Published: February 29, 2008

MacLellan returns to reedmaking

After only a few months retired from solo competition, Colin MacLellan of Edinburgh has resumed making chanter reeds, and has already supplied many pipers and several bands. The new business, PipeReeds.com, specializes in custom orders.

MacLellan has more than 35 years of experience as a reedmaker, a craft that he learned from his father, Captain John A. MacLellan, who taught him to adhere to exacting standards, using cane only of consistent colour and “hardness.”

“Components are manufactured using the most modern techniques and equipment,” MacLellan said. “Each reed is supplied tested, and sealed in an individual airtight container They are designed to have almost no blowing-in period, they are very much at optimum brightness and pitch out of the container. The reeds are made with ease of set up in mind, so that a light or firm squeeze in the middle of the blades is really the only skill needed to get them working.”

MacLellan says that several top Scottish soloists are already playing his chanter reeds. He makes them to meet a piper’s specific requests for strength and pitch, and will keep a customer’s preferences on file for future reference.

When he returned to his native Scotland in 2000 after living for 23 years in Canada, MacLellan was a full-time teacher of piping, first at the National Piping Centre and then for the last four years at Edinburgh Academy, where he ran the school’s band.

The former Pipe-Major of the Grade 1 Lothian Borders Police and Grade 2 Glengarry pipe bands, MacLellan recently joined the new band of elite players, led by Roddy MacLeod, which was formally announced on pipes|drums in January.

Discussing his approach to reeds, MacLellan continued, “I tie them all in the same way, and then the finishing technique used will depend on what the piper wants: hard, medium, easy, different pitches, tested in three different chanters to ensure that there are no defects. And each reed is guaranteed to be free and vibrant, and to produce a true scale. As a result no bad reeds will receive my stamp of approval and the reeds take considerably longer to make and finish than other mass-produced reeds.”

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