Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tuning and Blowing

Here's how tuning the band goes:

First the chanters:

All the pipers stand in a circle with about 3 feet between each. Jason walks around and individually has us play a scale along with him, listening to see if we are in tune with him or not. Usually, after the scale, much adjusting of reeds or moving of tape happens to make all the chanters in tune with him.

After everybody is basically tuned, we start a set with drones tapped off. Sean or Tyler is assigned to tap to keep us in time, and Jason walks around and listens to each chanter against a background of all the other chanters.

Then the drones:

Once the chanters are in tune, we start another set with drones on and Jason goes around again, sometimes with Sean or Tyler's assistance, and tunes everybody's drones. Usually, he makes one more circuit to hear how everything sounds together. And then we are tuned.

For the moment.

Last night I tuned my drones rather hurridly, and gave a half turn to my reed to bring the higher notes into tune. As I played my march for warm up, I realized I would not make it through even 15 minutes of practice without a major accident. I had to run to the 7-11 and take care of that. I showed up back at practice as everybody was in Chanters Step I. There was much moving of tape and adjusting of reeds taking place with everybody until Jason got to Sean, who had evidently spent a lot of time getting all his notes just exactly right, because he required no adjustments whatsoever. (Or else he practiced a lot, which will keep your pipes in tune, too.) I was envious that Sean was so good at tuning (or practicing) and I was not. A couple more people got their reeds adjusted, and then it was my turn.

Just for a little variety, instead of starting from low G and going up, Jason started from high A and went down. I obediently mimicked the notes he played. Instead of taking out my chanter and adjusting tape or reed, he just . . . walked away! How cool is that?

I was definitely having trouble staying awake, and my fingers weren't taking up the memory slack, so I made quite a few slips. Ugh.

After about 90 minutes of practicing, including marching into the circle, we had the opportunity to have our bags tested for leaks. I took all the drones and chanter off, stripped off the bag cover and plugged all holes. When blown up, the bag did not lose air at all, not even slow aire (sorry, I had to). It was pronounced sound.

NOTE TO SELF: check all my hemping: reeds, all drone joints, chanter and blowpipe. They all need to be tight so that no air is leaking out of wrong places, making the chanter difficult to play because there isn't enough air left to play the tune.

NOTE TO SELF: also remember to dampen the sponge inside the moisture control system.

As the bag was being examined, Jason commented that he noticed my blowing was much more steady when he was tuning drones. Since I fixed the squeaking problem, I've been working on making my blowing more steady. It seems like I am making progress. Yeah! Jack asked me how I had done it. I didn't have much advice to give him, except to concentrate on blowing and keeping the bag inflated and hard throughout the tune.

It was nice of them to say anything.

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