Celtic Bagpipes – mostly the Great Highland Bagpipe
January 20, 2016

The wailing, humming sound of bagpipes unfolds visions of misty hills in the morning, of men in plaid kilts, and strong women standing in the doorways of stone houses holding babies.

Celtic Bagpipes are instruments for memories, for remembering the people that came before and for preserving the beauty and wisdom of the past for the young people of the future.

If you're interested in history, in mastering a unique musical instrument, or if you want to join a local bagpipe group, give the pipes a try.

Once you have the skills, there's a surprising number of places you can play them and even opportunities for being paid for your talents.

Perhaps that yearning for history is part of what inspires so many young people, primarily of Celts ancestry, to take up the Celtic bagpipes.

When you start to learn, you start with a beginner's pipe set, made of either African blackwood or of plastic.

The pipes themselves are the only permanent part of your bagpipes; the bags and reeds for both drone and chanter will be an ongoing expense, though with care they can all last quite a while.

Later, if Celtic bagpipes work out well as an instrument for you, a finer professional-level instrument is a worthwhile investment, though you can get truly lovely pipes with equivalent sound but beautiful decoration for several thousands dollars. These pipes typically are older, and have a history behind them.

Beginning pipers typically only use the chanter part of the bagpipes until they master that; often, they only use a practice chanter, not even the bagpipes themselves.

The drones, whether you use one, two, or three, are more complicated to keep going, and so are added as the student gradually masters the celtic pipes. It will likely take approximately six months before the student can play the full pipes with an accomplished level of skill.

Though there are several types of Celtic bagpipes, they all have the same three basic parts: an air supply, bag, chanter, and sometimes a drone. The air supply in the most basic instruments is just your breath, filling the bag, but there are some types of pipes that use a bellows instead.

The bag is an airtight reservoir that allows for continuous play through the chanter, the part with either holes or keys used to create different tones. If the bagpipe has a drone, this tube produces the humming sound associated with bagpipes.

In the Scottish bagpipes, the drone is the tube or tubes resting on the piper's shoulder.

There are dozens of types of bagpipes, ranging from what Americans commonly think of as pipes, the Great Highland Bagpipe, to the Turkish tulum or Breton Biniou. All probably spring from the same historical root, and all are supported by an active and enthusiastic musical community.

Celtic bagpipes can be found as traditional instruments in cultures from Poland down to Tunisia, and from Spain east to Turkey.

Among the most common types are the Great Highland, the chalice, the Mediterranean, and the medieval.

These types differ depending primarily on whether the bag is breath or bellows filled, and then in the number and types of drones and type of chanter used.

This leads to a multitude of variations of celtic bagpipes which allows you to find the perfect one to suit you.