When most people think of a bagpipe, they think of the Great Highland Bagpipe from Scotland, but this is just one of the many types of bagpipes.  Bagpipes are ancient instruments and have existed since before Roman times.  Today, bagpipes can be found all over the world with many variations found in one country.  Even the Highland bagpipe is just one type of bagpipe found in Scotland, and those are just some of the many diverse styles of bagpipes from the British Isles.

How do they work?

Bagpipes are woodwind instruments that use vibrating reeds to produce sound.  To play a bagpipe, the piper first fills the bag with air.  They can do this by blowing air through the blow pipe, or pumping air into the bag using bellows, placed under the player’s arm.   When the bag is full, the player squeezes the bag to force air into the chanter and the drones, making the reeds vibrate.  The chanter is the pipe and is the pipe with finger-holes.  Chanters have a – similar to the used by oboes and bassoons.  This is different from the drones, which have a single – similar to the of a clarinet.  Drone pipes are the pipes without finger-holes, and produce a continuous sound.  You cannot see the reeds of a bagpipe – they are inside the instrument.

Diagram of a Highland Bagpipe