Since adolescence, it feels like there has been a conspiracy to prevent me from breathing.

As a youth, I was really bad at sports. I ran out of breath easily. Actual adults said: he's a nerd, he's just a wimp.

As a teenager, I needed a lot of sleep. Over nine hours at least to feel rested. Actual adults: he's lazy; wake him up.

A piper I was trying to get instruction from said my unsteady blowing was from lack of practice. I just had to suck it up and suffer more before I got good.

As an adult, a competent doctor diagnosed me with sports-induced asthma. The remedy: a cheap steroidal inhaler. Allergen therapy later reduced my asthma even more.

A sleep doctor diagnosed me with apnea. The fix: a medical device called a CPAP which has improved my life immeasurably. I no longer snore, and I sleep restfully.

A competent bagpipe instructor correctly diagnosed that my chanter reed was too hard. The solution: shave it down. Now I can play without panting.

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Right on!
I don't know much about asthma nor apnea; i.e. no serious personal experience.

But on the bagpipe front: only show-off blowhards like hard reeds. It's completely unnecessary. An airtight instrument with an easy reed is the goal so it should never be hard to play several tunes in succession even as a learner. A medium reed is good to have to provide some challenge as desired, and generally it will sound better. But the priority is comfort so one can focus on playing steadily and with good technique. As an example: if you can play four bars of your best known tune blowing directly into your pipe chanter only, then that reed is good for you vis a vis strength.

Once you have an airtight instrument and a suitable reed, then practice to develop stamina is good. Chanter reeds often need some time in use to play well so pushing yourself a tiny bit helps everything. Steady blowing - at any pressure - also takes practice.

Lot's of subtleties to learn. :) Hang in there!

@PiperPilotPaul Thank you for the encouragement. Bagpipe camp had some conflicts, but the instruction was beyond comparable. Competent teachers who were there to teach, not to show off, made it more than worth the while.

Getting my reed down from 50 inH2O to 32 has been life-changing for my playing. I'm going to see if I can get a reed down below 30. My teacher, who performs professionally as a soloist and in a band, keeps his at 24.

Playing should be musical, not hard.

Yes! The instrument is challenging enought without making it harder.
I'm not familiar with your terminology. It sounds like a manometer measurement of pressure moving water?

@PiperPilotPaul a manometer measures inches of water (or millimeters). So 30 inH2O means that when blowing, water in a standard U-bend time moves 15 inches up the tube. (It also moved 15 inches down the other end of the U, hence 30).

Bagpipe supply stores sell them as pressure gauges or manometers either as tubes or gauges.

For bagpipe reeds, generally, 20 to 30 is easy, 30 to 35 is medium. Anything above that is hard.

Got it.
We use our own home-made manometer to practice blowing steadily.
But it doesn't have any measurement or gauge. That's why I wanted to confirm your statement.

We rate our chanter reeds according to the capability of the player: anything one can play easily for 30 minutes is perfect. If it squawks or stops playing readily, then it's too easy. If it's tiring then it's too hard. Then we check to see if we can keep the manometer water fairly steady while playing.
Also, once you have a comfortable reed then you can calibrate your drones to shut off when you overblow that reed.

Who said piping is complicated?? :)

@PiperPilotPaul homemade is fine. I've seen that too. The dude who told me to just practice more had one. In his case, he was so focused on blowing steady, he didn't diagnose why blowing was hard.

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