The bagpipe is an aerophone, a musical instrument class, and uses enclosed reeds to vibrate by movement of stored air in a bag. It is more commonly referred by pipers as “pipes”. You might be familiar with the Irish uilleann pipes or the Scottish great highland bagpipe but there are also varieties of bagpipes coming from regions all around the Persian Gulf, Northern Africa, and Europe.
The roots of the bagpipes could be dug up to the ancient times. Because any herdsman had all the materials needed which are a reed pipe and sheep or goat skin, bagpipes might have been from a rustic instrument in various cultures. Many historians think that it started in Sumaria and it was also cited in the Holy Bible. A roman historian even recorded that Emperor Nero played the bagpipe. It was specifically stated as “knew how to play the pipe with his mouth and the bag thrust under his arm”.
The existence of bagpipes in pre-medieval times is doubtful. Yet visual and textual remains could still possible prove bagpipes in ancient forms.
Parts of the bagpipe
Bagpipes regularly consist of four parts – a bag, a drone, an air supply, and a chanter. The supply of air comes from blowing into a blowstick or blowpipe. Blowpipes today usually have a non-return valve so that the player does not need to cover the edge of the blowpipe with his or her tongue when inhaling.
The bag is a reservoir which holds air and regulates airflow while pumping or breathing take place. This helps the player to uphold constant sound for a moment. Skins of goats, cows, sheep or other local animals are used for the bag’s material.
The chanter produces the melody of the bagpipe. It is frequently open-ended which gives the player no easy way to end the pipe’s sound. This gives bagpipes no rests or the legato sound.
Bagpipes mostly consist of one or more drones. It is a cylinder-shaped tube with usually a single reed. It has at least two parts and has a sliding joint or bridle which manipulates the pitch.
A constant air supply is provided by the bagpipe’s construction. The air flow could be maintained in the chanter and drone pipes through using the left hand to squeeze the bag during breathing periods. In the mouthpiece, there is a circular piece of leather attached to the bag that operates like a one way valve. The flap closes when the player stops blowing air flow and opens when blowing is ongoing. There is a thumb hole and seven finger holes on the chanter.
Types of bagpipes
The most well-known bagpipe, Great Highland Bagpipe, overshadows many other types of bagpipes. There are bagpipes widely spread throughout Middle East and Europe. Even though there was a drastic decline of the other kinds, there was a revival in more recent times. For example, the Irish piping declined in the mid 1900’s but came back and is still alive today. Other types are the Balkan Gaida, Pastoral pipes, Galician gaita, Breton Biniou, the Aragonese Gaita de boto, Scottish smallpipes, and many more.
The main purpose of bagpipes is for dance music. Nowadays, it is suited for monophonic music and solo dances. Modern music played on bagpipes is not ideal as dance music anymore.