Reed #atozchallenge

Saxophone reed. Image by shonamcq from Pixabay

I always wanted to play the saxophone, for some reason. Now that I think of it, I should have just gone ahead and rented one for a while to see whether it was as much fun as it looks. As it was, I picked up another reed instrument: the piob mhor, or great Highland bagpipes.

I don’t have a picture of myself playing the pipes, so this will have to do. Image by enny more from Pixabay

The saxophone, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, English horn, and yes, the bagpipes are all reed instruments. That’s not an exhaustive list: there are lots more instruments that have reeds in them, but that’s beside the point.

Saxophones and clarinets are single-reed instruments. The reed they use is a single strip of cane, like you see in the picture above. The reed is attached to the mouthpiece, and the player blows through the gap between them. This causes the reed to vibrate and sound to be directed through the instrument, which can be altered using the keys in the front of the instrument. Kind of like tenor saxophone player Junior Walker, best known for his songs "Shotgun" and "What Does It Take."

Oboes, bassoons, English horns, and bagpipes use a double reed. It’s kind of like taking two single reeds and binding them together, so that when the player blows between them, they vibrate against each other.

Bassoon reeds. Source: Wikipedia

In bagpipes, the double reed is fitted into the chanter, or melody pipe (what the piper is fingering as he plays). The chanter is fitted into the bag and the air in the bag does the "blowing." In addition, single reeds are fitted into the drones (the pipes on the piper’s shoulder) and sound a single note as the piper plays. Keeping the chanter and the drones going steadily is part of the joy of playing the pipes. I did all right, but had a tendency to press too hard on the bag and blow the notes flat. They fixed that problem by giving me the heaviest chanter reed they could. I wish I could have played like this guy…

25 thoughts on “Reed #atozchallenge

    1. I know a girl who plays oboe, and she didn’t start making reeds until after she ws playing for a while. That’s pretty rough, if you ask me.


    1. Both the oboe and the bagpipes use a double reed, the difference being how you blow into it. Oh, and the drones. The oboe is a very quiet instrument, if I’m not mistaken, while the bagpipes… not so much. But yes, the music gets into you.


  1. John,

    Junior Walker’s song, “Shotgun” makes me think of my late brother. He had a dog that he named Shotgun. 🙂 I love listening to sax mewsic. We had a restaurant in town that we liked going to with live mewsic that featured a loclal jazz band. The guy was playing the sax was fabulous! I hated when they closed down. The bagpipe player is a bit scary looking if you ask me. He makes me think of gladiator for some reason. That was really cool to see the fire shoot from the pipes, though. I’ve not seen that before now. Cool stuff!

    Cathy’s Pinup Girl #AtoZChallenge Art Sketch Series (‘E’)


  2. I love the sound of bagpipes. There’s something very regal about them. And Junior Walker I remember from the song that you mentioned, “Shotgun”. He’s an amazing sax player.


    1. I think I overdosed on bagpipe music when I was playing them. On YouTube, a guy named Jim Ramsay has a lot of pipes and drums among his videos. His channel is fantastic. You might also like some of the videos from the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

      King Curtis was a bit before Junior Walker. He was another fantastic sax player.

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  3. I love the music of bagpipes! Ever since I heard Mull of Kintyre way back when I was a kid. They conjure up the lonely beauty of the Scottish landscapes for me, very romantic. Thanks for the video.


  4. I never played a bagpipe, thankfully for the public or any reed instrument. I played the flute for one year, in Grade 11 and could never hold the note for 8 beats. I found, much later, that I have a sunken chest( you wouldn’t know that looking at my, um, chest) but the doctor said I have a 3rd less the lung capacity than most people which is why I could never hold the notes, blow up a balloon or run much. I love the bagpipes and that man is excellent who looks like he just stepped out of Mad Max or Highlander. Many years ago my ex and I were in Munich and we were having a bit to eat and we heard a bagpiper. Now, you know that many musicians play in the streets in Europe and they are excellent….not this guy. He was horrible! Finally a cop came by and told him to stop, thankfully.


    1. There are a couple of others with that guy (or another similarly dressed piper), including one withe the guy playing and shooting fire while riding a unicycle…


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