Gaita Pedrazales Chanter Reeds – Galician!

When I got my Gaita Pedrazales chanter 2 weeks ago it came with 2 reeds. The chanter is beautiful, made from Santo Palo wood with nice grain.

Plastic Reed: 
One reed was made from plastic, very small stable and blades, but I could not get it to sound a octave, the top register was very sharp.

Cane Reed
The cane reed was very good, it played well with not to much pressure, it looked nice.

Since I had a class that evening I did not alter it to fit the chanter, I thought to leave it to my teacher to get it fitted properly.
In the class the teacher found it to be too flat. The Pedrazales chanter plays in Bb, and it was below that, not by much but enough to make the group of gaitas sound like a swarm of bees! So, there was two options, either push the reed further into the chanter by opening the wooden hole more to accommodate the reed or to cut a bit off the reed tip. Out came the knife and off came the reed tip, scraping to reduce pressure resulted in a sharpened reed, but still not in Bb, out came the knife and off came the reed, scraping and a chanter that played in Bb. “All is well that ends well” so the saying goes…not so.

When I got home I took out the reed and left it over night to dry. The next day the reed had warped a little. Central heating was the problem, but worse than this when I came to adjust the reed the binding came away too, leaving the 2 cane blades in my hands. The thread had unraveled, I do not know if this was due to the central heating system, but the thread and metal are not effected by heat generally? I will never know. The 2 reeds came from the same maker, but they seemed well constructed when I got them. I wrapped thread around the blades to try and make it play again, it did but not good enough for the Pedrazales.

So, 2 days after I got the chanter and reeds I had no reeds left to play the chanter! What a beginning.

The only thing to do was to use Scottish Highland chanter reeds. These HBG reeds are from Pakistan, some would say useless, but they are not so bad if one is not into competitions. They play and are cheap enough to play around with in Border pipe chanters etc. They play in A/La, and luckily my chanter was Bb. So out came the knife and off went the reed tip, until I had a chanter in Bb in the bottom note, but the top was sharp, out came the tape and the top notes played in tune. The pressure was wrong, too much and the drone stopped and I could not get the notes, too little and the bottom notes were “double toning” when all fingers were closed. I added thin wire so I could adjust the reed and keep it in position.

I took a trip to Madrid to see if they had reeds that would fit. They had some Pedrazales reeds, made by a maker in Madrid, the bindings on these reeds were glued, so they would not unravel and they looked good. I tried 3 of them but all 3 were sharp in the top notes, nothing worked. Then I tried the Galician gaita reeds for a Bb chanter. I put it in and blew…Bb exactly. The reed worked first time and it was made so I could move the reed in and out so making it Bb sharp…or flat. The pressure was nice, and There was no “double toning” in the bass notes. I was a happy man again.

Why do Bb Galician chanter reeds work in a Pedrazales chanter? Why does a Pedrazales reeds not work in a Pedrazales chanter? what is going on?

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5 thoughts on “Gaita Pedrazales Chanter Reeds – Galician!

  1. I think I can help you with this “problem”

    I am one of the developers of the chanter you have. The Pedrazales chanter or gaita is a type of gaita sanabresa. In the middle 50´s there was a luthier called Juan de Pedralba (ask Manu Otero or Climent about him). He is recognized as the best luthier of gaita sanabresa from the old times, and also a great player. He made most of the old gaitas that have been played until the last 20 years. One of those gaitas was bougth by my grandfather, Ceferino Espada, known as Gaitero de Pedrazales (a little village of Sanabria). That´s the bagpipe I grew listennnig for, and the gaita that my family and many people from Sanabria likes. In the 80´s, people from Zamora started to learn this music from another bagpiper, Julio Prada, whose gaita was different, made from another luthier, with similar features but with differences (for example, its tune is C, not Bb). That´s now a very common gaita used in Sanabria. But we had the problem that it was not possible to buy a Pedrazales gaita, beacuse there was not luthier to made it. So, I met Leovigildo Santamaría, a great luthier from Zamora, and let him my traditional bagpipe to copy it.

    (continue later)

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  2. Hola Attaronyo
    many thanks, I DO have many questions about the Gaita Sanabresa (an instrument which i love). The problem is not the tuning, i do not mind it being in Bb, or C/Do, or anything between these notes…but i need to get an octave. and i need an octave to play the melodies in Casa de Zamora. i do not mind the plastic reeds, or the cane ones of any description but i need an octave and if the notes on the top hand are above an octave it is not possible to play (mine was Bb – c#) too high for 8 notes.
    I bought my chanter off Gildo, and i consider his instrument beautiful, i love it and admire his work. i am not complaining. i think the problem is with the reeds and i ask the question: ¿Are the reeds made for the chanter? as, the piper needs to alter them before he can make an octave?
    in Casa de Zamora they like Bb, ok i am a student i have to accept it, but why don't makers just make a reed that suits the chanters instead of altering the reeds so much? i know each chanter is different, that is what i love about the Sanabresa gaita, i love its non-uniformity, its individuality, its ancient style of playing and different tunings, i love all of it and this is why i chose to learn to play it.
    but i need an octave…and my chanter did not get it with both reeds i had (plastic and cane) the galician reed gave me an octave! i just find it strange that a reed made for a Sanabresa chanter can not easily get it..

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  3. OK kevnsp, second part.

    When we started to develop this punteiro, we had some clear facts. We have not only to copy the old one, but to improve it and to adapt to new times and requieremnts of the new players. And also, we had to keep its old facts (sound, the rare-flat notes, etc..) And some of the new features was to make easy to obtain reeds. In the old gaita sanabresa, the reed was hand-made by try and error, and as I know, there are only two people that made them. For us, the solution was to adapt it (and it was easy, it came by its own way when we put the punteiro in Bb, because in the old ones it was not exactly Bb) to galician reeds.

    Usually, when there is any problem with these reeds Gildo uses to put customer in contact with me, as it happened with Javier Cobeña.

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  4. Dear Kevin,

    Our conversation – in Porto – and the hipoteses that I gave you seem to be completly right.

    Again, who came to be first? The chiken or the egg!
    Attaronyo explain us that they understood that chanter and reed were in fact a system.
    So, the chanter uses a galician reed sytem. Periode!

    Why look any further?
    🙂

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