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The Importance of Seating Chanter Reeds

The Importance of Seating Chanter Reeds


I had just received a box of new reeds from a reputable reed maker. I was anxious to try them as I had a batch from another reed maker, also reputable, that weren’t, in my estimation, up to snuff. I tried the new reeds and, much to my dismay, they, too, sounded bad. I couldn’t achieve a true octave when played on the pipes.

The answer, as it turns out, was simple.

My instructor, at the time, noted that the reeds, both batches, were not properly seated in my chanter.

The reed seat on a chanter is conically shaped. The wide end of the cone is at the top of the chanter; the bore narrows as it approaches the throat. The hemp on the chanter reed must match, or at least approximate the bore of the chanter in order for the reed to seat properly. When properly seated, the reed will be airtight around the sides. When firmly seated, a chanter reeds tips and blades will vibrate resonantly in response to the airstream as you bring the bag up to pressure.

In addition, a properly seated chanter reed will stay in place. It will not fall out when put your chanter in your reed protector (or if you leave your chanter in the pipes). Moreover, it will not vibrate out of place as you play.

Whenever I receive a new batch of chanter reeds, I visually inspect the reeds. Then I remove the hemp that comes on the reed. I apply a new layer of hemp.

This is the method that I use (note, this is not the method, it is a method. It is a method that many pipers use; it works for me):


      2. Make tight wraps toward the bottom of the staple. Stop wrapping when about a “thread’s worth” of the staple is still showing.


      3. Make tight wraps toward the binding of the reed. Stop wrapping up when about two winds have been made around the binding.


      4. Make tight wraps down toward the bottom. Stop about a third to one-half of the way down.


    5. Tie the wrap off with one or two half hitches. Cut off the excess hemp.

After I’ve applied new hemp to the reed, I test it in the chanter. I seat the reed in the chanter and make sure that I can’t move it from side to side. I mouth blow the reed to test the octave and adjust as required. Then I test it in the pipes. If it is too strong, I can make further adjustments.

Overall, by making sure that my reeds are firmly seated in my chanter, my reeds sound better right out of the box. If you are having troubles with your chanter reeds, you might see if you reed is seated properly in your chanter. The result may surprise you.

Take Action

Selecting and Manipulating Chanter Reeds (Part 1)
Selecting and Manipulating Chanter Reeds (Part 2)
Selecting and Manipulating Chanter Reeds (Part 3)


Mark Olson Mark Olson is a software engineer in Omaha, NE. Over the years, he has played numerous musical instruments including the bagpipes, guitar, piano, flute, and saxophone. As a young man, Mark competed as a solo piper. Due to the demands of raising a family, Mark had to forgo his musical pursuits. While he regrets the fact he gave up the bagpipes, he is proud of the fact that both of his sons have grown to be fine young men. With the nest now empty, he has picked up the pipes once again. If he gets his chops, and his groove, back, he plans to compete again as a solo piper.