by Terry Ackland
Bold and Harmonic Drone Reeds for Great Highland Bagpipes
What makes Overtone reeds different from the rest?
- An angled bed with a flat tongue provides lift giving the bridle a freedom of movement not obtainable with a curved body or tongue.
- The tuning pin is an airtight piston rather than screw threads which are not airtight.
- They are bold with more harmonic support for the chanter resulting in a distinct and unique blend of chanter and drone on each note
What our customers are saying:
- “I have Naill bagpipes, made in the mid-1980s. It has been a struggle to find drone reeds that play properly in them. I set up the Overtone 480s (which is where our band tunes) in an hour. They strike in and shut off wonderfully. The sound is very rich and the harmonics across the drone reeds and the chanter reed are noticeably more evident. This is a brilliant product. It would be great for you if they get picked up by some of the big pipe bands.” – Scott D.
- “Overall I’d say the sound is rich and broad. I notice more general volume and more blending among the drones and chanter which, despite greater drone volume, cuts through more noticeably. In my Breadalbane Dunbar drones there are harmonics galore… like the peal of a bell. Once I decide on which Bb chanter to buy, I’ll order a set of Bb reeds from you.” – Rick F.
- “I would also like to buy another set for spares or safekeeping. They are TREMENDOUS reeds. I only wish my father was still alive to hear me play my pipes now. Like I said, my drones sound majestic with just the right amount of volume and richness of sound. No screwing around and very easy to tune.” – A. Campbell
- “I would like to order a set of your drone reeds designed for a modern pipe chanter playing around 480 Hz. One of my students has them in his drones and they sound great!” – Jesse .O.
- “I wish I could get the whole band to switch to them. It would really give them a big sound…Bottom line: EXCELLENT.” – Loy O.
- “I just wanted to say thanks for the reeds. They are amazing. Such a full sound and they pair beautifully with my MacHarg chanter. I played them with a Celtic group on the weekend and to pipe in recipients at an awards show yesterday and both events garnered compliments on their sound.” – Jonathan B.
- “Hi Terry, the reeds have been going well! Still getting compliments about having the best sound in the band. A side note, when I presented a used set of McCallums I set up with your reeds to one of our beginners and played it for him, our pipe major came down the hall and opened the door to see what pipes were being played as he liked the tone so well he had to put down his dinner to investigate! Thanks again Terry, you’re the best!” – Steve S.
- “Hi Terry, I’ve been playing the reeds for nearly a week since the (replacement) tongues arrived and they’re absolutely brilliant! I love the bold bass and the full, rich tone of all three drones together. Finally I have the sound and stability I’ve been looking for…I will definitely order again.” – Simon M.
- “Hello Terry, Hope you are well. Just wanted to follow up. I have really enjoyed the reeds. So far, I am just using the bass with my older tenors– will likely switch to the full set later, but didn’t want to change things up too fast as I’m preparing for my first contest in Scotland next month. I really love the sound of the bass– without a doubt the most robust sound I’ve had, blending very nicely with the tenors, unmatched stability in my longer practice sessions. I have been struck by the air efficiency of the bass reed and how nicely it projects in both indoor and outdoor settings. So far no issues at all, and very quick setup.” – Stuart M.
- “I’m proud player of a 466Hz set of your reeds and they sound so beautiful and steady, rock booming and harmonics that I want to order you now 2 more sets. I play in a bagad, breton band in Western France. We play a bit lower pitch so the 466Hz is perfect to me. But we also play pipe band, so I will need a 480Hz set. We also use C drones and the 490Hz needs a try in these drones!” – EB
- “I had a chance today to try one of your bass reeds 466Hz on my R. Gillanders. It is most certainly a keeper! … Your bass reed was able to solve a roaring and strike-in problem with these Gillanders!” – DS
- “I have only played them once so I can’t say I have them fully dialed in yet, I already feel that they are far superior to the Selbie’s I had. Tone is fuller and richer while not have the fake woodieness of the carbon fiber reeds. Strikes and cut offs have been super reliable. They held tuning well through one hour band prax. Overall I am super happy with the purchase – and feel that at $70Cdn I got an incredible bargain. I will be spreading the good news!” – FW
- “They’re in a set of Dunbar poly pipes, and sound wonderful!” – BB
- “I used the drone reeds … and to my complete surprise and delight, the tuning of the whole instrument held 100% between my warm-up and the actual performance, which were about 2 hours apart.” – TC
- “I have been playing a set in my McCallum AB4 and they are the best drone reeds I have ever played (I have played most available over the last 30 years). … We have been told by all our band mates that our pipes sound great.” – WM
- “After setting your reeds in my pipes I found they were exceedingly easy to strike in then while playing were as stable as a rock, they displayed great volume and nice rich harmonics with the chanter. In fact the chanter and drones blended beautifully resulting in a big whole bagpipe sound where the drones didn’t over power the chanter nor the chanter overpowering the drones….I did have to move the bridles and pitch adjustment plunger however I was pleasantly surprised to discover you could move the bridle without it being nearly as touchy as most, or rather all other brand reeds. The cut offs were superb as well, just come to the end of a tune and they all stopped, just like flipping a light switch off.” – RH
- “I’ve really been enjoying the reeds. I’d like to order another set of the 480s just so I have a spare set handy.” – CD
- “First off the reeds are outstanding! The oneness and overtones make for an awesome sound on my pipes. They’re efficient and were easy to set up. Years ago I had a set of Wygent duo tones that easily sounded better than any reed since until I plugged in yours. Absolutely the best.” – RM
- “Just got the reeds plugged them in and after 5 minutes of adjustment I’m very impressed. Will give them a full go but I’m sure they’ll just get better and better!” – PD
- “Just been playing for the last 45 mins. The reeds are excellent. After 10 mins or so I had them locked in to my Robertsons. The overtones are very apparent and certainly more so than any other reeds I’ve tried which helps to get them locked in. They are a very good match for my Robertsons and give a great deep clear tone from the bass, something I’ve been looking for and tried with a good number of bass reeds to try and achieve.” – CM (Scotland)
- “Setup was very easy, tone is great! Thank you!” – AG
- “Big, bold and “smooth” but certainly not overbearing, quite steady as well once I have them tuned up, almost no drifting after that. I’m not the steadiest blower, but was getting some wonderful harmonics that I haven’t on my Ezees.” – BF
- “I’m quite the novice piper (just under 2 years of playing time), but the reeds have been great. They were easy to set up, and I had them singing and striking in/cutting off consistently with no drove valves in my first practice session with them. They have been exceptionally reliable and predictable…I absolutely love the tone!” – WC
- “They’re big, bright and stayed locked in tune once set…I’m going to recommend them to other pipers.” & “The more I play these reeds, the more impressed I am.” – KJ
- “I really like the deep bass sound your reed produces, and the blend with the tenors is also quite pleasing. Overall, the drones are fairly loud and vibrant, but still maintain a very good balance with the chanter. Your reeds are also air efficient, which is always a plus at my age!” – AM
- “Your bass reed … was set perfectly … The sound was rich and powerful.” LB
- “the 480’s are amazing … I have told everyone about these reeds.” – PH
- “They were rock solid. The bass is very strong without booming and the tenors have a lot of warm harmonics” – JD
- “I just [put] them in my Naills and all [I] can say is WOW! A fantastic set of reeds you designed.” – RC
- “I love my reeds” – KP
- “I have given the new reeds a good try and am enjoying the sound that they produce…The bass was a challenge at first but the more I played and adjusted it now tunes even better than any of the other bass reeds I have tried” – BM
- “for the third practice in a row I was told how great my pipe sounded and how steady they were.” & “I really have to say I have been trying with all kinds of reeds, balance tone, mg, kinnaird, ezee, selbie, original ross with cane tongues (look like can croziers) and NONE of them compare. These are easier to blow, sound better, and strike in and shut off easier.” – Steve Shepherd
- “I want to get another set. I really like the harmonics.” – EK
- “Well, these are really quite amazing.” – CH
- “The reeds I received from you sound better every time I play them. I want to try them in my other sets, but they are playing so good, I do not want to readjust them to suit the other sets.” & “They hold tune well and seem to be air efficient. (I am 80 and do not need tough pipes) You have made a quality product, that I could not be happier with.” – TP
- “[They’re] great the best drone [reeds] I have played” – Robby Campbell / mudmen.ca
- “Wow. Very impressive tone … I was able to take notice of the harmonics and colour, which are outstanding. … The bass is huge, a real umbrella of tone. It’s very noticeable! Of course, the tenors put up a true wall of tone and there’s much ring off the various notes. … your reeds offer quite a decent range of adjustment. … This is important because enough space for harmonics and tone in the tops makes a difference in tone.” – DL
- “I’m loving them so far, great air efficiency and the tone and harmonics are incredible. The recordings i have of them have been great and i’ve recieved lots of positive comments on their sound. Thanks so much!” – TP #2
Which set should you buy?
- 480 Hz – If you play a standard, modern bagpipe chanter
- McCallum McC2
- Colin Kyo
- 466 Hz – If you play a concert pitch, B♭ chanter
- Shepherd Orchestral
- McCallum B♭
- MacLellan B♭
- G1 B♭
- 490 Hz – If you play a chanter that pushes 485 Hz
- 440 Hz – If you play a concert pitch, A chanter
- McCallum A
- MacLellan A
- Hamish Moore A
- Michael MacHarg A
$70 CDN with free shipping to North America, $10 CDN shipping rest of the world. To order, please email Terry Ackland:
Designed in collaboration with Patrick McLaurin. Many recordings of Patrick playing Overtone reeds can be found on his blog. Below are four select recordings from his blog. Keep in mind these recordings are made with one microphone and are unedited, so the chanter drone balance is heavily influenced by the microphone position which is biased toward the drones in most of Patrick’s recordings.