The Piper's Ultimate Reed Poker -

Perfect your Piper Chanter Reeds: How to Select & Adjust your Reeds for a World-Class Sound

by Jori Chisholm, founder of
Last Updated: February 14, 2024

Dive into the world of pipe chanter reeds and the essential tool every piper needs: The Piper’s Ultimate Reed Poker. If you want to achieve a bright, clear, and stable bagpipe sound, this is the video for you.

We’ll explore the importance of pipe chanter reeds and how they impact your bagpipe sound. I’ll show you how to choose a good reed, break it in properly, and make adjustments to make it easier to play.

What happens when your reed becomes too easy or starts to make unwanted sounds? That’s where The Piper’s Ultimate Reed Poker comes in. This incredible tool works like magic to open up your reed from the inside, bringing back its clear sound and stability. It’s the ultimate solution to save your reeds and ensure a consistent, high-quality bagpipe sound.

Say goodbye to expensive reed replacements and the hassle of finding the right reed. Whether you’re a seasoned piper or just starting your bagpipe journey, with the Piper’s Ultimate Reed Poker in your took kit, you’ll always have the power to adjust your reeds and extend their lifespan.

Watch the video and scroll down to read the full video transcript.

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Video Transcript: Today, I’m going to talk about pipe chanter reeds, the single most important and least understood element of your bagpipe sound. We’ll look at an essential tool you need if you want to have a great bagpipe sound: the Piper’s Ultimate Reed Poker. A reed poker is one of the best-kept secrets of top pipers, and it’s a must-have if you want to have a bright, clear, stable pipe chanter sound, with pipes that are efficient and comfortable to play.

We’ll take a close look at some pipe chanter reeds. I’ll show you how to pick a good one and explain what happens when you break a reed in.

We’ll also discuss how to make a reed easier to play if it’s too hard and how the Piper’s Ultimate Reed Poker can save your favorite reed and extend its life when it starts to get too easy. This is going to save you time, hassle, and expense that you otherwise would be spending on new reeds. So let’s get started.

The distinct sound of the pipes comes from two main areas: the drones and the chanter. The two tenor drones and the bass drone create that rich, steady background sound.

The chanter produces the bright, loud sound that carries the melody.

The chanter sound is all about the reed. The pipe chanter itself has a cone-shaped bore and works like a megaphone, amplifying and directing the sound from the reed.

Pipers play different melody notes by opening and closing the holes on the chanter with their fingers.

A great bagpipe sound depends on many different factors, including well-tuned drones and a high-quality pipe chanter. You can check out some of the other videos on the YouTube channel. I have one all about drone reeds and another one about the Infinity Pipe Chanter. But the most important factor is your chanter reed. When you have a good one, one that vibrates properly, it creates an incredible, clear, vibrant, stable sound that projects well and is efficient and easy to play. So mastering your chanter reed is key to achieving a fantastic bagpipe sound.

Here’s a typical pipe chanter reed. You can see it has two cane blades with some wrapping around a metal tube that we call the staple. The metal tube can be copper or brass. Let’s take it apart. When we open the wrapping, you can see the two cane blades are formed around the metal staple and tied with this wrapping. Everything about the reed and how it’s made affects the sound—the size and shape of the reed, the thickness of the blades, the hardness of the cane, the size of the staple, the moisture content in the reed cane (a natural material highly sensitive to moisture) which fluctuates based on the humidity in the environment and the moisture from your breath when you play.

A reed needs just the right amount of moisture. If it’s too dry, the reed sounds thin and sharp. On the other hand, if the reed is too wet, the sound is dull and flat. The level of ambient humidity in your environment can vary throughout the day, as well as due to weather and other seasonal changes. It also changes when you travel. All of these huge problems with moisture content have been solved by the Tone Protector Chanter Cap and the Tone Protector Reed Case. I invented the Tone Protector, and it’s become a trusted tool used by pipers of all levels around the world. You can find out more about the Tone Protector in other videos here on the YouTube channel or at It’s the ultimate solution to maintaining the right moisture content in your reed, ensuring consistent and high-quality sound from your pipes.

Before the Tone Protector, there wasn’t a good solution to reeds that were too dry. A lot of pipers would lick or moisten their reeds right before they would play.

I did it for years. It would solve the issue of the reed being too dry, but basically, you’ve taken a dry piece of cane and shocked it with moisture, and the reed is unstable for a period of time. So I keep all of my reeds either in the Tone Protector Chanter Cap or in the Tone Protector Reed Case. That goes for brand new reeds that I haven’t played before or spare reeds and backup reeds that have been played. This way, I know they always have the optimal amount of moisture. This goes a long way to making sure that they sound stable and good.

So this is what I look for in a reed: 

  1. First, I do the blow test. I’m listening for a little bit of that scratchy sound. Pipers call that the crow, and then a clear, stable tone when I blow harder. This means the reed is happy and will project nicely in the pipe chanter, and it will be stable. 
  2. When I blow, I’m also feeling for the strength. Sometimes you can get that crow and that clear, stable tone, but the reed is too hard or too easy. The easiest and best thing would be to find a perfect reed right out of the box, so it has the right sound at the right strength.

If the reed has the right sound but it’s too hard, I want to ease up the strength of the reed, and the best way to do that is by putting a bridle on the reed. I use these little rubber bands called dental elastics, they’re actually made for orthodontics. They come in different sizes and thicknesses, but my favorite is a quarter inch extra strong. They also come in latex and non-latex.  Both work fine, but the latex ones seem to keep their stretchiness for longer. The non-latex ones get stretched out and need to be replaced sooner.

I like to put the bridle low on the reed and double or triple it, so it’s nice and tight. I never go higher than about a third of the way up the reed. By keeping it low and tight, it pushes the blades closer together, which makes the reed easier to play. We’ll also raise the pitch of the reed too. Don’t put the bridle higher than about a third of the way up, as it starts to have the opposite effect because it pushes on the edges of the reed from the outside.

The elastic bridle is a great solution for taking a reed that’s too hard and making it easier to play. If you can’t play it, you can’t break it in.  I’ve played reeds where I’ve put the bridle on, and the reed is the perfect strength, and it just stays there for a long time. I’ve also had reeds where, after some playing time, the reed gets a little bit too easy, so I just slide the bridle down so it’s right where I like it. You can even slide it all the way down onto the wrapping where it doesn’t have any effect on the reed anymore, but it’s there just in case you need it.

Using the elastic bridle is a much better solution than scraping the reed or cutting the reed or sanding it, which are all irreversible. Once you take that cane off, there’s no putting it back. Anything that you do to the reed in terms of cutting or scraping or sanding also makes the reed less stable and shortens its lifespan. Using the elastic is also a much better solution than pinching the reed, which also damages the reed and makes it very unstable.

For years, I would always lick and pinch my reed right before playing. The Tone Protector has eliminated any need to lick the reeds, and the use of the elastic bridle has eliminated the need to pinch or scrape the reeds. I haven’t licked or pinched a reed in years, and the increase in reed life and stability has been incredible. I wish I had invented the Tone Protector decades ago.

I don’t know who first came up with the idea of using the elastic rubber band as a bridle on chanter reeds, but I first heard about it from Richard Parks, Pipe Major of the 13-time World Champion Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band. He certainly knows how to get a great chanter sound.

But what about dealing with the chanter reed that’s too easy? So when you have a chanter reed that’s too easy, what happens? Well, the reed is typically also sharp, meaning the pitch is too high, and it’s thin, meaning it’s quiet or doesn’t project that bright, clear sound that we like, especially on the top hand. And you often get chirping sounds on grace notes, or on certain note combinations, like going from the higher notes to the lower notes, or squealing sounds.

You might have a brand new reed that’s too easy, or very commonly, you’ll have a reed that you’ve had for a while that you really like. It’s all broken in, set up and tuned well, and really doing great. But one day, it starts to get a little bit too easy, and you notice it starts to chirp or squeal, or it starts to go sharp or loses its stability.

That’s the sign that the reed is now getting too easy over the life of the reed and all that playing time. The cane has now softened up. So what are you going do? I’ve heard of some pipers who will throw out that reed and buy a brand new reed, but you don’t need to.

The Piper’s Ultimate Reed Poker is a magic tool. Just like using an elastic bridle to make a hard reed easier by pushing the blades closer together, the reed poker opens the reed up from the inside. This makes the reed a little bit stronger, brings back its clear sound, increases the stability of the reed, and gets rid of those squeaks and chirps.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that some of my very best reeds were reeds that I had poked. I would play a good reed for a while, break it in, get it all tuned up and dialed in. It would be really good, but then over time, maybe just a little bit too easy. I give it a tiny poke with the reed poker, and boom! Suddenly, it’s just right. The reed has now gone through that break-in process and now just needs that little poke to open it up and regain its full sound and stability.

And because of the unpredictability of pipe chanter reeds, sometimes the reed can start to go right when you need it most, right before a performance or a competition. If you have your Piper’s Ultimate Reed Poker in your pipe case or sporran, you can give your reed a little poke, and you and your reed are back in action in a minute or less.

So here’s how the Piper’s Ultimate Reed Poker works: When you get your poker, it comes in this nice little storage tube with some instructions. It has a wooden handle and a steel tip that’s round and tapered. It’s the perfect shape for precisely controlling how much you want to open up your reed.

Let’s poke some reeds to show what the Piper’s Ultimate Reed Poker can do. Let’s try this reed. When I mouth below this reed, it produces a high-pitched squeal. It doesn’t have that crow followed by a clear tone that I really like. Let’s see what happens when we put it in the pipe chanter.

This reed definitely needs a poke. Start by inserting the poker into the reed from the bottom. Do this gently until it stops. At this point, the poker has made contact with the inside of the staple, but you haven’t done anything yet. Because of the tapered shape, the deeper you push the poker into the reed, the more the reed will open up. It’s always smarter to start with a small poke and see if it fixes your reed. I use my thumb as a marker and go just maybe a millimeter or two. Now push a little bit harder, and you’ll feel a tiny bit of resistance. Continue until your thumb touches the bottom of the reed, and then stop. Use your thumb to push on the bottom of the reed to push it away from the poker. You can twist the poker to make it a bit easier to remove, but since the poker’s round, the twisting doesn’t affect the reed at all.

Now let’s test the reed by mouth blowing it. That’s way better! The reed is now producing that desired crow, transitioning into that clear, stable tone.

Remember how high-pitched and squealy that reed sounded before? Now let’s try it in the pipe chanter.

That sound is much clearer, brighter, and louder. From blowing the reed, I can feel it’s taking the right amount of air and will be comfortable to play. The top hand is way better pitched, and all those crazy sounds and squeaks and chirps and skirls we were getting before are all totally gone after we poke the reed.

If you test the reed and it’s still too easy or sharp, or if it’s still making some of those horrible unwanted sounds, you can always give it another poke. Use your thumb as a guide and poke it another one or two millimeters deeper. The tapered tip design makes it really easy to control how much you poke your reed. It’s always better to give it a tiny poke and then another poke than over-poking the reed. 

I’ve seen some other reed poker designs that are square and blunt without this round tapered tip. These pokers require twisting, which is risky. You can easily damage your reed. The precise adjustments you can get with the Piper’s Ultimate Reed Poker just aren’t possible with these other designs. The square edges on these other pokers can easily get stuck in the reed, whereas the Piper’s Ultimate Reed Poker slides in smoothly and easily.

I created my first reed poker over 20 years ago by hand in a shop with a grinding wheel, belt sander, and small screwdriver tools. It took a lot of trial and error until I finally found the perfect design. That design is the Piper’s Ultimate Reed Poker, and now you can get one for yourself at

I love hearing from pipers around the world who love their Piper’s Ultimate Reed Poker. I get messages that say, “Your poker has saved me multiple times when I needed to strengthen my reed,” or “I used your poker to rejuvenate my favorite reed. Thank you,” or “Just got my new poker, and it already paid for itself.”

The Piper’s Ultimate Reed Poker is a game-changer for your chanter reeds. It’s an essential, important tool that you need in your pipe case to adjust the strength of your reeds and extend their life. It saves you the expense of replacing your reed and the time and hassle of finding a new read and breaking it in. The design is easy to use, so you can trust it will do the job when you need it most.

You know that you play better and enjoy playing more when your pipes sound and feel great. I know I do. So whether you’re competing in solo and band competitions, playing in parades or other shows, or just playing for fun, a bright, stable chanter sound with a reed that’s reliable, efficient, and easy to play makes all the difference. And that’s why you need the Piper’s Ultimate Reed Poker.

So visit my shop for the Tone Protector, the Piper’s Ultimate Reed Poker, and all of my favorite piping gear. Everything in my shop is a product that I have designed and invented or it’s a product that I have personally tested, use, and trust.

Thanks for watching, and don’t forget to hit the subscribe button and click the little bell to be notified when I post new things here on the YouTube channel. And visit to watch and download more videos, lessons, and resources.

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These tips are based on my 30+ years of experience as a piper and teacher to pipers of all ages and ability levels from around the world.

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These tips are based on my 30+ years of experience as a piper and teacher to pipers of all ages and ability levels from around the world.