The Effect of Moisture on your Bagpipe Reed
by Chris Apps
 
I had a customer contact me recently explaining that he loved the reeds I was supplying him but after playing for 15-20 minutes the F started to double tone. I turned out that he was playing his pipe with no moisture control system whatsoever and the reed was just getting soaked.

It is important that bagpipe reeds receive the correct amount of moisture in order for them to play at their best. If chanter reeds are played too dry they will tend to be sharp on the top hand, especially the high G, thin in tone and may have a tendency to chirp or squeal. If they are too wet they will sound dull, may buckle on the F and have a shorter life. Asking how much moisture is needed is like asking ‘how long is a piece of string? The answer will depend on the climate and who is playing. If you are playing at altitude or in a very arid climate it may be best to play without a moisture control system fitted to the pipes. If playing in a humid environment or you are a wet blower then a moisture control system is important. Synthetic reeds play best with little or no moisture whatsoever. On the other hand, cane reeds enjoy some moisture.

Your reed’s performance is dependent on many variables. Not least of which is moisture content. If your reed is acting up it may be that the moisture in your pipes may need some form of control. If the problem is one of those listed here then check the moisture levels first as this may resolve the issue. Remember that all variables need to be considered, checked and maintained regularly if you are to enjoy the full benefit of your bagpipe reeds.

If you have any questions concerning your own set-up please feel free to contact me and I will do my best to help you get the best from your reeds.

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