What if it's cold/snowy?

Most people wouldn't ask a violin player to play in the swirling snow....

It's always best if the piper plays "indoors". The reeds give a better sound, the instrument is more stable and the piper can play more precisely.  At cold temperatures, there is the risk that the water in the breath will condense making it unstable to play and may cause the instrument may crack.  Cold weather also makes it harder to play the instrument as the reeds are not as flexible as they are when they are warm.  There are many instances of pipers suffering from severe headaches and burst eardrums after playing in the cold.  For these reasons, some pipers won't play in the cold. 

If you absolutely must have an outdoor performance, it can often be done for a limited period of time, but there are some physical limitations.

At cold temperatures, the reeds don't work like they do at room temperature, so the pipe must be specially prepared.  It is not possible to play the same pipe at 60F and at 30F.  With a lot of knowledge, preparation (at least one full day) and work (calories burned), a good piper can keep an instrument to be viable down to about 25F for about 30 minutes.  At temperatures below that and at longer times, the pipes must be specially prepared and handled or there will be no sound at all.  Once the reeds freeze, the pipe won't play.  Once the piper runs out of energy from trying to keep the pipe warm, there will be no music. 

Tunes can be chosen to be simpler pieces which is a good idea in case the piper can't feel his/her fingers on the chanter.

If asked to pipe both inside and outside, I will often bring a second pipe specially set up to do cold weather performances. There is also an additional charge for playing in the cold.

Copyright S.K. MacLeod 1996-2016