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Scottish Bagpipes

The Great Highland Bagpipe (Gaelic : A' Phob Mhr, in English often abbreviated GHB) is a type of bagpipe native to Scotland. It has achieved widespread recognition through its usage in the British military and in pipe bands throughout the world.

The bagpipe is first attested in Scotland around 1400 A.D., having previously appeared in European artwork in Spain in the 1200s. The earliest references to Scottish bagpipes are in a military context, and it is in that context that the Great Highland Bagpipe became established in the British military and achieved the widespread prominence it enjoys today, whereas other bagpipe traditions throughout Europe, ranging from Spain to Russia, almost universally went into decline by the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Though widely famous for its role in military and civilian pipe bands, the Great Highland Bagpipe is also used for a solo virtuosic style called piobaireachd (aka pibroch).

scottish bagpipes


Though popular belief sets varying dates for the introduction of bagpipes to Scotland, concrete evidence is limited until approximately the 15th Century. The Clan Menzies still owns a remnant of a set of bagpipes said to have been carried at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, though the veracity of this claim is debated. There are many ancient legends and stories about bagpipes which were passed down through minstrels and oral tradition, whose origins are now lost. However, textual evidence for Scottish bagpipes is more definite in 1396, when records of the Battle of the North Inch of Perth reference "warpipes" being carried into battle. These references may be considered evidence as to the existence of particularly Scottish bagpipes, but evidence of a form peculiar to the Highlands appears in a poem written in 1598 (and later published in The Complaynt of Scotland which refers to several types of pipe, including the Highland: "On hieland pipes, Scotte and Hybernicke / Let heir be shraichs of deadlie clarions."



The Great Highland Bagpipe is classified as a woodwind instrument, like the bassoon, oboe, or clarinet. Although it is classified as a double reed instrument, the reeds are all closed inside the wooden stocks, instead of being played directly by mouth as other woodwinds are. The GHB actually has four reeds; the chanter reed (double), two tenor drone reeds (single), and one bass drone reed (single).

A modern set has a bag, a chanter, a blowpipe, two tenor drones, and one bass drone. The scale on the chanter is in Mixolydian mode, which has a flattened 7th or leading tone. It has a range from one whole tone lower than the tonic to one octave above it (in piper's parlance: Low G, Low A, B, C#, D, E, F#, High G, and High A; the C and F could or should be called sharp but this is often omitted).* Yet the notes played are actually in the key of B♭. Although less so now, depending on the tuning of the player, certain notes are tuned slightly off just intonation, for example, the D could be tuned slightly sharp for effect. However, today the notes of the chanter are usually tuned in just intonation to the Mixolydian scale. The two tenor drones are an octave below the keynote (Low A) of the chanter) and the bass drone two octaves below.

Modern developments have included reliable synthetic drone reeds, and synthetic bags that deal with moisture arguably better than hide bags.

Text courtesy Wikipedia

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Bagpipe Pictures

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Bagpipe Poems


Malmaison by Amy Lowell

The King and the Shepherd by Anne Kingsmill Finch

Poem (Remember midsummer: the fragrance of box) by Delmore Schwartz

The Gypsy and the Wind by Federico Garcia Lorca

The Reeve's Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer

Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

M'Fingal - Canto II by John Trumbull

Little Birds by Lewis Carroll

The Three Voices by Lewis Carroll

The Flower-School by Rabindranath Tagore

The Happy Townland by William Butler Yeats

The Dance by William Carlos Williams

The Ashantee War by William Topaz McGonagall

The Battle of Alma by William Topaz McGonagall

The Battle of El-Teb by William Topaz McGonagall

The Battle of Glencoe by William Topaz McGonagall

The Battle of Tel-el-Kebir by William Topaz McGonagall

The Capture of Lucknow by William Topaz McGonagall



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