Slipping Drones? Tighten Up Your Joints in 5 Seconds

Good bagpipe maintenance is obviously the name of the game. But, sometimes, even with good maintenance habits we can come across issues that are unavoidable.

For me, one of these issues is shrinking hemp on my joints. If I go even 24 hours without playing, my hemp shrinks, causing my joints to become loose. Dry winter air and the lack of moisture in a heated home at this time of year will always bring hemp shrinkage. It’s not because I’m neglecting my instrument, I’m simply battling the elements. If my joints are loose, a lot of problems arise:

  • The drones or chanter could literally pop out of the stocks. That could cause serious reed damage and/or severe embarrassment!
  • The tuning slides could slip while playing, causing my pipes to go out of tune.
  • Air can and will leak out of loose joints.

The reason hemp shrinks at any time has everything to do with moisture. As you play, moisture gradually works its way into your bag, your reeds, and also the hemped parts of your pipe. This causes the hemp to expand. Then, when you’re done playing, the hemp will begin to shrink as moisture evaporates or continue to expand if it’s still totally soaked.

Here’s what I do to quickly fix the problem:

  1. Find the loose joint.
  2. Bite down on the joint with your teeth, so that you make some bite marks in the hemp. This will help the joint have better grip against the stock or drone-top.
  3. Add moisture (i.e., lick it!) to the top of the bite marks, to accelerate the re-moisturizing of the joint.
  4. Start playing.

Five seconds later and I’m ready for action. Try this trick -  it really works!

  • John Holcombe

    Great idea! I’ve often ‘scratched’ the hemp with a fingernail to roughen it up a bit, but the teeth idea sounds great.

    Sure miss you and your harmonies at PHSD, Andrew.


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