Chris Apps’ reed advice: using a pressure gauge to test reed strength


A reed pressure gauge allows reeds to be set to a specific strength rather than relying on subjective categories of soft, medium or hard. The gauge itself is basically a larger version of a practice chanter top with a fine pressure gauge fixed on top. The unit fits over the chanter and reed. You blow through it to sound the reed and the gauge registers the pressure in inches of water. To establish the strength of a reed, take a reading from the gauge when the high A is blown at the correct pressure.

Pipers can use a gauge to measure their existing reed and order some the same strength, confident that they will be sent a reed at that strength. Every reed they order will be their perfect strength – right out of the box. It must be remembered that once blown for twenty minutes, the reed will relax a bit, so I set it at a slightly higher strength, generally two inches of water. After a bit of playing, it will settle into the desired strength.

Pipers who have no gauge can still benefit from my gauge. It’s possible to order, let’s say four reeds varying from soft to medium, and request that they be marked with their exact strength. They can decide among the 4 which works best for them and order that exact strength next time. And the next time. And the next. Always the same.

It’s a great tool for bands too. Use the gauge to measure every piper’s comfort zone and order reeds to fit. If you order two reeds per piper, you’ll have a spare for each that is plug and play. No more panic attacks when a reed breaks 10 minutes before a competition.

The reed pressure gauge is not an essential tool but it sure is a useful one.

Here is a video of me using a gauge to test strength vs. dB –

Here I use a gauge to take a reed down as soft as it will go –