Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Are you ready to strap on your skirt laddy and play your heart out? Well, whether you’re ready for the screeching that follows or not, here is my explanation of the bagpipes.

Bagpipes are a musical instrument belonging to the aerophones family that uses enclosed reeds fed from a constant reservoir of air in the form of a bag. A set of bagpipes will normally include an air supply, a bag, chanter, and drone.

Air supply- Most common source of air is supplied by the instrument’s user by means of a blowpipe. Alternatively, some variations called ‘coldpipes’ use bellows to provide air.

Bag- Traditional designs are made from various animal skins including: goats, dogs, sheep, and cows. The majority of current bags are constructed from synthetic materials, most notably Gore-Tex.

Chanter- The melody pipe played by one or both hands. It is usually open-ended making it difficult to suddenly stop the pipe from sounding, so grace notes are played to create the illusion of articulation and ascents.

Drone- Most bagpipes have at least one of these. A cylindrical tube with 1-2 reeds designed in two parts with a sliding joint called a ‘bridle’ that adjusts the instrument’s tone. You will see they are located in various places such as lying over the shoulder, across the arm opposite the bag, or parallel with the canter.

Recent history of the bagpipes starts with the expansion of the British Empire, where the Scottish Great Highland Bagpipe became known worldwide. Popularity increased as a result of large numbers of pipers being trained for military service in the two World Wars. The most well known versions include the Turkish Tulum, the Northumbrian smallpipes, and the gaita de boto.

     Turkish tulum                                 Northumbrian smallpipes        

gaita de boto
Police forces in Canada, Scotland, Australia, China, and the United States have adopted the tradition of pipe bands.

If you are so eager to start huffing and puffing, you may want to visit http://www.gibsonpipes.com/ and http://www.dunbarbagpipes.com/ for either the real thing or a practice model called the ‘practice chanter’ for about $125. Also, if you ever have the urge to hear some good old-fashion Scottish music, the website http://www.bagpiper.com/ is a professional network of bagpipers where you can search for one in your area to perform at an event of your choosing.

I want to know…What song do you think would sound the best on the bagpipes? Perhaps the Flying Seagull’s I Ran, or Metallica’s Enter Sandman? Leave a comment with your choice and I’ll post a video (if I can find one) of the most bizarre musical stint with your song.

Thanks again for reading and always ask yourself, “Do I dare disturb the universe?”

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