The Practice Chanter

Parts of the practice chanter

Being able to identify the parts of the Practice Chanter is a requirement for SCQF Level 2
  1. It is either made of plastic or wood. Chanters made by the better manufacturers have the maker’s name engraved on the lower half of the chanter between the joint and the high G hole. Only well made chanters will be in tune with itself.
  2. To check a chanter, look in the bores. The inside should be smooth. Also, try playing a reed, and check the pitch of each note to the others. Some reeds may not tune in a certain chanter, but most reeds should.
  3. When buying a chanter, there is no point in buying a model with ivory and silver finishings as that only adds to the cost without improving the sound.
  4. There are half sized chanters on the market. There is no point in buying them. A person quickly becomes used to stretching their fingers to cover the holes of the full sized chanter. Besides, if the learner gets used to the half size chanter, then he or she has to relearn hole spacing for the bagpipe chanter.



The Mouthpiece is where the lips wrap around and through which air is blown. On most (plastic) practice chanters the mouthpiece is molded onto the top section. On wooden chanters, the mouthpiece is generally plastic and the top section wood.

The top section connects to the bottom section on the pin. It covers the reed completely, and air flows from the mouthpiece through the top section to and through the reed.


The blades of the reed is what vibrates causing the sound. The blades sit in the staple and the staple and blades are wrapped with hemp.

Bottom Section

The bottom section contains the finger holes. It also contains the pin (joint) on which the top section is attached.

The Sole is ornamental, on the bottom of the chanter. It helps prevents wooden chanters from splitting. It also raises the chanter up off of the table (when resting on a table) which allows sound to escape.


Practice Chanter Maintenance

Being able to maintain your Practice Chanter is a requirement for SCQF Level 3

Also see Care and Cleaning of your practice chanter

Weakening or Strengthening the Practice Chanter Reed

To make the reed harder to blow, we curve the blades (pinch the sides).

To make the reed easier to blow we flatten the blades (pinch the middle top of the blades).

Making the Practice Chanter Reed sharper or flatter

To make a note sharper, you need to shorten the tube. One way to do this is to push the reed in slightly.

To make a note flatter, you need to lengthen the tube. One way to do this is to pull the reed out slightly.

Care, Cleaning and Storage of the practice chanter

Care, Cleaning and Storage of the Practice Chanter

Practice chanters are sensitive to extreme temperatures.

  • Don’t leave them in your vehicle during the hottest days of the summer or coldest days of the winter.
    • Heat will melt the plastic chanters and reeds.
    • Cold will make both plastic and wood chanters brittle allowing them to break easily.

Materials Needed

  • Practice Chanter
  • Hemp
  • Parafin Wax
  • Scissors or knife (cutting hemp)
  • Cloth/pull through

Disassembling the practice chanter

Make sure you always separate joints by grabbing onto the top and bottom of the joint immediately beside the joint before you twist. DO NOT leave a great space between your hands. The stress of the twisting motion can cause the chanter (or other part like a drone) to break, especially if it is wood.

Hemping the joint

On the newer practice chanters that are plastic, they usually have rubber o-rings for sealing the joint so hemping isn’t normally required. However, on wooden chanters it is required. Due to the air pressure required for the reed to sound, we need to ensure that the joint between the top section and the bottom section is as airtight as possible. This is accomplished by wrapping the pin with hemp. The hemp is coated with paraffin or bees wax to help make the hemp water resistent so that it doesn’t rot. The hemp also helps prevent the hemp from spinning on the pin.

To hemp the joint:

Form a loop with the hemp. The top of the loop is at one end of the pin and the free end of the loop is at the other. At the free end, start wrapping the pin with hemp by filling in the grooves (practice chanters that need to be hemped will have grooves). Once you have wrapped to the loop end, you insert the running end of the hemp through the loop, and then pull it under the wrappings by pulling on the free end of the hemp.

Continue adding layers of hemp as required such that the top section will fit snugly on the bottom section.

NOTE: If you haven’t used pre-waxed hemp, you will need to wax each layer of hemp as you have finished the layer.

Removing Moisture from the practice chanter

Wipe down the outside of the chanter.

Wipe down the seat and around the pin (inner part of joint).

Insert your cloth up into the upper section of the chanter to absorb moisture that may be in the chanter.

You may also need to hold the bottom section upside down so that moisture drains from the chanter.

Removing Moisture from the reed

Wipe down the reed.

If there is moisture in the reed (it makes a gurgling sound when played) you can blow from the staple end of the reed and this will blow most of the moisture out of the reed.

Cleaning the practice chanter

Don’t use harsh chemicals on your chanter. Usually wiping the chanter down swill suffice, but if that isn’t sufficient, use luke warm water with a very mild soap.

Assembling the practice chanter

Carefully line up the base section and the top section. Ensuring that you don’t scrape the reed on the inside of the top section, insert the base into the top so that the pin on the base is snugly in the top.

Storing the practice chanter

Store your practice chanter in a cool dry location. I usually store my chanter in my pipe case.