Sunday, March 16, 2008

After all, he was justified in being so concerned, was Jason.

Let's talk science, here (and there is an amazing amount of science involved in piping: physics for blowing, sound wave and air pressure stuff for tuning--stuff like that). Human breath, which is what is generally used to play pipes, is generally warm. In the 80s or 90s F. March 15, 2008, SLC, was cold. In the low 30s F. If you blow warm, moist air through a cold tube, all the warm moisture that comes in contact with the tube condenses out into actual liquid, as oppossed to gas. For a more easily accessible example, look at the outside of your toilet tank on a hot day in July. All those drops of water on the outside is condensed water vapor from the hot air that has come in contact with the cold porcelain of the tank.

Inside a bagpipe, if you have liquids condensing, it stops your drones from working smoothly. It also sends you careening out of tune, both in drones and chanter. This is why most pipers install a moisture control system, to catch all that moisture before it has a chance to mess up the exquisite tuning you and/or the Pipe Major has been working on for weeks/months/years on your drones and chanter.

As I said before, I do not have a moisture control system.

It also struck me that I've never played these pipes in a parade before. I bought them in October '06, after the '06 parade season. During the '07 parade season, I only played 1 note and that was on the bass drum. So this was a baptism for these pipes. Not by fire, it turns out, but by water.

As I also mentioned, it was cold. If you don't keep blowing warm air into the pipes to keep them warm, they go out of tune. So we stood there for 90 minutes, and played tunes every 5-7 minutes. There was an amazing amount of condensation inside bag, drone, chanter . . . My drones went out of tune, as did my chanter, and the drones would stop playing during the tune, off and on. And of course I was standing next to Jason, who heard everything. After every tune he was back adjusting my reed or my drones or something. Finally I said, "I don't want to stand next to you any more." He laughed and said it was a good experience, a baptism by fire, to stand next to the PM. It was a horrible mess.

To top it all off, I used up all my lip strength keeping the pipes warm, so that when we stepped off in the actual parade, I could hardly keep the bag inflated.

You try blowing into a tube really hard for 90 minutes and see if you have any lip strength left after.

I have been looking into the cost of a Ross canister moisture control system (plus drone valves). It's gonna cost me about $145 before shipping. Yuck. I also have to get Kinnaird drone reeds, as my EZ-drones 1) are not long enough to stay in tune with the new chanters we have, and 2) do not stand up to the pressure of all that liquid. Kinnairds cost about $145 as well. Here are their qualities:

Kinnaird's unique curved carbon fiber tongue produces in a vibrant, rich cane sound. An o-ring bridle is used for tuning adjustments. Fine tuning can be done using an additional adjustment screw. These reeds are incredibly steady and require very little maintenance.

We're talking $300 here, with shipping if I order this stuff online. On the other hand, I won't have the liquid problem DISASTER I had on Saturday, and I'll be able to play both tenor drones, instead of just one. Luckily March has 5 weeks so I get an extra paycheck. And I'm working lots of extra hours this week and next, in trade for hours people are picking up for me when we are in NC/SC the first week in April.
On the other hand, the rest of the parades we have this year will be played in hot, dry weather.

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