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
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
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
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
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
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
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
3) The reed opening. The note can be adjusted by opening or closing