The bagpipes are very ancient instruments and
there are references to them in Chinese, Persian, Greek and Roman folklore
dating at least as far back as 2,000 years. It is believed that they were used
in Scotland as early as 100 Ad and the piper came to be held in higher esteem in
Scotland than anywhere else. By the year 1000, the bagpipes were popular
throughout Scotland and by 1500, every clan chieftain worthy of the name had a
piper who would stay with his family. The pipes were banned along with the
tartan and the kilt by the English. The English feared the stirring effect of
the pipes on Scottish emotions.
The bagpipe consists of six distinct parts: the
bag (made of cloth-covered sheepskin), the Chanter with eight finger holes (9
notes), the blow-pipe with a valve to
prevent the air from coming back out of the bag while the piper is taking a
breath, and three drones (one bass and two tenor). Each drone has a single reed,
while the chanter has a double reed. The piper plays by inflating the bag enough to
sound the drones, then placing the bag under his arm and maintaining enough
pressure to sound the chanter where the melody is played. Elbow pressure on the
bag forces air through the double reed like that of an oboe to make the actual
There are three general categories of music for the
highland bagpipe: Ceol Mor (big music), Ceol Meadhonach (middle music) and Ceol
Beag (little music). Ceol Mor is the classical and oldest form of pipe music
often referred to today as Piobairachd. "Piobaire" means piper and "eached"
means pipe playing or music. Marches, strathspeys, reels, hornpipes and jigs are
also played on the pipes.
For information about Piping in the United States
Eastern United States Pipe Band
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