|Scottish bagpipes are
of two main kinds: Great, or Highland, pipes (in Gaelic, a Phìob
or Piob Mhór) and bellows-blown pipes, of which there are several
varieties. The Highland bagpipe is the better known of the two. It
has a double-reed chanter, which plays the melody, and three single-reed
drones. The piper blows into a blowpipe to inflate a cloth-covered
bag made of leather or, more commonly these days, of synthetic material.
The bag acts as a reservoir of air to give the piper an uninterrupted
flow of air with which to create a continuous sound. Air from the
piper's lungs travels via the blowpipe into the bag and then to the
chanter -- which the piper fingers to produce the melody -- and to
the three drones, which sound a continuous, fixed-pitch accompaniment.
Bagpipes are an ancient instrument and exist in many cultures.
In Scotland, they have been documented for more than 600 years.
In earlier times, many clan chiefs retained household pipers as
well as bards (singers) and clarsach (harp) players. Some piping
families were legendary, like the MacCrimmons of Skye, hereditary
pipers to the chief of Clan McLeod.
In the late 18th century, pipes were incorporated into the British
Army, and both the instrument and its repertoire were standardized.
Pipe music, originally passed down aurally, was notated, and competitions
were established to encourage "correct" playing. Today,
Highland pipe bands are popular throughout the world. These bands
specialize in ceòl beag ("light music") consisting
of songs, dances, and marches. Pibroch (Gaelic, piobaireachd), a
slow-tempo, highly ornamented style of playing often called the
classical music of the bagpipe, is appreciated by a smaller number
SCOTTISH BELLOWS-BLOWN PIPES: SMALL PIPES, BORDER PIPES, AND
In the Scottish Lowlands, a number of different bagpipes were played,
smaller and quieter than the Highland pipes and powered by bellows
pumped by the player's elbow. Both the cylindrical bore Scottish
Small Pipes and the conical bore Border Pipes have three drones
set in a common stock and a chanter. In centuries past, many Scottish
border towns employed a town piper to play in the streets early
in the morning and sound the curfew at night.
In the 20th century, Lowland pipes came close to extinction but
were revived largely through the efforts of piper Hamish Moore.
Since 1985 he has been manufacturing new sets of Scottish Small
Pipes, Border Pipes, and more recently, Highland Pipes and Highland
Reel Pipes. To date, he has produced more than 750 sets of pipes
in his Dunkeld workshop, where he works with his son Fin and four