March 31, 2001

A Dose of Fibre

Henderson Harmonic Deluxe Drone Reeds
Manufactured by Henderson Reedmakers, Kirriemuir, Scotland
Suggested list price: £75

Reviewed by Bob Worrall

The new Henderson Harmonic Deluxe Drone Reeds present today’s pipers with another alternative to traditional cane reeds.

The last twenty years have seen a large number of synthetic or cane/synthetic combinations enter the drone reed market. I have used a number of these products with great success. All have very specific advantages over cane. While most serious pipers will agree that nothing beats a good going set of cane reeds, the question remains as to how often we manage to achieve the ultimate cane sound. And, once we achieve it, we very rarely are able to maintain it for a sustained period. The large number of alternatives has given us high quality products that are stable, predictable and long lasting.

The original synthetic Henderson Harmonic drone reeds that have been on the market for a number of years have been extremely successful for a large number of players. In addition, many of those pipers committed to cane have gone with cane tenors and Henderson bass combination. Many Ezeedrone players have done precisely the same thing, preferring the Ezeedrone tenor and Henderson bass combination. So, I was very intrigued when the new Henderson reeds were sent on for evaluation.

The tongues of the new model are constructed of carbon fibre. This is what is used in one model of the new “Rocket” drone reeds. The literature that comes with the Henderson product advertises tongue stability as one specific selling point. After having played the “Rockets,” there is no question whatsoever that the carbon fibre tongues are phenomenally stable. So, while I have only had a couple of weeks now to work with the Henderson reeds, I have found that they are extremely stable. I have disconnected drone tubes in the Ross bag to allow the drone reeds to get fairly wet after a long session of tunes. They maintained their tuning and didn’t stop while being quite damp. This is advertised as one of the “plus” factors associated with these reeds. My observations seem to back up their claim.

They look much like a number of the other synthetic products. While they do not have a tuning pin concept for adjusting pitch, you are left with a good length at the bass of the reed for seating, and consequently, pitch adjustment. My Naill pipe has rather large drone reed seats. I had to hemp up the reeds a little more to ensure a secure seating. The bass, in particular, tuned quite high. The tenors initially tuned a bit lower than how the pipe was set up prior to using the Henderson reeds. But, the “O” rings allow for a fair amount of leeway in adjustment.

I have found that a number of synthetic drone reeds don’t allow for much adjustment; i.e. a slight closing of the tongue results in a stoppage, and a slight opening of the tongue results in a virtual wind tunnel. That was not the case with these reeds. I have managed to soften the tenors significantly, resulting in their tuning a little higher. After a long play, the reeds maintain their initial stability and bright tonal quality. They produce a very full sound. My own chanter reed is robust enough to balance quite nicely with these reeds. I would, however, have to work at closing them down a little more if I were playing a lighter chanter reed. My feeling at this point in time is that they take a similar amount of air to the Ezeedrone reeds.

The construction of the reed seems to be a definite improvement on the earlier model. The “O” ring is very sturdy, and the rubber seating for the tongue provides much more security than I have seen on many synthetic drone reeds. An additional selling point is that Murray Henderson has set and tested each set in his own pipes.

Different players and different climates necessitate a great deal of variety in drone reeds. No one product provides the total answer. There is no doubt that the “Henderson Harmonic Deluxe” Drone Reeds will be an extremely popular and welcome addition to the drone reed market.

Bob Worrall is an elder statesman of the piping world. In addition to winning both the March and Strathspey & Reel events at the Northern Meeting in his first and only appearance at that event, he has won virtually every major significant piping prize in North America. A much sought-out judge and teacher around the world, he lives in Burlington, Ontario.


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