Best viewed in
Drone valves may seem like an
easy solution to achieving a clean cutoff. Like anything on the
bagpipes…there is no easy solution.
Drone valves serve a variety of
purposes and as you will read they have been around since at least the
mid 1800s. Drone valves are placed at the base of the drone stock to
help regulate air through the drones. Or if the piper is using a hose
moisture trap, the drone valves can be in-line. The intent is to
stabilize changes in bag pressure with regard to the drone reeds, so the
piper has steadier sound, easier starts and crisper stops. Volume is
I do not recommend students just
starting on the pipes install drone valves. You first need to learn to
strike in and cut cleanly without the valves. They can be added at any
time. Check with your instructor before installing.
Most valves are certainly most
practical with a zipper or clamp-back bag however, some allow insertion
through the drone stock.
Contrary to the assumptions of many,
drone valves are not a new invention, having been employed by the early
19th century and perhaps even earlier.
McDonald-made Pressure Regulators
Introduced: Before 1840
The image to the
left shows a drone regulator made by Donald McDonald (a
bagpipe maker) who died in 1840. The regulator was made from
the same billet of wood as the accompanying stock so was
turned at the same time and was not added at some later
point in time.
Shepherd Tone Enhancers
Made of black plastic.
These devices contain desiccant beads to absorb moisture.
Manufacturer: R.T. Shepherd Co. of Scotland.
Introduced: Late Summer 2000
These devices also contain a desiccant to absorb moisture.
These are most practical with a zipper or clamp bag.
These are modeled after the
McCallum valves, but have some design differences and retail
at a much lower price than the McCallums.
Manufacturer: Alan Ash of Canada.
Hylands In-Line Drone Valves
These valves fit in-line on
most hose moisture control systems. Strength of the valve is
adjustable via a hex screw located on the side of the valve
collar (clockwise tightens).
Inventor/Manufacturer: Nigel Hylands and co-developer
Ian Lyons, both of Melbourne, Australia
Introduced: March 2004