Highland Bagpipes

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The bagpipe is one of the most ancient instruments known to man. Greek sculptures of about 4000 BC show the bagpipe and reference is made to the instrument in the book of Daniel.

The Scottish bagpipe is thought to date back to about 100 AD.

Over the centuries the sound of the Highland bagpipe has inspired Scottish warriors and terrorized their enemies. It is, however, traditionally a solo instrument and each clan chieftain has his hereditary piper.
The Highland bagpipe consists of a bag of sheepskin or elk hide from which 5 pipes protrude. There is a mouthpiece for inflating the bag, a single octave chanter for creating the melody and three drones, one bass and two tenors, which sound a constant two note chord which softens the overall sound. The bag is covered by the tartan of the piper’s family or pipe band, and the pipe major, or leader of the band, will often fit a banner into the bass drone.

The first pipe band competition was held in 1906 at the Cowal Highland Gathering in Dunoon.

IMG_0411 (Large)Small Scottish bagpipe music is divided into three main classes: small music, middle music, and great music.

Light music (ceol beag or aotrom) is used primarily for marching and dancing and consists of marches, strathspeys, retreats, reels, jigs, and hornpipes.

Middle music (ceol meadhonach) consists mainly of the slower tunes such as the laments, lullabies, and

slow marches, as well as the music lends itself to more individual expression and represents a more deep emotional type of music.

The great music (ceol mor) is called the piobaireachd (pibroch) and is the classical music of the bagpipes. The piobaireachd tells a story through the music and requires great expression from the piper.


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