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Troubleshooting Corner: Overblowing

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“I keep overblowing (or underblowing) my pipes.”

This is a common complaint for folks either new to the bagpipes or a bit on in their experience.

Overblowing (or underblowing) can be identified by “surges” or big fluctuations in sound while playing. Are you one of these pipers?

There is one major issue at the heart of this difficulty, which can be one of the more frustrating aspects of this instrument. Folks might lean toward an easy fix to this problem and decide that the chanter reed is too hard or too easy. But before you reach into your box for a new reed, know that this is not the primary cause. At the heart of this issue is that you just might not know where to blow in the first place. The real problem is not your reed, or inability to blow a bagpipe, its is an inability to hit the sweet spot on the chanter reed (and this applies whether the reed is too hard or too easy).

When we produce sound on our bagpipe, we want to make sure we are producing that sound while moving the maximum amount of air and pressure through the instrument at all times. Where is that? Well, at Dojo University, that is what we call the “sweet spot” of the chanter reed.

DojosweetspotVen

To find the chanter reed’s sweet spot: Blow the amount of pressure you need to get the reed to make squeak noises on Low G. The sweet spot—the point where the reed performing at optimal vibration and therefore, sound—is just a bit below that pressure. That is the amount of pressure that must be maintained on the bag at all times. Finding that spot is easy. Keeping your blowing and squeezing pressure at that spot all the time takes practice. But, the good news is that it is practice with a big payoff in the overall quality of your bagpipe sound. Luckily, there are many classes in the Dojo U archives to help you achieve this goal.

Take Action

Click the links below for great Dojo University instruction on this topic.

Integrate a manometer into your practice routine.
Mental and Physical Blowing With a Manometer.
Blow Steady and Produce Great Tone With a Manometer
Master the physical techniques needed to produce great bagpipe sound.

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Vin Janoski Vin is a long-time piper based on the east coast of the USA. He has been on the Executive Committee of the EUSPBA and been the editor of the acclaimed Voice magazine. Recently, he has played in the Grade 1 Oran Mor Pipe Band, and the Grade 1 Stuart Highlanders pipe band. He currently produces the websites Pipehacker.com and WhiskyTunes.com.... And, needless to say, he spends way too much time than is allowed for any one person playing, writing about, and thinking about bagpiping.

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