Mysterious Uilleann Reed Bridle

Mysterious Uilleann Reed Bridle

Greetings! Can someone enlighten me as to the science of bridle movement on the Uilleann chanter reed?

When I got my new reed the bridle was all the way down the reed, touching the hemp. Now, after 3 or so years of play, it sounds strangled and choked there (and sometimes doesn’t sound at all), and I’ve had to move the bridle up the reed to get a fuller sound.

However, I still miss a lot of notes in the higher register. Grrr . .

I guess my question is, What’s the science behind Uilleann chanter reed bridle movement (if any)? And, … does the humidity/temp dictate some particular bridle movement, up or down?

I would love to hear from more experienced Uilleann pipers (I’ve been at it about 5 years) on this.

Thanks!

Re: Mysterious Uilleann Reed Bridle

You shouldn’t be moving the bridle up and down the reed - that’s not it’s purpose.

The bridle has one job: it controls how open the lips of the reed are. If you look at the tips of the reed end on, you can see each blade has a curve, or smile. That curve is controlled by the bridle. You can squeeze the bridle at the sides to open it, which will make it stiffer and flatter, or close it by squeezing on top of the blade side and make it easier and sharper.

It’s quite common for reeds to open up or close as the seasons change, so you may find yourself doing this every spring and autumn.

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Re: Mysterious Uilleann Reed Bridle

Reeds. Some reeds are better than other reeds. (More carefully crafted) Having to compensate for seasonal changes is common, and not really remarkable. Beyond that you may have a failing/failed reed.

Read this: http://www.tuftl.tufts.edu/musicengineering/research/uilleann_pipes/uilleann_reed.pdf
It can explain some of what is going on with a reed.

Also, some of what is going on with a reed is touched on by the theory behind Chladny Plates.https://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/90021/theory-behind-patterns-formed-on-chladni-plates

Where the bridle touches the reed also has some effect on the modal patterns of vibration.

I have had perfectly functional reeds that performed well with no bridle but ultimately failed and proved unstable.

Re: Mysterious Uilleann Reed Bridle

Bridles vary.

I’ve been playing the same reed in my chanter since 1982. It happens to have parallel sides, so that the bridle can be moved up and down to adjust the reed, which I have to do sometimes when the weather dramatically changes and I have to play exactly in tune. I’ve never once changed how tight the bridle is, just its position.

I know many/most bridles aren’t like that, they’re designed to stay in the same place, you adjust them very gently with pliers to change the reed opening (which changes strength and pitch).

It’s odd what changing the bridle can do!

Years ago a newbie came for his first lesson, which began with me taking a look at his pipes to see if everything worked right.

His chanter had issues: the octaves weren’t in tune, the high notes were too stiff, and the scale was off here and there.

I took a look at the reed and it appeared that the bridle had slipped down from its original position. I moved the bridle back up to where it looked like it had originally been, and voila! everything was perfect.

Re: Mysterious Uilleann Reed Bridle

Thank you all for the comments, they’ve given me some ideas …

One question persists in my mind: when the weather turn cool and dry (winter), should the reed be opened or closed a bit? My reed seems to be much fussier in the winter months, so doing nothing is not helping.

Re: Mysterious Uilleann Reed Bridle

It’s surprisingly difficult to say. The thing is, a reed is forced into the shape it is by the way the cane itself is shaped and by the way the staple makes it fold around the staple. Climate changes then can have different effects on the patterns of stress within the blade, causing it to come to rest in different places. So in short in might go one way or the other. The trick is really to figure out where it should be…

As a starting point, you probably want say 0.75-1mm between the lips at the widest point.

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Re: Mysterious Uilleann Reed Bridle

So I replaced the bridle where the reedmaker originally had it (he kindly put a small mark on the bridle & reed to show where it belongs), after using pliers to open it up slightly (I had closed it down a bit). It’s quite close to its original place and fit and the sound has much improved.

I wonder where I got the idea to move it up or down the reed …

Re: Mysterious Uilleann Reed Bridle

Quote @JacobitebyName: I wonder where I got the idea to move it up or down the reed …

I think ‘fiddlin’ with the reed’ is part of the apprenticeship 🙂

Re: Mysterious Uilleann Reed Bridle

I have been told by Craig Fisher that my reeds are GOOD and that is a real compliment
I use copper wire for bridles far more stable and less likely to damage reeds
Use a very strong magnifier when working on reeds make sure the lips are clean and they close evenly under slight finger pressure. I have said many times how important it is to make your own reeds. I have made many many reeds and have had many disasters. But the mechanics of a good reed never change. Dont always blame the reed.

Re: Mysterious Uilleann Reed Bridle

F$#*!+% reeds.

Re: Mysterious Uilleann Reed Bridle

Copper wire is fine for stable climates. Fluctuating climates, not so much, unless you just want to make reeds every time the weather changes, which takes about 5 minutes in my part of the world.

Re: Mysterious Uilleann Reed Bridle

The staple on my reed is copper … but Virginia climate fluctuates from hot, humid summers to cold, dry winters. Therein lies my problem. But we’re moving soon to Florida where the climate is more uniform …