Lowland and Border Bagpipes

Today, we call this type of bagpipe Border or Lowland bagpipes, referring to the border region between Scotland and England where today they are played. But historically, these pipes were found throughout Great Britain. The instruments share characteristics with early Highland pipes and show the development and connection of the two piping traditions.

Scottish Lowland Bagpipes

Both Highland and Border pipes have conically bored chanters (the pipe with finger holes that plays the ), three drones, and play only nine notes. Border pipes differ from their northern cousin by the set-up of the drones and how the air is moved through the instrument.  Border pipe drones are set in a common stock (the short tube which connects the drone pipes and the bag) and are bellows-blown, not mouth-blown.  Bellows-blown bagpipes have the advantage of using dry air, making them more stable because dry air is less damaging to the reeds, and in general, bellows-blown instruments survive better than mouth-blown instruments.

During the 18 th and early 19 th centuries Border pipe use was widespread.  The pipes were used by town pipers, as well as everyday people as a form of entertainment. The instruments could be played indoors, provide music for dancing, and play with a fiddle.

The Reel O’Tullochgorum by Walter Geikie

By the late 19 th century these instruments were less commonly played, with pipers preferring the louder Highland pipe. When the tradition of having a town piper stopped Lowland and Border pipes all but disappeared.   A revival of Lowland and Border piping has recently taken place and once again the instrument and its repertoire is being played throughout Great Britain.