Bagpipe Terms

Bagpipes have survived centuries almost unchanged from their original form. Bagpipes were likely designed by herdsman, judging from the types of materials used in the instrument's construction -- sheep or goatskin and reeds. The bagpipe can be defined by understanding a few simple bagpipe terms.

Blowstick or blowpipe

Blowstick or blowpipe refers to the mouthpiece. The player fills the bag with air by blowing into the blowstick. Inside is a one-way valve that keeps the air from escaping.

Bass and tenor drones

A bass drone is responsible for the low humming sound and is one octave lower than the tenor drones. Tenor drones come in pairs and are the longer pipes usually seen over the shoulder of the bag piper.

The bag

The bag is simply an air reservoir. Once made of sheep or goatskin, the bag is now made of an airtight synthetic. Inside the bag is a moisture-control system.

Pipe chanter

The chanter produces the melody. It is held vertically and played like a flute or clarinet. The modern chanter is made of a special high-impact plastic called polypenco. Joints of pipe are kept pliable and tight with waxed hemp.

Chanter reed

Chanter reeds are located between the bag and chanter. They are constructed of wood, bamboo, plastic or composite. Plastics are preferable as they are not subject to the moisture problems of natural materials.

Drone cords

These are decoratively woven cords tied around each drone shaft. The cords allow for drone spacing.

Tuning slides

Shortening or elongating the length of the slides achieves various notes and tuning.

Drone reeds

Each drone has a long reed inside inserted between the base of the drone and the bag acting as a valve. The drone reed allows air to be forced into the body of the drone and produces a low hum.

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