Workshop: Synthetic Drone Reeds

The last ten years or so have seen an explosion of synthetic drones reeds makes out on the market. The modern piper is not at a loss when choosing a make of reed that is suitable to personal drone make or sound taste. Stalwart varieties spawned from Ross’s early plastic body and cane tongue design still try to carve their place among players. Newer, more advanced designs try to elbow their way to the fore by improving on the all-synthetic designs introduced by R.T. Shepherd and Mark Wygent. Many the intrepid tinker it is who still tries his hand at improving on the simple functionality of a vibrating tongue and moveable bridle. Today’s reeds are like mini-machines, with all the moving parts, tools, and advanced materials to go along.

Many of the commonly played synthetic reeds today elaborate on a basic design. For the inexperienced player, it can sometimes be quite frustrating to work with these new machines. It is often hard to remember the right things to do in order to get them sounding their best in your pipe—and easy to do the wrong things.

The diagram below shows the basic synthetic reed design most often seen with all of its parts identified and some of the more common actions and results explained. Most of the reeds seen are variations of this same design. Getting the reeds set “just right” for you is often the most tedious work—but it is also the most rewarding. If properly set, today’s synthetics will perform consistently and remove the frustrations and variability in performance that can inhibit development. Print the diagram (or download it here) and keep it in your pipe box as a reminder when you have to make adjustments to your reeds. You will then always be ready to get the most these reeds have to offer.


(This feature first appeared in The Voice, Summer 2005)

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