Celtic Culture

 

 

The Bagpipes

Bagpipes have been used by the Celts in one form or another throughout their history since their original invention. As we have discovered the Celts journeyed throughout Europe and beyond.

 Scottish Bagpipes

 Irish Pipes

It is fair to say that there has been a connection between the modern bag pipes and the "bag" pipes used in the civilizations of ancient Greece, Rome, and Persia - where each has fashioned their own pipe design.

The most commonly recognized pipes, in the modern world, come from the Scottish Highlands. If you have ever been to a police funeral you will have heard the beautiful sound of these pipes. In fact, I have been to a few military funerals where they were played as well.

Until you have heard "Amazing Grace" from the bagpipes you have missed one of the sweetest sounds in the world. Whenever I hear that I still get tears in my eyes.



But Ireland has two different styles of pipes:

  • The War pipes - which you blow into to make music.
  • And the Uilleann pipes, which uses air from a set of bellows - very similar to the Scottish "pipes" everyone is so familair with.

The Great Highland Bagpipes are the best known of the several types of Scottish Bagpipes. They are very loud instruments that are best played outside!

NOTE: I know how loud they can be because my older brother has been playing them for some years now. He was in the Army National Guard and retired a few years ago as a Lt. Colonel.

He got fascinated with the bagpipes in the early 1970's when he heard them at so many funerals for returning soldiers from Vietnam. So after he retired he took them up to learn how to play them. Last time I heard him he was getting better - BUT still had some ways to go!

The bag is inflated with the mouth, and there are 2 tenor drones, 1 bass drone and an open chanter usually pitched in Bb, but the music is written in A.

It is usual to use a Practice Chanter when learning the Highland bagpipes. The practice chanter has a narrower bore than a pipe chanter, and is cheap and quiet enough for use in the home.

A practice Chanter is the best way for a beginner to learn tunes. This lets you concentrate on the notes without having to worry about keeping the bag full and a steady pressure going.

I think you need to practice both jobs separately before you try to put it all together. So as soon as you are sure you want to continue you will need a set of bagpipes.

It is a different story for Irish and Northumbrian pipes. Normally you would start with a practice set of Irish, and jump straight in with a normal 7 key set of Northumbrian.

Many thanks to Hobgoblin Music for their input and help with this page!

Northumbrian Small pipes

The Small pipes are probably the quietest of all the Bagpipes. They have a closed chanter which basically plays just one octave.

The keys are used to extend the range. The small pipes pitch is generally nearer F than the nominal key of G.
 
There is no practice set available for the Northumbrian pipes, as of this writing. Beginners should first get a simple 3 drone set without keys.

However, the best, and most popular, option is to get a regular 7 key set and not use the drones until you are ready.  If you buy a simple set, you will lose out on trading up, and the saving at the outset is not huge anyway.

 

 

  • Scottish Bagpipes
    The Scottish bagpipes are the most well known of all the different "types" of bag pipes. They actually come in a couple of different sizes producing different music.
  • Irish Bagpipes
    The Irish, or Uilleann pipes, have reached quite an advanced state of development. They are becoming increasingly popular in the modern world.
  • Uilleann Pipes
    The Ullean bagpipes are a special breed of pipes. Read on to learn more about these unique pipes.

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