Tuning a Bagpipe with Inexpensive Tuners

As you may know, the bagpipe scale does not correspond with the concert scale. There are bagpipe tuners which will properly handle the pipe's characteristic scale, but these are expensive. This sheet describes how to do it with an inexpensive tuner.

First you need to calibrate the tuner to low A. Depending on the tuner, there may be several ways to do this; but one of the following two should be the easiest to use:
  1. Some tuners allow you to set the pitch of A over a wide range - for example, the Korg CA-30 allows you to set the pitch anywhere from 410 to 480. On such a tuner, you can calibrate A to 472-473 (band pitch) and read the notes directly from the dial.
  2. Some tuners have a much narrower range - for example, the Korg CA-20 only allows you to set A between 430 and 450. On such a tuner, calibrate A to 446-447 (Subtract 26 from the band pitch) and remember to subtract a half step from the note displayed on the dial so that a Bb on the dial will become our A.
To set low and high A or to tune the drones, this is adequate. It should also be adequate for checking how steady your blowing is - the needle may not always show vertical, but it shouldn't move if you're playing just one long note.

For tuning the chanter, you need to use the following table. Most modern tuners will display the current pitch in both Hertz (frequency - cycles per second) and cents (a measure of relative pitch, one Hertz  being about 3-4 cents in our range). Use the readout for cents, not Hertz. A more complete discussion of the rationale for this table can be found in the long explanation of tuning. When the note is in tune the needle on the tuner should indicate the deviation in the last column for each note.

Note name Bagpipe Scale
Cents from
low A
Closest Concert Scale note /
(Concert Scale note
after adjusting to concert pitch)
Concert Scale cents
(what the meter
is measuring)
Deviation from
Concert Scale (cents)
(what the needle will indicate)
high A 1200.0 A / (Bb) 1200 0.0
high GJ 996.1 G / (Ab) 1000 -3.9
F(#) 884.4 F# / (G) 900 -15.6
E 702.0 E / (F) 700 +2.0
DJ 498.0 D / (Eb) 500 -2.0
C(#) 386.3 C# / (D) 400 -13.7
B 203.9 B / (C) 200 +3.9
low A 0.0 A / (Bb) 0 0.0
low GJ -203.9 G / (Ab) -200 -3.9