question: How can you tune it if you’re not able to blow steadily, or you’re not able to produce a good “timbre” with your pipes?
Of course, you can’t tune your pipes without the other stuff in line. That is why tuning is at the absolute top (end) of the tree of sound!
With that in mind, have a look at the (exact) order we focus on things here at the Dojo when it comes to producing and teaching great sound.
- Make sure the bag is airtight (season if applicable)
- Check the joints in all of the stocks to make sure they are tight, and no air could leak out.
- Check 4 reed seats and the flapper valve to make sure no air could sneak out where it’s not supposed to.
- Make sure the drone reeds are calibrated to the strength of the chanter reed. You don’t want the drones taking any more air than they have to. This will also make your drones easier to tune.
- Learn to blow steadily at the sweet spot of your bagpipe. Where is the sweet spot?
- Make sure your fingerwork never changes your blowing pressure (we call this “mental” blowing technique)
- Lastly, work on the art of fine tuning your pipes.
All of this is a routine that all players should go through every single time they play their pipes. If you do little touch ups regularly, you won’t have to spend hours every day - rather, it’ll be just minutes.
You’ll notice tuning comes last. That’s the key thing you should take away here. It’s not to say that you shouldn’t get yourself roughly in tune as you practice and play - but there’s no point trying to fine tune your pipes unless all the other ducks are in a row first.