How to Tune a Solo Bagpipe

Tuning the bagpipes can be a frustrating and complicated process. Due to the temperamental nature of the instrument, it is important that you keep in mind many important factors including humidity, temperate, etc. A tuner can also be used, but many accomplished players do not prefer them for solo purposes.


  1. Image titled Tune a Solo Bagpipe Step 1
    Find the right reed for the right chanter. Not all types of reeds are the same, so it is important that you select reeds that are intended for specific chanters. There are also many different brands of reeds and chanters that all perform to their best when combined carefully. One reed might sound brilliant in one chanter, but dull in the next. If possible, choose your reeds in person instead of ordering them online. This way you can find a good match.
    • Picking your reed in person will also allow you to choose a reed that is the right strength for you. Some reeds are harder to blow than others, and as soloist, your reeds should be slightly easier than they would be in a band setting.
  2. Image titled Tune a Solo Bagpipe Step 2
    Understand the challenges and importance of tuning the drones. Like tuning the chanter, this is a job never done. Because the bagpipes are such a finicky instrument, they require conscientious maintenance and care. In addition to this, they can be easily affected by weather, temperature, and moisture, and the pitch of the drones changes when the pipe is left unplayed.
  3. Image titled Tune a Solo Bagpipe Step 3
    Tune the drones. First, tune the outside tenor while playing a high A. You can then tune your bass to the tenor, and then the middle tenor to the remaining two. Sliding the drone downwards will make it sharper, while sliding it up will lower the pitch, thus making it flatter.
    • After your first "rough" tune, various rounds of "fine" tuning will be required to get the tone just right.
  4. Image titled Tune a Solo Bagpipe Step 4
    Continue tuning as you play. As you continue to play, your chanter should sharpen, so expect to have to adjust your drones likewise. If you are playing in a humid environment, be sure to check the actual drone reeds for moisture. If the reeds are wet, then let them air dry for a few minutes or gently pat the reed with a tissue. Installing a water trap might help to prevent this issue.
    • During a competition or practice session, you will have to tune your drones multiple times.
  5. Image titled Tune a Solo Bagpipe Step 5
    Understand how you can change the pitch of the chanter reed. To sharpen the pitch of the entire reed, sink it further into its seat by turning it clockwise. This will affect the high-hand notes more than the low-hand notes. Correspondingly, bringing the reed higher in the reed seat will flatten the pitch. If the reed is too difficult, then you can wrap a dental band tightly around the middle of the reed's sound box. This will sharpen the reed. You can also wet the reed with your mouth to make it easier. This will flatten the reed. To flatten individual notes, wrap pieces of electrical tape over the top of each hole. The tape should generally not cover more than half of the hole. To sharpen individual notes, bring the tape up so that it covers less of the hole.
  6. Image titled Tune a Solo Bagpipe Step 6
    Tune the chanter reed. After you have tuned your drones to low A, you can tell if a note is sharp or flat by playing it against the drones. If the note is not in tune to the drones, then it will make a wavering noise. If you have to blow harder to bring the note up to pitch, then it is flat. If you have to blow softer to bring the note down to pitch, then it is too sharp. The pitch of the chanter will sharpen as you continue to play, so do not do any fine tuning until you have played your pipes for at least 15-20 minutes.


  • You can also use a tuner to help set your pipes. Not all soloists encourage the use of tuners, so keep this in mind when using one. The best tuners are made specifically for the bagpipes, but these can be very expensive.


  • If your chanter begins to produce an unnatural squealing sound, it may be due to the fact that there is too much tape covering the high G hole or that the reed is too easy.
  • Be sure to replace tape on your chanter if it becomes too sticky or gooey. Sliding tape can become an issue during a contest.
  • Water running down the inside of the chanter will also cause the notes to be out of tune. You may need to dry the inside of the chanter with a pipe cleaner if this problem arises.

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Categories: Woodwind | Musical Instruments