Posted on | March 1, 2013 | by Vince Janoski | 4 Comments
Wherein Pipehacker purchases and test drives assorted bagpipe junk from ebay—so you don’t have to.
If you spend any time sorting through the bagpipe offerings on Ebay you’ve seen them. The strange and wonderful variety of “off-brand” drone reeds from just about every continent on Earth. Serious pipers will simply give these goofy entries a passing glance without ever, in a gazillion years, putting them in their drones. But if you were to really outfit yourself from things on Ebay, where would you begin? Well, for a first go let’s take Synthetic Drone Reeds for Great Sound.
The Ebay entry for these drone reeds make a bold claim, right there in their name. Like an offer from the devil himself. Where do I sign Mr. Lucifer? Firstly, let me say that the Ebay entry claimed the reeds were coming from Canada. As you can see from the label though, these reeds have been through the Arabian peninsula on their way to the USA. Here, in all its glory, is the package as it arrived.
Wow, it even came with a chanter reed to get me up and running! The chips were free I think. These drone reeds are not unlike Achiltibuie Highland Reed’s Balance Tone Drone Reeds, those yellow contraptions that have a lot of unique design elements. Not unique enough apparently, because some enterprising Pakistani manufacturer thought the ideas were good too. Here is Highland Reed’s Balance Tone:
And here are the Great Sound reeds.
Sweet mercy. It’s almost like I’m looking at “good” and “evil” versions. Like these red ones were shat from the bowels of Beelzebub himself. These “de’il red” reeds have the same back tuning slide mechanism and white plug “on/off” switch features as the Balance Tone. They even have the moisture grooves, which are designed to move condensing moisture away from the tongue. All clever concepts. Let’s see if the reds make use of them and live up to their promise.
Yes, I am going to put these demonspawn reeds into my Atherton MacDougals and, though uneager, into my mouth. Isn’t this fun? These reeds are made of a plastic that almost seems like modeling wax. Let’s hope they don’t melt when I play them and ruin my stocks.
The first step is to take off the mummy wrappings on the tenons of these things and replace it with actual hemp.
Getting the reeds going was a challenge as I expected. They took air, so I adjusted the bridle slightly, then they shut off. The white nose plug was no help on these. Turning the plug was either an “on” or “off” affair. They either played or they didn’t. There was no sweet spot. They take so much air to play it’s like someone poked a hole in my lung. They are so hard to keep steady and my arm was moving so much that I might as well be playing an accordion. It was a true effort and I was spent after a little while of trying to make them work. Thus, they are the drone reeds you will be condemned to play at Satan’s unholy ceilidh for all eternity should you not live well and do right by your fellow man. Fair warning, pipers.
Once I was able to get the reeds going, I attempted to “tune” them. Here is where they ended up tuning.
What you don’t see is that the top joint of my bass is so far up it’s about to fall off. I would fit right in with the Hades & District Pipe Band.
I suppose this is where I comment on the “sound.” There are some sounds that should never exist in the world. The strange bleats of a deformed two-headed calf before it is put down is one that comes to mind. These reeds are another. They have a deep mellow sound akin to the wailing of damned spirits being punished in horrible ways by three-eyed, scaly demons. Listen to the drones alone.
I have goosebumps. And here, ladies and gentlemen, is the “Sword Dance of the Damned.”
By all that is holy, I think the reeds were draining my soul. I now have to disassemble my drones and take them to a priest for exorcism. There is only one possible path for these reeds and that is to send them back into the hellfire pit from whence they came. Synthetic Drone Reeds for Great Sound…in Hell!