It’s common for pipers to consider themselves a “wet” or “dry” blower. But calling yourself a “wet” blower or a “dry” blower is basically bagpiper jargon. Neither is true. No one expels wetter or dryer air than anyone else. Part I discussed what is really happening when things are “wet” or “dry.” In Part II we dive into the trouble and the solution.
Let’s look at the earlier two things from Part 1 that change what should be constant conditions. Different pipers will force air into their bag with different frequency and speed. More frequent shallower breaths puts warmer air into the bag more frequently. Evaporation is reduced since air is not held at constant pressure, increasing the amount of moisture to be condensed as a result of different temperatures. Fewer, deeper breaths means warm air is going into the bag less frequently, keeping temperatures more constant. Constant pressure means that evaporation is increased, thus reducing the moisture to be condensed.
All pipers will fall at different places between these two extremes. Trouble with moisture in your pipes is trouble with temperature. And the trouble with temperature is affected by your ability to keep the air in your bag at a constant pressure. So, what do you do? Well, many pipers might spend lots of money on complicated moisture control systems and new pipe bags, but they only deal with symptoms of the trouble. Like the majority of bagpipe issues, solving moisture problems means exploring your grasp of fundamentals. In this case, your ability to produce good sound.
Producing Good Sound IS Moisture Control
Applying the fundamentals of good sound production on the bagpipe will address the underlying factors related to accumulating moisture. Newer pipers tend to be unsteady blowers for a time and require easier, playable reeds. (And even experienced pipers are not always aware of the degree of their own unsteadiness and its contribution to moisture problems.) An unsteady blower, one who is unable to keep a stable pressure on the bag, may take more frequent and shorter breaths. Unsteadiness might also be due to blowing/exhaling too long relative to the amount of inhale or squeezing. Depending on surrounding conditions, this generates inconstancy of internal temperatures in your bag that will speed up condensation and create moisture troubles. Once you achieve control over your blowing steadiness and your ability to maintain a full pressure on the bag at all times, you will be breathing at a more constant frequency and depth. The temperature variables and changes in the bag are reduced. Equilibrium between saturation (humidity) and evaporation is established and condensation happens at a controllable, predictable rate.
The Solution is Steady Blowing at the “Sweet Spot”
Before you start considering heavy-duty moisture systems and new pipe bags, a good place to start would be the root of the cause: Your blowing steadiness and optimal sound production. In Dojo U terms, that is blowing at the “sweet spot,” the point where your chanter reed is vibrating at its fullest, at all times. Now, moisture is always a consideration for all pipers. But its controllability and predictability is what you are shooting for. Water traps and moisture-control systems in the bag work their best when they are managing moisture, not eliminating it. But those systems will never do their proper job if the fundamental skill of blowing a full and steady bagpipe is not developed. Working with a manometer or pressure gauge to diagnose your blowing/squeezing cycle to develop that fundamental skill will greatly reduce the troubles caused by moisture extremes in the bagpipe.
For more insight into managing moisture and improving your sound production on the bagpipe, check out these Dojo U classes.