Your Complete Guide to Scottish Bagpipes

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Your Complete Guide to Scottish Bagpipes

Bagpipes are the heart and soul of Scotland and learning to play this instrument can be a great idea if you like challenges. Besides the iconic great Highland bagpipes, there are other types available, so you should learn about the types and the features to select the bagpipes that you enjoy learning to play.

 

Types of Scottish Bagpipes

The great Highland bagpipes are almost synonymous with Scotland, as you can spot them at Scottish dance celebrations and large street parades. This type of pipe has three drones that you wear over the shoulder, a nine-note mixolydian scale, and a stiff blow. It mainly comes in the key of A and therefore is good for lamenting the dead or marching soldiers into battle. Other common types include smaller pipes, such as reel pipes, smallpipes, and the Border pipes as well as the bellows-blown pipes that resemble Irish Uillean pipes.

 

Bagpipe Structure

The bagpipe is a wind instrument that contains a number of pipes and a bag. One of the pipes is a melody pipe that includes finger holes that allow you to produce the tune. The other pipes, called drones, produce single notes and have tenor and bass pitches. When playing the bagpipe, the piper puffs air into a blowpipe or blowstick that then fills the bag that he holds between his chest and arm. The air and air pressure from the piper's mouth makes the reeds in the chanter vibrate and the drones can then produce one melody and three harmonies. When the player pauses for breathing, squeezing the bag provides air supply that keeps the bagpipe playing. The pipes join with the bag at wooden sockets and there a leather non-return valve keeps the air inside the bag.

 

Bagpipe Materials

The bags for bagpipes are typically cow or elk hide and hand stitches and welding hold them together. In the past, people made pipes from pelts from dogs, cows, and sheep. However, today the bag is mainly synthetic. Such materials require less maintenance and last longer. The pipes are usually a quality, durable hardwood. Before making it into pipes and drones, the wood has to dry for several years and therefore making bagpipes is a long process. Bagpipes from the Victorian times had intricate carvings and ornaments on the pipes and this became traditional over time. Many pipemakers also revive antique designs. You can also find bagpipes with heavy sterling silver ornaments and tartan bag covers that indicate a certain clan. The bag covers allow people to customise the bagpipes and designate the military regiment or organisation the player belongs to.

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