Reeds can sometimes change from the time they leave our facility to when they are received by the customer.  This document is to assist those who are having problems setting up their reeds in their Gibson’s small pipes.
With the Gibson fireside and Ceilidh pipes, the drones do not like being up high on the tuning slides.  Just like the Gibson’s Great Highland Bagpipes, we recommend only about 3/8” between the ferrule and the tone chamber.  If the drones are tuned too high on the slides they will tend to warble and not tune properly.


This valve is small in size and special so as not to produce a lurching sound when you are blowing the small pipes or Ceilidh’s.  A regular valve such as a Lil Mac will require too much force to blow open due to the vacuum that is created by the moisture from your mouth and will cause the pipe to be unsteady and may lurch every time you blow into the bag.  These specially designed valves are a must for satisfactory blowing on the Gibson small pipes and Ceilidh’s.  Remember, these small pipes are like blowing a practice chanter only requiring a light air output.


When the drones are too loose in the regulator this is usually due to a lack of ample grease on the bottom of the regulator.  To rectify this issue, you can place some Vaseline or soft bees wax to smear a film of product between the regulator and regulator stock (the portion of the small pipes that is tied into the bag).  You want to ensure that both small holes in the bag stock and the regulator are free of any grease type material and not restricted in any manner.  The film of grease prevents air from escaping and acts as a seal.  The regulator shall also be checked to ensure it is bottomed out and set fully into the regulator stock.


The newly designed Gibson small pipe reeds are designed to be adjustable in strength and volume. This allows you to customize the sound of your small pipes by adjusting each individual reed to the desired volume. Strength and volume of the reeds will increase and decrease together. To increase the strength and volume of your reeds, slide the elastic down, toward the hemp of the reed. The elastic can go all the way over the part of the reed that is covered in white tape, and completely below the reed blades in order to make the reed the hardest and loudest possible. If this is not hard/loud enough, you can try very lightly pinching the reed sideways to open up the sound box of the reed. To decrease the strength and volume of your reeds, slide the elastic further up onto the blades. It can go up as far as you would like in order to achieve the desired strength/volume.


When this occurs it usually means that the reed has increased in strength since leaving the factory.  To rectify this issue, remove the regulator and drone together and as a combination and with the reed still seated in it and blow lightly through the small hole in the regulator.  If the drone tends to double tone or growl before blowing correctly it may be an indication that the reed is too strong.  Remove the reed and with 220 grit wet/dry sandpaper lightly sand the first ¼ inch of both sides of the lips of the reed.  Do not over sand the reed, as only lightly sanding the reed may correct the issue.  Once sanded on both sides, reinsert the reed into the drone and retest as stated above.  You may need to repeat the sanding process over a few applications.  Always test through the regulator stock as the drone should tone evenly.  You may also attempt to lightly squeeze the sound box of the reed down smoothly.


You can tune the reed up (sharpen it) by using a sharp pair of scissors or blade and snip off about 1/32 of an inch off the top of the reed.  Once this has been completed you will need to retest.  When you snip a piece off the top of the reed you are also strengthening it.  This may require a bit more sanding utilizing 220 grit wet/dry sandpaper.  The reeds can withstand a bit of sanding and several cuts before being rendered unplayable.


The above will also apply to the chanter reed.  You can sharpen the reed or “pitch it up” if it is too flat by snipping a bit off of the top of it.  Attempt to make the cut (s) as straight as possible but if the cut isn’t straight it should not make any difference in the sound quality when playing. This will sharpen the High A, E, C, and Low A.  If the reed is too sharp you can raise the reed in the reed seat to bring it into better balance.  If the reed does not sit in the reed sit appropriately, add a bit of hemp to it to tighten it into the reed seat.


On occasion, when sanding a reed you may over sand it rendering it too weak.  This situation may be solved by snipping a bit off of the top of the reed.  This should re-strengthen the reed but may in most cases raise the pitch of the reed as well.  If the reed is too sharp for the drone you can add some hemp to the reed seat and pull the reed back from the seat hole a bit thus flattening the reed in the drone.  The tenor drone reed is the most important as it sets up the balance on the chanter due to the harmonics.  The tenor drone especially wants to have an even tone when blowing.  If it warbles up and down and proven to be too weak it must be strengthened by using the methods described above.  If the reed proves to be too strong then it must be sanded down a bit.


Before any corrections are made to the reeds, you should blow the small pipes in for approximately 5-10 minutes.  This will settle the reeds.  We suggest that you begin by shutting off the bass and baritone drones then tune the tenor drone to High A, E, C, and Low A.  Once you have completed tuning the tenor drone, turn on the bass drone for an overall harmonic blend between the two drones that would sound similar to the Great Highland Bagpipe.


The baritone drone sound is most unusual for many highland bagpipe pipers.  At the beginning the drone produces a vibratory harmonic sound.  After you have become familiar with the baritone drone sound you can simply switch this drone on and blend it (tune) with the bass and tenor drones.  We recommend you play a Hi A when doing this.  For those who have never played or had experience with a baritone drone it tunes to E on the chanter, not Low A.  If you attempt to tune the baritone drone to Low A it will produce a vibratory harmonic sound.
When first learning how to tune your new small pipes and familiarizing yourself with the sound from the baritone drone, we recommend that you shut off both the tenor and bass drone and tape down the D, C, and B chanter finger holes which will allow you to play a proper E note with one hand on the chanter and the other tuning the drone.  You will want to tune the drone until you have a perfect harmonic sound between the drone and the chanter with no wavering.
Once you have accomplished this, you can then turn on the bass and tenor drones.  You may have to lightly adjust the baritone drone to achieve a solid drone blend between all three drones.  On occasion, the baritone drone is tuned perfectly but may sound to be too dominant within the blend.  If so, slightly sand the baritone reed lips to reduce the reeds bold sound.


A long crafters pipe cleaner is ideal for this application. Simply run the pipe cleaner
through the various drone bores and entire length of the drones and chanter to clean.


We do not recommend any bore oils as they may swell the bores and change the
characteristic of the small pipe harmonic sound.