Playing Pipes in Cold Weather
As Fall approaches, so does colder weather. What do you need to know about piping in cold weather?
When you blow warm air into a set of wooden pipes in the cold, the difference in temperature can lead to cracking. Poly pipes could be a better option. Since not everyone has access to a set of poly pipes, there are other things you can do.
It's a good idea to make sure your pipes are oiled and properly hemped with waxed hemp to resist moisture.
The warm moist air from your breath condenses and builds up in the drones. This can lead to them shutting off. The use of synthetic drone reeds and a moisture control system can help to minimize this issue.
The chanter reed will become very stiff in cold weather. The pitch will also be lowered. It is a good idea to get outside into the cold before the gig to make any adjustments you have to with the reed and the chanter. You can warm your reed before playing, but make sure it stays warm. Keep the chanter stock warm so that the reed won't freeze up once it's damp.
Keep your pipes at a constant temperature as much as possible. Stay outside in the cold through the gig, but keep blowing air through them to keep them warm. Hopping into a warm car or building in between may seem like a good idea, but the extreme temperature change will throw your pipes off.
Your body will also feel the affects of the cold. Piping in the cold can exhaust you. You will lose heat faster because of the exercise and air exchange. Dress as warm as you can and it doesn't hurt to have hand warmers available. Depending on the extremity of the cold, dehydration, frostbite, chapped lips, and burst eardrums can result, as well as the onset of head and chest colds following the gig.
Make sure that whoever you are doing the gig for is aware that you will likely only be able to perform for a short time and that the pipes may not sound their best due to the cold. Also, decide in advance how cold is too cold. If it's too cold for you, it's too cold for the pipes.
Once you are finished, completely take the pipes apart. The hemp will need to dry out to prevent splitting and cracking.
In case you missed it, here's a look at Field Marshal Montgomery performing their medley at the Worlds 2012.