INSTRUCTIONS FOR INSTALLING NEW CANE DRONE REEDS
By Ted Anderson
As you have just ordered a set of cane drone reeds from me for your pipes, you may be at a loss as to how to set them up, unless you are experienced with cane drone reeds. Along with the reeds, I have enclosed a few maintenance supplies. They include a piece of green dop (sealing) wax, a piece of black shoemakers' (cobblers') wax and a short length of hemp thread. There is also a piece of silicone tubing you can slice new bridles from, should one break. These items can be ordered directly from me.
Before inserting the reed, stick it in your mouth with the open end outside. Don't let the reed touch your tongue or the inside of your mouth. Keep saliva off of the reed or dry it immediately if it gets wet. Blow on the reed. If it plays with a good amount of pressure, insert it firmly into the drone and try it in the set. Cane reeds often close up after they are made and shipped to you. If the reed won't sound, or closes down with little pressure, it need to be re-opened. This is accomplished by "snapping the tongue". To snap the tongue, the body of the reed must be flexed in order to lift the tongue from the body. Grab the tongue between thumb and forefinger. Hold the body of the reed with the thumb and forefinger of your other hand, with the thumb tightly over the bridle, as it can flex. Lift the tongue 20 to 30 degrees and let go of it, so it snaps back into place. This should leave the tongue more open. Blow test it again and re-snap if needed. Do not exceed a 40 degree lift, as the tongue can break off. Until the reeds settle, you may have to snap them a number of times. The reeds do best if they are slowly adjusted into playing condition and broken in over a few weeks playing. After breaking in, you will seldom, if ever need to snap them again.
The variation in pitch and tone can be slowly tamed by shortening the tongue with the bridle. Make a less than 1/32" adjustment at a time with the bridle and snap the reed if that closes it up. As long as the reed will still play and not close down a lot, you are best off with a reed that is as closed as possible. They take less air and are more stable. This is a normal part of breaking in a set of cane reeds. Nothing is hurt by overly closing the reed. If you close a reed too much, you just open it up a bit with the bridle and snap it again. The goal is to have the reeds as closed as possible and yet not so closed that they shut off under second octave pressure. A reed that only occasionally closes will settle into staying open. There will come a time that snapping the tongue will become something you do less and less of over time until you might only snap a tongue once a month or so, if needed.
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