Great Highland Bagpipe

Perhaps the most widely recognized form of bagpipes, the Great Highland Bagpipe has become a national symbol of Scotland.  The instruments are known for their strong, powerful sound and have been utilized in both popular and military music in Scotland and abroad.


Although it is believed that bagpipes were introduced to Scotlandin the late 14 th or early 15 th century, the Highland bagpipe did not develop into the form we know today until the late 18 th century.  During its development, the instrument fostered its own distinct musical styles including piobaireachd or pibroch; meaning “piping” in Gaelic, ceò l mòr or “great music” characterised by extended compositions with theme and variation, and ceòl beag or “light music” such as marches and dance tunes. The instruments popularity expanded through piping competitions sponsored by organisations such as the Highland Society of London and its adoption into the British military.

Like all British bagpipes, Highland pipes have a chanter that uses a , similar to the found in an oboe. Highland pipes have three drones ( bass and two tenors) each sounded by a single (more like the of a clarinet).  Unlike bellows-blown pipes, the player of a Highland pipe has to blow air through the blowpipe to inflate the bag. The piper then squeezes the bag to force air through the chanter and drones. The wide, conical of the chanter, along with the length of the drones, gives the Highland pipe its powerful sound.   This loud sound lends the pipe to be played in outdoor settings.  Reel pipes, a slightly smaller version of the Highland pipe, have a quieter sound and were intended for indoor use.

Great Highland Bagpipe by Thomas Glen, Edinburgh