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Wind Instrument Care and Maintenance



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WOODWIND

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Woodwind instruments should never be submitted to extreme changes in temperature, or placed near any form of heating or in direct sunlight. The woodwork should be oiled occasionally with olive oil - in hot or dry climates this should be done every week.


Simple System D Flute

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Wooden Flute Maintenance
This is PREVENTATIVE maintenance - cracks in flutes occur because simple precautions are not taken. So please take note of these points, which are collated from advice given by Williams, Ormiston and other experienced woodwind manufacturers:-

Always take the flute apart after playing. This allows the moisture to dry out better without getting into the wood. Store it away from extremes of temperature, and keep it wrapped in a cloth or in a case, so it can adjust gradually to climate changes.
Before assembling a new flute, grease the cork tenons with vaseline or cork grease. This will aid assembly and make the joints perfectly airtight. You should take great care at all times when assembling the flute, the joints should be brought together with a twisting motion and not pushed straight on.
Occasionally when the flute is dry - i.e before playing (it needs to be left a full day since it was last played), push through the wooden sections a cotton rag dampened with ALMOND OIL (from a chemist). This prevents moisture getting into the wood. You can also rub a little oil into the outside of the flute. The bore needs oiling once a week for a couple of months when the flute is new, then monthly, and finally after the first year, and for older flutes, six monthly will be often enough.
After playing remove excess moisture from the bore with a dry cotton rag on a pull through, or with a loose fitting flute mop. This prevents localised wet patches.
For the first month play only 1/2 hour at a practise session. Playing time can be gradually increased after this. This allows the wood to gradually acclimatize to the moisture.
If the joints are loose then wind on a little cotton evenly along the length of the joint. Pull the cotton through a piece of beeswax to wax the thread first.
If the joints become stiff and dry don't force them together. Rub on a little joint grease (from a music shop). Vaseline is O.K. but needs renewing frequently. If the joints are cork lapped, remove any grease from the tenon, and gently sand it with 200/400 grade abrasive paper until it is a smooth fit.


Climate Problems
Woodwind instruments should never be submitted to extreme changes in temperature, or placed near any form of heating or in direct sunlight. All woodwind instruments perform best when played regularly, otherwise they tend to dry out. Store it away from extremes of temperature, and keep it wrapped in a cloth or in a case, so it can adjust gradually to climate changes. Cracks in woodwind are usually caused by a damp instrument drying out too fast. You can avoid most problems by not allowing the damp to get into the wood in the first place, by oiling the bore, and greasing the joints, and then by wiping out excess moisture after playing.


Great Highland Bagpipes

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Advice for beginners


Bagpipes can be troublesome instruments and require good care and maintenance. In time you will need to become familiar with the workings of reeds, but when your pipes are new and you are in the first stages of learning, it is best to leave the reeds well alone if at all possible. It is unwise to remove the chanter from its stock to expose the reed unless you really have to, as it is extremely easy to cause damage when reassembling.

Always ensure the chanter is supported so it can not fall out of the stock when you pick up the pipes. Dropped cracked chanters and consequently mangled reeds are not covered by the guarantee! If any of the joints should dry out and become loose, extra waxed thread can be applied, and Vaseline or cork grease to lubricate and seal. Don't overdo the thread - it should be an easy push fit.

Always keep the pipes in a case except when actually in use.

Scottish Smallpipe Reeds


By John Rutzen
  • Don't ever blow a chanter reed with the mouth. To try out a reed suck from the staple end.
  • Squeeze gently with long nose pliers at 'A'-'A' to open the reed. This makes it flatter, harder to blow and louder. A little alteration makes a big difference.
  • Squeezing gently at 'B'-'B' has the opposite effect i.e.. it makes the reed sharper, easier to blow and quieter.
  • Sometimes a bridle may come loose. It can be tightened by twisting the knot with pliers.
  • A reed that stops when increased pressure is applied on the bag is leaking, either at the sides or where it fits into the chanter. Apply beeswax paste around the joint between the reed and the chanter or nail varnish to the sides of the reed ( don't get it anywhere else!). ( beeswax paste is made by softening beeswax with genuine turpentine).
  • Squeals are caused by not having the fingers properly covering the chanter holes.


    Drone reeds
  • If a drone reed stops it is usually due to a bit of dirt between the reed and the brass body. Clean by slipping a sheet of paper between the cane and the brass and holding the reed closed while pulling out the paper.
  • If it still does not work, ease the tongue open carefully by bending it back. There should be a tiny gap between the end of the tongue and the body. It should sound a steady note when sucked.
  • Rubbing the reed with the back of a knife also helps to get it working.





Uilleann Pipes

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Setting the Irish Chanter Reed



The exact position of the reed in the chanter is of great importance in determining the pitch of the notes. If the reed is too far down in the reed-seat, then the upper notes of the scale will be too high - that is, they will be "sharp". On the other hand, if the reed is set too high, the upper notes will be "flat", or too low a pitch compared with the other notes of the scale.

To begin with, put the reed firmly in the reed-seat, put the chanter carefully in the pipes and play some slow tuning phrases. (Don't blow the chanter in your mouth because your ear may make you cheat. and your damp breath will ruin the reed.

All we want at this stage is that the low D and high d will be an octave apart. If you remember the singing lessons you had at school low 'D' is the "doh" and high d is the "high doh".

If the high d seems too high - that is, if it is sharp - then take the chanter out and raise the reed slightly in the reed-seat. To do this, take the reed out, wrap the hemp a little lower down, and replace the reed. Make sure the reed is firmly in the chanter.

If the high d is flat (too low a pitch) take some of the hemp off the reed (or move the hemp higher up the reed) so that the reed can be put further down in the chanter. Keep altering the setting of the reed until the two 'D's are properly In tune.


The use of the tenor drone may help you. Start drone going and by moving the joint up or down try to tune the drone to low 'D'. When the drone and the low 'D' chord together , then if the high 'd' and the low 'D' are in tune, the drone and the high 'd' will chord perfectly together.


Reed Problems



The back "D" is weak and breaks

This usually means the reed is weak, and it can be strengthened by;-

  1. 'Trimming 1/16" off the tip of the blades with a sharp knife.
  2. Opening the lips by squeezing the sides of the bridle.


A weak back "D" can also be caused by a badly made chanter. Check that the bore is conical up to the base of the reed-seat, - A cylindrical portion of bore is often the cause of weak high notes.

The Bottom D has a Gargle

  1. Try opening the blades a little.
  2. If that fails, carefully shave the base of the reed.
  3. A combination of (1) and (2).


The reed is erratic and will not jump the octave.

  1. The sides are leaking, - use bridle to close reed slightly, if this fails, use a small amount of P.V.A. adhesive to seal the sides.
  2. The corners are leaking, - trim the corners at 45 degrees slightly, this will often improve a reed and make it easier to blow.


There is much more on the subject of Irish Pipes Reeds on this:



Bagpipe

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Advice for beginners
Bagpipes can be troublesome instruments and require good care and maintenance. In time you will need to become familiar with the workings of reeds, but when your pipes are new and you are in the first stages of learning, it is best to leave the reeds well alone if at all possible. It is unwise to remove the chanter from its stock to expose the reed unless you really have to, as it is extremely easy to cause damage when reassembling.

Always ensure the chanter is supported so it can not fall out of the stock when you pick up the pipes. Dropped cracked chanters and consequently mangled reeds are not covered by the guarantee! If any of the joints should dry out and become loose, extra waxed thread can be applied, and Vaseline or cork grease to lubricate and seal. Don't overdo the thread - it should be an easy push fit.

Always keep the pipes in a case except when actually in use.

Bagpipe Reeds
The drones, and Scottish chanter reeds generally donít give much trouble, but Northumbrian, and particularly Irish chanter reeds can be a real pain. You should take great care with a good reed to make it last. You must also expect to do work on a new Irish reed to get good results in your chanter.

Care of the Wood
Specific oilings needed for bagpipes, using neatsfoot or olive oil, are as follows:
  • Pads - Weekly
  • Bellows - Six Monthly
  • Bellows valve and blowpipe valve - three monthly

    Seasoning the bag
    WARNING! The bag should not be treated with seasoning if it is made of plastic.

    If a natural skin bag starts to leak, you can usually make it airtight again by seasoning it. There are generally instructions on the can, but the basic procedure is to heat the seasoning in a saucepan, remove all the drones and chanter from the stocks, stop up all but one hole, pour in the seasoning and work it in - particularly into the seam. Leave for at least 24 hours before reassembling.



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    GU ZHENG

       
    Definition: Long Chinese zither, typically with 21 strings, also known simply as Zheng (Gu meaning ancient). Related to Japanese Koto
    Read the full Autoharps, Zithers & Dulcimers FAQ Page.
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