With the kind permission of Brett Tidswell, I reference and critique a youtube video recording of his contest tune-up session before competing in (and winning) an A grade hornpipe and jig solo.

While Brett was happy for me to point to his video, my comments on his tuning process are totally mine without consulting him.   Fortunately, they are all positive.

Brett took just under 2 minutes to tune his drones before performing, with a great result.

Here is the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5JeBpri3V


Here are my comments:

Brett starts with a few notes to get comfortable and have a listen to the general instrument sound and the acoustics of the hall.

At the 20 second mark, he has a good listen to high ‘A’ (a good high ‘A’ sound to me – a hiss rather than a crackle).

Around the 25-30 second mark, an initial listen to low ‘A’ and how the chanter is behaving with embellishments on it. He is also re-invigorating his fingers.

The 45 second mark. Brett would clearly have warmed his instrument up outside of the contest area before this on-stage fine tuning process, but he hasn’t touched his drones for the first three quarters of a minute while the instrument re-stabilises in the contest area.

At the 58 second mark, after first adjustment of drones, the first thing Brett does is play a long low ‘A’, about 3-4 seconds.   No grace notes or other embellishments – just a clean low ‘A’.

He then listens to other notes on the chanter – this is checking chanter sound, not tuning drones.

At 1 minute 10 seconds, another 2 second low ‘A’, but drones are not yet OK, so he adjusts them again and at about 1 minute and 25 seconds, he plays another 3-4 second low ‘A’.

At around 1 minute and 43 and again 1 minute and 47 he plays two clean 2 second low ‘A’s, just to check that all is still OK.   These are longer than the longest low ‘A’s I often hear A grade soloists check their drones against.

And of course, Brett then goes on to play a great hornpipe and jig with a great sound.

It is interesting that, like me, Brett did not stop any drones at any time in his fine tuning process.  This is an advanced technique and I do not recommend it for those learning to tune drones.

Garry Barker


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