Breaking the Mold

Ever opened your pipe case and realized you forgot to pull your chanter out of the stock after yesterday's practice... and a whole civilization has grown in that still-moist bamboo overnight?!

If you have a chanter reed that got a little fuzzy with mold (and this will affect the sound of the reed), it can be tempting to want to try to resurrect it – I mean, you put all that time in to 'breaking it in' and getting used to it, right? 

But can you rehabilitate a moldy reed, or is it toast?

Our very straightforward answer always has been and always will be remarkably simple – you already spent more time thinking about and asking this question than it's worth spending on this reed.

To answer the question – can you rehabilitate a moldy reed? Probably, but why would you want to? Chuck it away, and get a new one.

A moldy reed will never sound as good as one that's been properly maintained.

We know, we know, buying a new reed can be expensive – around $20 for one from most reputable makers – but if you let a chanter reed go moldy, that's basically the universe fining you for poor maintenance and storage of your instrument.

And yes, we have heard that some pipers may have certain tricks for 'solving' moldy reeds, perhaps even getting a few more days or even months out of them by dipping a moldy reed in vinegar or spraying it with bleach (though the idea of that makes us want to drink the bleach!); however, those 'tricks' are exactly the sort of shortcuts to fixing a problem that pipers should be avoiding.

Remember, if shortcuts worked, they'd just be the way we do things. They're called 'shortcuts' because they're trying to cheat the 'right' way to do things, and as a learner (and we are all learners), you are going to learn so much more – about how to set up your pipes, tune your chanter reed and balance it, and blow to the sweet spot – by changing to a new reed than you are from trying to use a shortcut to fix a problem you should never have had in the first place.

Cut your losses, switch to a new one, get some more pipe set-up and maintenance experience under your belt, and then let 'er rip with a far superior sound!

Let's backtrack a little, though – how does a reed get moldy in the first place? Well, there are a variety of ways, but they're all tied together by a common theme...

Negligence.

Let's break it down (much like you should do to a moldy chanter reed as soon as you realize it's done for).

Mold grows in dark, humid environments. So the most common way is if you leave your chanter in your pipes after you've played for practice or performance. This could be accidental or because you're feeling lazy, but either way the result is the same – your reed will start to look like it's growing in a gross winter coat.

Another common way your chanter reed can grow mold is leaving it in a Tone Protector or similar kind of humidity-controlled chanter cap, and don't check it for too long. Unfortunately, you'll get the same result – it grows that sound-destroying mold, whether because you forgot or couldn't be bothered to take care of your instrument's maintenance.

And here's a hot tip – if you know you're a particularly negligent person, buy chanter reeds in bulk so you save a bit of money. That way you're only fining yourself around $12 if you happen to do the inevitable and forget (or 'forget') you've left your chanter in your pipes after you finish playing, and come back to find you've grown a living organism or ten in your pipes overnight.

If you're new to Dojo University, make sure you check out the Transitioning to the Bagpipes course to learn how to properly set up, maintain, and store your instrument so that mold is never an issue!

And if you're not yet a Dojo U student, where have you been?! Sign up today to join our thousands-strong global community of pipers – we'd love to welcome you and get you started.

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Chanter Reeds: Differences and Uses

While each chanter reed may look mostly the same, individual reed makers will often incorporate individual design changes that make subtle changes to the shape, configuration and construction of the reed in order to produce different harmonics. Different reed makers also use different sources for cane (the material of the reed blades), making the quality reed to reed from maker to maker, different. Chanter reeds from maker to maker will also perform differently from chanter to chanter.

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