Description of the Bagpipes
Bagpipes are classified as aerophones. They are reed instruments that utilize an air reservoir. The reservoir allows an uninterrupted stream of air to be directed through the reeds. Such reservoir aerophones are not limited to Scotland and Ireland. Their antiquity can be traced throughout Asia, in North Africa and across Europe.
Origin of the Bagpipes
Various forms of bagpipes have been attributed to many ancient civilizations. A style of bagpipe is mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible. Some historians believe the bagpipes had their origin in Sumaria. While others believe it was spread to Persia, India, and the Roman Empire by the Celtic peoples. An Athenian dramatist, writing in the fifth century BC, mentioned the bagpipe. It is important to remember that these instruments were the predecessors of the modern bagpipe. As such they were likely different then the popular form of today. It is also important to remember that you are likely to get as many different versions of the history of the bagpipe as there are writings on the subject. The true origin is still cloudy, resulting in limited knowledge of the history and development of the bagpipe.
It has been pointed out that the cloudy history of the bagpipe may be explained in the nature of the pipes themselves. Most importantly, they do not survive the ravages of time. Made of wood and skins the ancient ancestors of the bagpipes have long since gone to dust. The other reason is that the bagpipes have been a commoner’s, or peasant’s instrument. It is unfortunately true that historians tend to dwell on the lifestyle of the rich and famous. The more modern bagpipes, that most of us are familiar with, were actually a war instrument. It was not uncommon for armies to utilize any means at their disposal to instill fear into their enemy. Costumes and loud music were favorite methods of creating fear in the enemy. Some say that the bagpipe was especially suited to this purpose, not just for the sound they create. Blowing a flute or whistle while being attacked can become very difficult when your throat tightens up. The reservoir allowed the piper to play continually, even when breathing may have been difficult.
Over the centuries there have been many styles of bagpipe. Along with the reservoir, or bag, these pipes may have one or two chanters, one or more drones and the mouthpiece. There are reeds in each of the drones and chanters. The chanter has finger holes for playing multiple notes, while the drones’ notes are fixed. The various styles of pipes can be divided into two categories. This dichotomy is based on the method used to fill the reservoir. The player can fill the reservoir by blowing with the mouth, as in the traditional Great Highland Bagpipes, or by pumping a bellows, as in the Uilleann pipes. We carry a number of styles that have a reservoir filled by mouth, and we are in the process of developing a bellows style.
Our most popular bagpipe is made out of sheesham rosewood. It is beautiful and very forgiving. It almost never cracks unless you sit on the pipes or hold the chanter by the sole when unplugging it from its stock. We also have bagpipes in Cocus wood, Black Rosewood, and African Blackwood.
Our bagpipes are designed to function well and be very reasonably priced for people who want to have fun. We carry several styles of bagpipes in four sizes, the toy, miniature, halfsize and fullsize.
Although we call it a Toy Bagpipe, this 12 x14 inch set is an instrument to be played. It comes with three nonfunctioning drones, the functional chanter and mouthpiece. This is a simple design with no mounts. The bag is plastic and has a Royal Stewart Tartan covering with fringe. Great for a child or for fun trips in the car! This size makes a great gift or home décor item.
The Miniature Cocus Wood Bagpipe (BAGA) 27" x 18" has an imitation "ivory" sole and mounts. The mounts are nickeled brass with turned designs. The bag is a Royal Stewart Tartan covering with fringe. Our imitation "ivory" mounts and soles are made in Germany. They are hand-turned and manufactured to age like real ivory.
The Halfsize Cocus Bagpipe (BAGB) 33" x 19" has a metal sole. It also has full "ivory" and engraved nickeled brass mounts, and a Royal Stewart Tartan cover with fringe.
The Fullsize Cocus Bagpipe (BAGF) 40" x 20" has an engraved nickeled brass sole. It has full "ivory" and engraved nickeled mounts and a Royal Stewart Tartan cover with fringe.
The Miniature Chalice Bagpipe (BGCA) 27" x 18" is our miniature sized rosewood bagpipe. It has a turned brass sole, full "ivory" and brass mounts and a velvet cover with ivory fringe.
The Halfsize Chalice Bagpipe(BGCB) 33" x 19"is our halfsize rosewood bagpipe. It has a turned brass sole. It has full "ivory" and turned brass mounts and a velvet cover with ivory fringe.
The Fullsize Chalice Bagpipe (BGCC) 40" x 20"is one of three fullsize rosewood bagpipes. It has a turned brass sole and full "ivory" and brass mounts and velvet cover with white fringe.
The Fullsize Rosewood Bagpipe (BAGC) 40" x 20" has a turned nickeled brass sole. It is fully mounted with molded plastic and turned nickeled brass, and has a Royal Stewart Tartan cover with fringe.
The Fullsize Rosewood Bagpipe (BAGE) 40" x 20"has an engraved nickeled brass sole, full "ivory" and engraved nickeled mounts and a Royal Stewart Tartan cover with fringe.
The Fullsize Black Rosewood Bagpipe (BAGD) 40" x 20"has a turned nickeled brass sole, fully mounted with molded plastic and turned nickeled brass, and a Royal Stewart Tartan cover with fringe
The Fullsize African Blackwood Bagpipe (BAGK) 40" x 20" has an engraved nickeled brass sole, full "ivory" and nickeled brass mounts and a Royal Stewart Tartan cover with fringe.
Our Medieval Bagpipes (BAGP) 21" x 35" are a slim style pipe. They have two drones with no mounts, a narrow bell on the chanter and a Royal Stewart Tartan cover.
Our Medieval Smallpipes (BGSP)have two drones with brass mounts, a narrow bell on the chanter and a velvet cover with ivory fringe. They are 20" in size.
The Mediterranean Bagpipes (BGMP) are unique to DulcimerShofar. They represent the Turkish, Greek and Arabic style bagpipes. They are 20" in size, and have a double chanter. The chanter has two shafts mounted on a flare shaped bell. This double chanter provides both the drone and note. Each shaft is drilled with five finger holes. The player may close up as many or as few holes as they wish. You can tape them or fill them with beeswax. This also allows you to make this a left or right-handed pipe. It is important to note that each shaft has its own bridled reed. The bridle allows you to adjust the pitch of each shaft independently.
Uilleann Bagpipes have bellows that are carried under, and are pumped by the arm. The bellows keeps the bag full of air. They have tenor, baritone and bass drones and "regulators" on the chanters, which play harmonies.
Our Starter Set contains bellows, connector pipe, bag and chanter.
Learning To Play the Bagpipes
When you order the practice chanter, the reed will be packaged on the outside so it is easily located. Be careful not to discard it accidentally. To assemble and disassemble the chanter, always hold the chanter at the adjoining ends and slowly twist while applying pressure. Never hold the chanter by the sole.
All of our bagpipes include two sets of reeds, hemp, one set of rubber corks, and 8 ounces of Super-Seal seasoning. The reeds all have bridles, which allow the pitch of the reed to be adjusted. Included also is the "Operation of the Highland Bagpipe" sheet providing information on the structures and care of the instrument.
Beginners do not learn to play music on the bagpipes. The beginning student learns on the practice chanter. Learning on the bagpipe is akin to suicide unless you are a hermit. When it is shipped, the chanter is disassembled and the reed is placed on the outside so it is easily located and, hopefully, not easily lost. The practice chanter has three pieces: the mouthpiece, the shorter top body section and the bottom body section with finger holes. With the top and bottom body sections disassembled, hold the bottom body section close to it’s top joint end (never hold or twist the chanter while holding the sole). Fit the reed into the bore of the bottom body section. Hold the top body section close to its joint end. Gently slip the top body section over the reed and bottom body section. The mouthpiece attaches over the top of the top body section. Practice chanters are played like a whistle or recorder. While playing, keep your fingers straight. Try not to use the pads of your fingers. Place your fingers over all the holes, front and back. Lifting one finger at a time plays notes. After each practice session, take the practice chanter apart and shake out the moisture.
Plan to spend up to six months to learn your first song properly. After becoming proficient on the practice chanter the student may begin to learn to play the chanter with the bag but without the drones. This is known as "Playing the Goose." To do this, you assemble the bagpipe with bag, chanter and mouthpiece. Cork off the drone stocks and play only the chanter. You now learn to play the PIPE chanter like you did the practice chanter. You also learn to blow your arm off the bag, keep the tone even, and then try to walk (hopefully all at the same time). If you can achieve all of that and not pass out or fall over you are ready for the next step. You uncork the stocks and install the drones one at a time, as you become more proficient. The end result is worth the time and patience. Bagpipes, played well, produce a sound that seems to speak to something deep within us. Even people who do not like the bagpipes are drawn to the sound.
No, they require only half as much air.
Yes, in fact, DulcimerShofar stocks replacement parts for all of our bagpipes.
Two sets of reeds, corks, seasoning, and hemp (thread) are included with each bagpipe set (except toy bagpipe).
Hemp is used to ensure airtightness. It is tied around the reed, sole, and at the top/bottom sections fitting of the practice chanter; on ferrules, slides, reeds, and on the plug-in ends of the drones, blowpipe, and chanter of the bagpipe.
Corks are used to plug up the stocks when seasoning is used. Also, drone stocks are corked when a student is first learning the bagpipe (called "Playing the Goose").
The bagpipe bag is cowhide and it must be able to retain air. Seasoning keeps the leather soft and airtight. It is applied through the blowpipe stock.
It is a hard wood of very dense composition; thus giving it the preferred tonal quality for the serious piper.
Our Medieval Small Pipes are in the key of D. The tin whistle has only six holes, while the Small Pipes have eight in front and one in back.
There are a number of things that will affect the keys and the range:
1) How hard you blow
2) Placement of the reed; that is, higher or lower in the bore of the chanter.
3) The reed opening. The note can be adjusted by opening or closing the reed.