You can’t say Scotland without thinking of a kilted Highlander playing the Scottish bagpipes can you? This screeching and magnetic traditional Scottish music gets into your blood and ears and never leaves! It echoes through the streets in front of a castle from the open door of a pub Among the Scottish instruments it is undoubtedly the most characteristic and particular.
The music of the bagpipes makes you feel at home invites you to dance but can also be poignant and melancholy, like the wind that blows on the northern cliffs and sweeps away the moors. It is majestic and captivating and touches the heart with a sweet but at the same time indelible touch.
But, if you are looking to play the bagpipes, how hard are they to play? Well, let’s find out.
What is the Bagpipe?
The bagpipe is a popular reed wind instrument known in its present form since the Middle Ages. It consists of a sheepskin bag to which a short reed or a bellows are connected for the insufflation of air and one or more sound reeds, with simple or double reed.
One of the tubes is equipped with digital holes and is used to play the melody (chanter); the others are fixed pitch and serve as accompaniment or staff.
It is still widespread in many regions of Europe from Romania to Ireland and especially in the British Isles, where it had a significant weight in popular and military music and is considered, especially in Scotland a national instrument
The most famous of the hot air bagpipes is the Scottish one. known as the Great Highland Bagpipe still used today in pipe bands, which stands out for its particular sound.
How are bagpipes composed?
How is this Scottish instrument made? The bagpipe consists of a sheepskin bag to which an insufflator and musical pipes are connected The player blows into the insufflator to fill the bag. which, once the appropriate pressure is reached, makes the instrument sound.
The use of the bag allows you to give air to several pipes at the same time and gives the instrument a continuous sound because the bag acts as an air reserve while the performer inhales
The pressure is controlled by the musician by balancing the air introduced through the insufflator and the air that comes out through the musical reed called ’chanter* and is controlled by the movement of the forearm that wraps the bag.
The bagpipe is also composed of three drones that provide the chanter with a fixed accompanying note. The drones do not fall because they are bed with a rope that prevents them from falling since only the bass rests on the performer’s shoulder. The drones, the chanter and the insufflator are inserted into the bag thanks to the stocks, which are wooden parts firmly fixed to the bag to allow a watertight seal.
The ‘chanter* or singing cane which allows the player to perform the melody, has a full octave range plus one note below
The pipes were originally constructed from locally available woods such as holly, laburnum and boxwood. Later more exotic woods were also used such as those from the Caribbean, ebony from West Africa and black African wood
Today synthetic materials are also used which have become quite popular, especially among the tube bands where uniformity of sounds is desirable. The ornament on the tubes can be made of ivory, horn, nickel. German silver classic silver stainless steel and with imitations of ivory
Have you ever held one in your hand or seen it up close? Have you ever tried to make it play?
Whether you are looking to purchase a bagpipe for professional use or to pursue a hobby, there are several factors you should take into consideration. It should not surprise you to know that the production of a bagpipe is complex like any other musical instrument, and created by a single person in an artisanal form or by a large company that produces these instruments in series with different names and specifications.
History has handed down to us that bagpipes have always been part of Scottish culture their heritage and their folklore. They use this tool to revive their tourism sector in so many ways, making it highly sought after by so many people. If bagpipes are a new instrument to you. there may come a point here where you would be confused by its vernacular.
They often cost a lot and it is important for the player to understand what specifications are included in it. An avid bagpipe player will tell you that there are no set specifications and that each bagpipe is an instrument in itself. The materials that are used for construction are also unique. For example, most bagpipes incorporate solid wood or hardwood. They all have a mouth blown or a bellows.
Unlike guitar or drums, you should never buy a bagpipe set on a whim, but there must be a deep desire to excel Before proceeding with the purchase, make sure you have a thorough understanding of why you are buying it and that you are resolute in the decision to use it
What to consider before starting
Before buying a real bagpipe, you might want to start practicing on a chanter If you lose interest in playing it. it may not be a real rejection. As a beginner, you can gauge how real and deep your interest is. For starters, you could take lessons or consult an instructor who would be able to guide you on how to play the instrument initially.
You may be someone who is not predisposed to being self-taught so with expert guidance you could make a difference.
Normally, it can take between three months and up to a year for a beginner to become fully conversant As a general rule bagpipers have to do ‘common’ in order to share great tips and tunes. This may be the best way to stay focused until your passion has really grown. You could look at online sources that would be able to guide you to a group of bagpipers from your neighborhood who would share the same level of passion with you – that would be a great start.
If you have already decided to buy this incredible instrument, below you can find some of the most popular bagpipes and their main features TC Scottish Great.
The TC Scottish Great Highland is a bagpipe made of black wood with some engravings on it. The hard case supports of the instrument measure 101.6 x 50 8 cm The hairdo is done with engraved Cardo, the supports are with a silver finish.
The construction material is 100% African black wood. The tips and the bag are in leather; the chrome caps are made of silver plated brass and have a size of 28 x 11 cm. The airbag with golden fringe in black velvet and gold silk thread is completely empty and has holes for quick and easy pressure.
R.g. Hardie Twist
This model has a set of blown glass tubes. They produce a softer tone than the Highland bagpipes model with a standard tuning key (440hz). common in many musical instruments. They are practical to play both alone and in groups and together with other instruments The model in question is not only suitable for beginner practice, but also for professionals who will appreciate its sound
City New Heritage For Children
This little bagpipe model has been specially designed for kids, not only to be fun to play but also to entice them to become real experts As with a real instrument the child simply has to blow through the mouthpiece which, in turn, fills the bag with air. Once full, the child only has to squeeze the bag (positioned under the arm) to reproduce the sound.
Bagpipes highland Royal Stewart Ance
The Bagpipes highland Royal Stewart is a large plain colored bagpipes with silver trim. The construction wood is natural rosewood The bagpipe is available in various types of velvet such as the Red Tartan, the Scottish Tartan the Royal Stewart one. as well as dark black the Mackenzie Tartan and the Irish National Tartan
MacCallam’s African Blackwood
This beautiful wind instrument is made in African Blackwood and features ivory-colored frame accents. Also indudes ring caps, nickel bps. This instrument is recommended for beginners who are looking to learn bagpipes professionally or to experience all musical skills. For anyone who buys it the MacCallam comes with a range of accessories that enhance its value and mobility .
This model is also recommended as it includes a free copy of Shepherd’s “Learning to Play the Bagpipes’ and a guide to getting started with the instrument
Other accessories include reed chanters made of cane, a soft case and a velvet cover for added protection. For a bagpipe player, this set of accessories is all they need to get started whether the player in question is new to this new genre of music.
The instrument looks good thanks to the African Blackwood finish accentuated by imitation ivory frames The weight of the instrument is approximately 9 kg and measures 50.8 x 50 8 x 50 8 cm; there might be extra weight for shipping
Once you have purchased your bagpipes and become familiar with the instrument, you must also become familiar with the music composed for bagpipes. Who composes pieces for the bagpipe has only nine notes available and must consider the fact that the flow of air that is blown by the player is uninterrupted.
Therefore to give variety to the musical pieces those who write the scores for the bagpipe use the so-called ‘gracenotes* These are short, fast notes that are interspersed with the main line. A good way to familiarize yourself with this notation is to listen to someone who already plays the bagpipe professionally. Instead, to learn and practice the Practice Chanter is used It is a kind of flute that reproduces the characteristics of the bagpipe but is more manageable in order to facilitate easier practice.
Exercises and practice
The first thing to do before practicing is to tune your instrument! The bagpipe tunes to the tonic of the chanter which, once stabilized, is used by the player to tune the drones. Since the latter are composed of sections capable of sliding vertically the player can modify the length of each reed, therefore the length of the vibrating air reed inside it therefore the emitted note.
To learn the first movements and how to blow properly it is necessary to have an exercise book Like any other instrument in fact the bagpipe requires the execution of a series of preparatory exercises that may appear a bit boring.
They are mainly used to train the fingers and to become familiar with the execution of the gracenotes Patience is key. The secret lies in learning to modulate the breath and move your fingers quickly, a bit like you would do with the flute. Only after having acquired a certain ease can one move on to the execution of more advanced exercises with the introduction of other musical phrases. The final step is when you leave the Practice Chanter to take up the instrument proper, the bagpipe.
First you will learn the best way to enter your breath, so as not to run out of it while playing a piece; then it begins with the emission of single notes At the end. you can try to play a piece to find out the level of preparation achieved with the Practice Chanter
If you are looking to purchase a bagpipe for professional use or to pursue a hobby, there are several factors you should take into consideration. It should not surprise you to know that the production of a bagpipe is complex, like any other musical instrument, and created by a single person in an artisanal form or by a large company that produces these instruments in series with different names and specifications.
History has handed down to us that bagpipes have always been part of Scottish culture, their heritage and their folklore. They use this tool to revive their tourism sector in so many ways, making it highly sought after by so many people.
They often cost a lot and it is important for the player to understand what specifications are included in it. An avid bagpipe player will tell you that there are no set specifications and that each bagpipe is an instrument in itself.
The price of a bagpipe is influenced by several factors, and can range from as little as $ 30 (children’s bagpipes) to as much as $ 500 (professional bagpipes)
As a “general rule” we can say that a good set of bagpipes is _between $150 and $ 200.
Can you learn to play on your own?
Surely music theory and solfeggio can also be learned alone, with a lot of effort and perhaps by following lessons on YouTube In this case, the risk of learning something wrong is always there but at least no one would get hurt at most it is just much more effort As for the instrumental technique, on the other hand, it is a completely different matter, you can hurt yourself and therefore dont mess around
By the way. even without going to extremes it is much quicker to learn when you have someone who teaches you the correct way to do things and who immediately notices if you take defects rather than waiting to notice for themselves.
In fact, many things cannot be done without the correct setting and often those who think of saving by learning on their own then find themselves spending twice as much, and also doing double the effort attending lessons with a teacher to be able to obtain certain results.
This is because when defects have been acquired through months or years of wrong practice it takes a lot longer to “wipe out of mind and hands” the wrong movement and learn the correct one. compared to learning the right version right away.
Certainly the bagpipes are a fantastic and really complex instrument. They have existed in various forms, in many places around the world However there are really many ideas and opinions regarding the arrival of the bagpipe in Scotland and how the Scots then transformed adapted and made this instrument for themselves, now recognized throughout the world as a symbol of this nation.
Hoping this article was useful, thank you for reading and see you soon!