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FAQ Main Menu > Bagpipes

Bagpipe Information and FAQs


reed instrument with an air reservoir in an animal skin bag. Common across Europe and Arabic countries. See Gaida, Gaita, Biniou, Union, Uilleann, Northumbrian, Piob Mhor, Scottish smallpipes, Dudelsack, Zampogna, Cornemuse, Musette, Cabrette, Cimpoi.


Bagpipes are found in the folk traditions of many parts of the world, and their origins are quite old. We stock the most popular traditional British Isles styles, Northumbrian. Uilleann, and Great Highland. Also practice chanters and reeds.


Biniou | Cabrette | Cimpoi | Cornemuse | Dudelsack | Dudy | Gaida | Gaita | Gayda | Great Highland Bagpipes | Musette (2) | Northumbrian Smallpipes | Piob Mhor | Practice Chanter | Sac De Gemecs | Scottish Smallpipes | Tulum | Uilleann Pipes | Union Pipes | Zampogna


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Definition: Breton bagpipe with single drone, pitched an octave higher than usual.


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Definition: French bagpipe


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Definition: Romanian Bagpipe, usually with a single drone.


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Definition: French mouth blown bagpipe with chanter and small drone in one stock, and a separate large drone.


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Definition: German Bagpipe


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Definition: Czech Bagpipe, made from a goat.


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Definition: Bulgarian version of mountain/shepherd pipes. Has single drone, and 8 hole chanter, one hole for the thumb, 7 for the fingers. Also Gajdy in Slovakia.


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Definition: Spanish traditional bagpipe, usually with single drone, and plain leather bag. Traditionally played at feasts and weddings. Gaita gallega in Galicia, and gaita asturiana in Asturias are similar, also known in northern Portugal.


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Definition: Bulgarian bagpipe; single reed; mouth blown.

Great Highland Bagpipes

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Definition: Great Highland Bagpipe of Scotland. Mouth blown, with a conical chanter and 3 drones.
Introduction: The Great Highland Bagpipes are the best known of several types of Scottish Bagpipe, and are very loud and powerful instruments often used in marching bands. The bag is inflated with the mouth, and there are 2 tenor drones, 1 bass drone and an open chanter usually pitched in Bb, but the music is written in A.
Read the full Great Highland Bagpipes FAQ Page.

Musette (2)

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Definition: French bellows blown bagpipe with 2 small cylindrical keyed chanters, and a shuttle drone. Probable precursor to the Nothumbrian Smallpipes

Northumbrian Smallpipes

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Definition: an English bellows blown bagpipe with small cylindrical closed-end chanter, and 3 or 4 drones. Other variations include Northumbrian half long bagpipes. Probably developed from the French musette.
Introduction: The Northumbrian Smallpipes are probably the quietest of the Bagpipes, and have a closed chanter which basically plays one octave. The keys are used to extend the range. Smallpipes pitch is generally nearer F than the nominal key of G. We can not supply Northumbrian smallpipes in concert pitch G. If you can't cope with playing in F, then we would recommend a concert D set!
Read the full Northumbrian Smallpipes FAQ Page.

Piob Mhor

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Definition: Translates to 'Great Pipes'.

Practice Chanter

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Definition: A mouthblown windcap reed instrument with the same fingering as the Scottish Highland pipes. Used for practice.
Introduction: The practice chanter has a narrower bore than a pipe chanter, and is cheap and quiet enough for use in the home. A practice Chanter is the best way for a beginner to learn tunes, this lets you concentrate on the notes without having to worry about keeping the bag full and steady pressure going.

Sac De Gemecs

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Definition: Catalan bagpipe, there are many other Catalan names for bagpipe too: coixinera, caterineta, borrega, manxa borrega, bot, noia verda, mossa verda, ploranera, sac de les aspres, buna, cornamusa, xeremia etc.

Scottish Smallpipes

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Definition: A bellows blown bagpipe from the Scottish lowlands, related to the musette and the Northumbrian smallpipes. Now usually has a keyless conical chanter, and 3 drones.


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Definition: bagpipe of Turkey and Azerbaijan.

Uilleann Pipes

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Definition: type of bellows-blown bagpipe known in Scotland, Ireland and Northern England from 18th century when it was known as Union Pipes. Has a conical chanter which has a two octave range, 3 drones, and 3 keyed chanters known as regulators.
Introduction: The Irish or Uilleann pipes have reached quite an advanced state of development. Unlike most other pipes, the reed will overblow, giving them a range of two octaves, and the addition of regulators gives them an extra dimension. The regulators are closed ended chanters each of a different pitch, and speak when a key is pressed, the keys are arranged side by side so chords can be played (this requires great skill).
Read the full Uilleann Pipes FAQ Page.

Union Pipes

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Definition: Union Pipes is the rarely used 18th C term for this instrument now known by its 20th C Gaelic name.


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Definition: Italian bagpipe with 2 drones and 2 conical chanters, all in one stock.


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Advice for beginners
Bagpipes can be troublesome instruments and require good care and maintenance. In time you will need to become familiar with the workings of reeds, but when your pipes are new and you are in the first stages of learning, it is best to leave the reeds well alone if at all possible. It is unwise to remove the chanter from its stock to expose the reed unless you really have to, as it is extremely easy to cause damage when reassembling.

Always ensure the chanter is supported so it can not fall out of the stock when you pick up the pipes. Dropped cracked chanters and consequently mangled reeds are not covered by the guarantee! If any of the joints should dry out and become loose, extra waxed thread can be applied, and Vaseline or cork grease to lubricate and seal. Don't overdo the thread - it should be an easy push fit.

Always keep the pipes in a case except when actually in use.

Bagpipe Reeds
The drones, and Scottish chanter reeds generally don’t give much trouble, but Northumbrian, and particularly Irish chanter reeds can be a real pain. You should take great care with a good reed to make it last. You must also expect to do work on a new Irish reed to get good results in your chanter.

Care of the Wood
Specific oilings needed for bagpipes, using neatsfoot or olive oil, are as follows:
  • Pads - Weekly
  • Bellows - Six Monthly
  • Bellows valve and blowpipe valve - three monthly

    Seasoning the bag
    WARNING! The bag should not be treated with seasoning if it is made of plastic.

    If a natural skin bag starts to leak, you can usually make it airtight again by seasoning it. There are generally instructions on the can, but the basic procedure is to heat the seasoning in a saucepan, remove all the drones and chanter from the stocks, stop up all but one hole, pour in the seasoning and work it in - particularly into the seam. Leave for at least 24 hours before reassembling.

    Read our Full Article on Woodwind Care & Maintenance