Bagpipe surgery

I love my bagpipes! They're fun to play, fun to talk about, look nice etc. My one issue with them has been that, since I have tiny girlie hands I have a hard time reaching the hole for the low C, which has limited what I can play on them. The contortions my hands have to do to cover the hole have meant a lot of air leaks, which the chanter doesn't tolerate well, creating squawks and ugliness. So, encouraged by a conversation with Al Cofrin about his own bagpipe mods, and armed only with the things in the picture below (ok, and a drill) I set about to either fix, or mangle my beloved pipes.
Fundamentals of Musical Acoustics is a great book. It's very technical, but covers a wide range of instruments and discusses how their sounds are produced in terms which make sense to an engineer. The ideas I used for this modification are 1. There's a trade off between the distance from the oscillator (in this case the double reed in the chanter) and the size of that hole, so a small hole near the top of the pipe creates a similar pitch to a larger hole near the bottom and 2. The wood is thick enough to slant the hole. You can't just put the hole anywhere and expect a nice sounding instrument, since you might have to make a tiny hole to get the pitch you want, which will mean some notes will be very quiet. There are also a limits to how much you can slant the hole because of the structural integrity of the chanter and the way the air flows through that hole gets disturbed when it has to turn tight corners.
The little silver box is my tuner, to help keep me in the right range. I used a cherry dowel to fill the hole, sand paper to get it to the right size, and a little glue to keep it there. This picture gives you an idea of how much the original hole was slanted:
You're seeing the chanter without its bell (which is mostly a filter really, though it does change the pitch some), and the black waxed cord used to make a decent seal to the bell.
I sawed off the protruding part of the dowel, filed it flat, and drilled the new hole for the low C. It took a few adjustments around that hole and the un-fingered adjustment hole below that to get the pitch just right. Taking the tuner after it made me far more aware of issues elsewhere in the range of the chanter that I'd like to address, particularly the high C and D. The B is a bit unstable for some reason. The low D now has a throatier sound about it which I think is due to oscillations in the air flow as it leaves through the very slanted hole I drilled. It's a little like guitar distortion. See if you can hear it here.


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