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Support Documents - Tuning a Chanter

Finally, we get to the task at hand. From the above test, you will know which notes are sharp and which notes are flat relative to the Low A.

Go back to your record of which notes are sharp or flat. With a tenor drone tuned to Low A, adjust the tape on each note so that they are in tune with the drone.

  • Decrease the amount of tape covering the hole of that note. Try to ensure there is some tape left so you still have room to move.

  • If E, F, High G, and High A are flat to the drone, sinking the reed will help. This will raise the overall pitch and most of the effect will be on the top 3 or 4 notes.

  • If D, C, and B are flat to the drone, sinking the reed will also help, but it might cause the higher notes to become too sharp. Compensate by increasing the tape on the sharp notes, or consider the possibility of undercutting the flat notes.

  • Another alternative is to increase the amount of tape on Low A. This will require you to lower the pitch of the drone, which will bring it closer to the flat notes.


  • Increase the amount of tape covering the hole of that note. Any more than 2 mm of tape could signify that further adjustment is required to the reed and or chanter.

  • If most of the notes are sharp, you could lift the reed. This will lower your overall pitch, and most of the effect will be on the top 3 or 4 notes. You may find that this will also make your High A too flat.

  • If you find that your overall pitch is now too low, adjustment to the reed may be necessary.


Refer to Chanter Reeds for more information.


Once you are confident that your chanter is in tune, it is time to operate all three drones at once and tune them to Low A. The principals are exactly the same as for tuning the drones to themselves, except that like the tenor drone you have been using up to this point, all three will be tuned to Low A. 

With practice, you will be able to tune all three drones at once while playing High A. Remember that when playing High A with only the left hand, it is only a rough guide due to the fact it's pitch will be slightly sharp without the bottom hand on the chanter. Another point to be aware of is that your pipes will take more air with all three drones operating. You may find that you will need to increase your overall pressure to keep the chanter at the required pitch and to keep the High A clear. It's more than likely you will need re-tune the chanter to a small degree once all three drones are operatring. Refer to Tuning Drones for more information.


  • The reed needs to be low enough in the reed seat so that the pitch is what you require and yet high enough so that you don't have problems with top hand stability.

  • You then need to know whether most of the chanters scale is sharp or flat, relative to the Low A (Drones). Taping will lower the pitch of the sharper notes, but you may find that if there is too much tape on some holes (more than 2mm), you may have to consider the possibility of undercutting the flat notes to compensate.

  • Ideally, there shouldn't be any major difference with the amount of tape on each hole. This is where careful undercutting can help to balance up a chanter.

  • When sinking or lifting a reed in the chanter's reed seat - all notes are changed, however the higher notes are more sensitive and will alter more than the lower notes.

  • Lower notes are the most volatile and unstable with temperature change. Low G, Low A, and to a lesser degree B, will sharpen more than the higher notes in the heat, and lower more in the cold.

  • As you tune the chanter, regularly check your Low A against the drone, or drones, as the chanter will sharpen slightly as it is played - particulary when the reed is cold.

  • It is essential that you blow with a steady pressure.

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