If you were like most bagpipers during the St. Patrick’s holiday, you spent a lot of time blowing your instrument. In spite of having a moisture control system, your bagpipes are probably water logged at this point. I tried tuning a fellow bagpipers drones over the weekend and thought I was going to split the wood.
That means it’s time to do a “hard reset”. The first thing that you should do is find a place where no one or thing is going to touch your pipes while they are out of the case. I have an extra table top that I use. Take your pipes apart. You don’t need to remove the cords. Take all of the reeds out of their seats and put a chanter cap on your chanter reed. Unzip the bag and remove the moisture control system. (It probably needs to be cleaned anyway.) If you use a bottle water trap, it probably needs a bleach bath. Leave everything exposed overnight with the bag unzipped.
When you return to them in the morning or after work, you’ll need to check all of your hemp joints. I use waxed hemp on the sealed joints which go into the stocks. I want them to be “hand tight” . If your hemp moves on the spindles, then you need to remove the hemp and rewrap it. When doing the drone slides, I personally mix regular hemp and wax hemp together as I wind it on the spindle. I want my drone slides to be finger tight so that I can fine tune them with one hand. While you’re at it, make sure that you check and see if your cords are tight. You might keep a bag of wire ties in your kit.
I have found that if I perform this operation after a long play like a wedding, parade, or any other lengthy event, my pipes are ready to go for the next performance. If you’re worried about getting the “bagpipe lung disease” doing this on a regular basis will make sure that you’re never a statistic!
Gary Guth is a professional bagpiper with over 45 years of playing experience and has been teaching bagpipes full time for the last 20 years. He has written "Bagpipes For Beginners", "the Bagpipe Hymnal", and " A Piper's Christmas".