Description of the Uilleann Bagpipes
Bagpipes are classified as aerophones. They are reed instruments that
utilize an air reservoir. The Uilleann pipes differ from Traditional Bagpipes
in the method by which the reservoir is filled with air. In the traditional
bagpipe the player blows directly into the bag through the mouthpiece.
The bag reservoir of the Uilleann pipes is inflated by pumping a bellows.
It is believed that the bellows was introduced sometime around the end
of the 17th or beginning of the 18th century. The term "Uilleann"
translates as elbow; which refers to the player pumping the bellows with
his/her elbow. Today Uilleann Pipes are also known as Irish Pipes.
A complete Uilleann Bagpipe set includes the Bellows, Bag, Chanter, three
Drones and three Regulators.
Origin of the Uilleann Bagpipes
Some Pipers believe that once Penal Law classified the traditional Bagpipes
as an instrument of war, that they were no longer available to be played
by the general public at non-military gathering. Others believe that the
new style, with the bellows, was designed for a wider appeal. The Uilleann
pipes, with its bellows, is played sitting down and so can not be used
in military marches. It is also much quieter and lends itself to inside
events, such as dances, weddings, wakes and the like. Also, the Uilleann
Pipes' tonality and scale was better suited to the newly emerging dance
music, and may explain its non-military popularity.
Minor differences in reeds can have a dramatic effect on how your pipes
sound. Therefore, we include 2 reeds with each Chanter.
The Uilleann Practice Chanter (UILP) is made of rosewood and comes in
two pieces. The body has 7 front holes and 1 back hole. The top Blowcap
has a Plastic Mouthpiece that can be cut to the length that is comfortable
for the player. The rosewood Practice Chanter comes with two reeds (ULRC)
and plays two octaves from Low to high D.
The Blackwood Uilleann Chanter (UILC) is designed to be played with the
Starter Set (UILS). The Blackwood Uilleann Chanter comes with two reeds
(ULRC) and plays two octaves from Low to high D. It has 3 brass keys which
provide additional C, G# and F notes. The Blowcap with Plastic Mouthpiece
from the Practice Chanter (UILP) can be used to play the Blackwood Chanter
Uilleann Starter Set
The Uilleann Starter Set (UILS) includes the Bellows, Bellows Connector,
Reservoir Bag, and Blackwood Chanter Stock. This Set Requires a Chanter
(UILP or UILC sold separately).
The Uilleann Drone Set (UILN) comes with the Valve that fits into the
Valve Cup our Starter Set. The Tenor Drone is in the Key of D above Middle
C, the Baritone Drone is D below Middle C, and the Bass Drone is second
D below Middle C.
The Uilleann Regulator Set (UILR) includes the Bass, Baritone, and tenor
Regulators. You must have the Drone set with Valve to install the Regulators.
The Uilleann Replacement Bag (UILB) has three tied-in connectors for the
Drone Valve, Blackwood Chanter Stock, and Connector Tube.
The Uillean Replacment Bag (UBAG) also comes as a simple reservoir bag
without any fittings.
The Uilleann Replacement Bellows (UBEL) comes with the Connector Tube.
The Uilleann Replacement Valve Cup (UILT) is a large brass fitting. The
Valve Cup is also called a Valve Stock; it should be tied into the Bag
to accept the Drone Valve.
The Uilleann Replacement Valve (UILV) for use with the Drones and Regulators.
The Hemp (BAGH) sold as one skein, has hundreds of yards and should last
a very long time.
The Uilleann Case (ULHC) is hard sided with cloth inside and vinyl outside.
The Uilleann Plastic Chanter Reed (ULRC) can be used in the Practice Chanter
(UILP) or the Blackwood Chanter (UILC).
The Regulator Reeds (ULRR) are sold in a set of three, one each for the
Bass, Baritone, and tenor Regulators.
The Bass Drone reed (ULRB), Baritone Drone Reed (ULRD) and Tenor Drone
Reed (ULRT) are each sold separately.
A Note About Reeds
Suppose you were lucky enough to find a Uillean Bagpipe from the 1800's
that was hand made in Ireland by one of the old masters, such as Moloney,
Kenna, Coyne, Flanagan, Harrington, Ryan, or Egan. Or even a set by the
Taylor's from New York City in the late 1800's. The sound of these well
crafted sets would be greatly hampered or sweetened by the quality of
the reed. Every Chanter, regardless of manufacturer, is different. A reed
that sounds sweet in your friend's Chanter may not sound good in your
Chanter. Likewise a reed that sounds sweet on the first octave may not
sound as good when being over-blown in the second octave. If you have
some skill, and a decade or two, you might perfect the art of reed making.
Or, when you need a new reed, remember to purchase a few reeds at a time
and then select the one that sounds the best.
How to Assemble the Uilleann Bagpipe
Select Your Chanter
The Practice Chanter (UILP) is made of rosewood and comes in two pieces,
the Body and the Blowcap with Plastic Mouthpiece. To play the Practice
Chanter without the Starter Set, place the Uilleann Plastic Chanter Reed
(UILC) in the top opening of the Practice Chanter Body (the end with the
hemp). Slide the Blowcap over the reed and the hemp end of the body. To
connect the Practice Chanter to the Starter Set, slide the Blackwood Chanter
Stock over the reed in the top of the Practice Chanter.
If using the Uilleann Blackwood Chanter (UILC), place the reed in the
top opening of the Chanter (the end with the hemp) and slide the Blackwood
Chanter Stock over the reed end of the Chanter.
Prepare The Starter Set
The Starter Set (UILS) includes the Bellows, Connector Tube, Reservoir
Bag with three fittings, Blackwood Chanter Stock, and Hemp. The Chanter,
Reeds, and Practice Chanter are sold separately.
assemble the Starter Set, connect the Chanter, with its reed in place,
to the Blackwood Chanter Stock. Slide the curved brass tube of the Blackwood
Chanter Stock into the small hole in the wooden Chanter Connector on the
Bag's neck. The suede valve end of the Connector Tube slides into the
appropriate sized brass fitting on the Bag.
Now buckle the bellows around your waist with the longer strap and around
your right arm with the shorter strap.
Place the Bag and Chanter under your Left arm. Slide the open end of the
Connector Tube into the Brass fitting on the Bellows, located near the
If any of the connections seem loose, simply wrap the ends with more
hemp. Wrap evenly and wrap only enough to make a snug fit.
When disassembling your pipes be especially careful to hold the parts
near the joints. Never twist from the mid-shaft of the Chanters, Connectors,
or Drones while disassembling, as they may crack.
Add The Drones
Only after you feel accomplished at playing the Starter Set with a Chanter
should you ever consider adding the Drones (UILN). It takes four times
as much air to play the Pipes with Drones as without the drones. The large
brass fitting on the Bag is called a Cup, or Valve Stock. To add Drones
you must remove the plug from the Valve Stock. The Drone set comes with
a Valve, and it slides into the Valve Stock fitting on the Bag. Then the
Drones slide into the Valve.
Add The Regulators
Again, when ready, add the Regulators (UILR). The Tenor and Baritone
Regulators slide into the Valve face, just like the Drones. The Bass Regulator
slides into the fitting on the side of the Valve.
Learning to play the Uilleann Bagpipes
It is not necessary, and indeed not practical, to start playing with
a complete set. Most people will begin with the Starter Set (UILS) and
one of the Chanters (UILC or UILP). It is even possible to begin with
the Practice Chanter (UILP) alone. If you have never played the pipes
before, you should begin with the Practice Chanter alone. Learn your scales
and a song or two before attempting to play the Chanter with the Bag and
= Closed Hole
Our Reeds are designed to play the First Octave well. The sound of the
Second Octave may or may not be enhanced by custom made reeds (see above:
A NOTE ABOUT REEDS above).
Bag and Bellows
Once you have mastered the scales and a song or two, you can advance
to the Starter Set with Chanter. Now you will learn to play the same scales
and songs by pumping the Bellows with your elbow. Uilleann Pipes are played
while seated. When playing with the Starter Set, the large strap buckles
around your waist. The smaller strap buckles around the right arm. Place
the Bellows between the right elbow and your waist so you can pump it
easily. The Connector Tube runs across the front of your chest and the
reservoir Bag rests under the left arm. Hold the chanter with both hands.
Your left hand plays the top three holes and the back thumb hole. Your
right hand plays the bottom four holes. When not playing, rest the end
of the Chanter on your right thigh. You can tie a leather Popping Strap
around your leg if you wish. You can conserve air in the reservoir and
illuminate the sound of the Pipes while resting. To do this, hold the
Chanter opening down against the Popping Strap, engage the Stop Key on
the Drone Valve, and place your fingers over the Chanter holes. In this
way you can rest between songs without losing air and without the pipes
When you are ready to try the Drones, add only one at a time. Each time
you add a Drone or Regulator you will find that you will need more air,
and more pumping. Each time you add a Drone you will need to tune the
Drone. Pump up your pipes and sound an A above Middle C on your chanter.
While playing the A, adjust the Tenor Drone slide until you obtain the
fifth of A (D above Middle C). Each time you add a drone you must repeat
this process. You should not try to tune the Drones without playing the
Chanter. The Tenor Drone is D above Middle C, the Baritone Drone is D
below Middle C, and the Bass Drone is second D below Middle C.
The notes of the Tenor Regulator are from C above Middle C down to F#
above Middle C.
The notes of the Baritone Regulator are from A above Middle C down to
D above Middle C.
The notes of the Bass Regulator are from Middle C down to G below Middle
does the practice chanter make only one note?
Here are 3 suggestions to make it work properly: 1) Make sure
the reed is seated properly in the bottom section. 2) When putting
the top section (blow cap) on, be careful it doesn't touch the sides
of the reed. 3) Cover the back hole with your thumb or you won't
get other notes to sound.