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Is it "pipe" or "pipes?" Both or either. For any bagpipe or bagpipes.
This is by far the best known and most common bagpipe in the world. It was developed from roughly the 1500's to 1800's in the mountainous, Gaelic- speaking regions of the Highlands and western islands of Scotland.
The modern form consists of 1 loud, high-pitched pipe or "chanter" plays the tune from a small fixed scale of 9 notes, 3 big, loud upright pipes or "drones" which play a single constant bass/treble tone, all connected to a bag held under the arm and filled with air blown by mouth through a "blow-pipe." In the following photo you can clearly see the blow-pipe held in the mouth, the chanter hanging from the front of the bag, and the 3 drones leaning upright over the left shoulder. Click here to see a small (38 KB) close-up photo of the Scottish Highland bagpipes. Or see a large (250 KB) version of the same photo.
The drones are tuned approximately to B-flat, with the scale being roughly a Mixolydian mode scale having "normal" or major-key notes except for the 7ths ("ti" in the "do-re-mi" scale), which are flat or minor-key. The chanter notes are not called by these names. They are named for notes which are actually 1/2 step lower than this, that is the B-flat is termed by pipers an "A." The scale runs one octave from A to A but also includes one note below the scale, a 7th or G. The exact tuning between each of the notes has varied over the years but has never been a tempered (orchestral) scale, but rather is meant to blend best with the ever-present drone.
Evidently this scale was developed to play 5-note or pentatonic music against the fixed drone in several modes.
Why is it built this way?
People in many cultures have long been fascinated by continuous sound, and bagpipes are among the earliest inventions capable of producing it. The unchanging drone accompaniment is also an ancient aspect of the music of many cultures. To this day it is used to express strong emotions in passages of popular music, jazz, orchestral music and background music for TV and motion pictures.
The bagpipe is loud because of its long history of use first in the medieval clan society of the Highlands and later in the British military, playing outdoors to announce gatherings and to inspire soldiers in battle. It can be heard for 1 or 2 miles over land or sea under some conditions. However it is very quiet compared to modern amplified instruments, and usually requires amplification when playing in small folk or rock bands.
Anciently the pipes played slow, lengthy pieces now known as "piobaireachd" or pibroch (PEE-brock) or piper-stuff. The pipes were always played solo in those times. With the collapse of the Highland clan society the original utility and audience for this music vanished and so it lives on primarily as a classical form rarely heard except among pipers and small numbers of pipe music lovers.
Just as the clan society was ending, and the bagpipe might have become rare or extinct, large numbers of Highlanders were recruited into the British army which found the pipes useful with a new repertoire of work songs, folk songs and dance tunes adapted for marching, signalling, and inspiring & entertaining troops. This newer music had predictable form and tempo, allowing numerous pipers to play together and to be accompanied by drums for marching. Thus was born the modern pipe band or pipes-and- drums.
Today bagpipes, like many ancient instruments from many cultures, have been incorporated into stage bands with a variety of modern instruments and are adopting new forms of music and new styles of playing. The Highland pipes are becoming popular so quickly now that most pipers who have ever played are alive and playing today.
This is probably the most elaborate bagpipe in the world. It was developed from roughly the 1700's to the present time in Ireland, with contributions from the U.S. and European countries. Today it is widely known as the "uilleann" (ILL-en) pipe from the Irish word for "elbow" but it has earlier been called variously the "union" pipe and the "organ" pipe. Some writers believe there to be only one correct term for the instrument but language and usage change with time, and such a restrictive attitude seems pointless to me.
Unlike many types of bagpipe, the uilleann pipes are not blown by mouth but, like numerous types of bagpipes, are inflated by a bellows. Perhaps the most important feature of the instrument is its melody-pipe or chanter, which plays more than 2 complete chromatic octaves (most forms of bagpipe can play little more than one octave).Click here (129 KB) to see a view of the full set of uilleann pipes showing the bellows, bag and all its parts.
The chanter is essentially a primitive oboe and is very quiet, about as loud as 1-2 fiddles. Like the Scots Highland bagpipe the uilleann pipes have 3 drones but they are very quiet. One of the most unusual features of the instrument is the set of (typically) 3 more oboes in the form of 1-octave, 4- or 5-note stopped harmony pipes with keys operated by the wrist (while the piper fingers the melody on the chanter) to provide several simple chords for accompaniment. These pipes have the peculiar name of "regulators" although they are purely musical and do not in any way "regulate" air pressure or behavior of the instrument.
The most commonly-heard or "concert pitch" pipes are tuned in the key of D. The drones are all tuned to D and the chanter plays 2 chromatic octaves (or more) starting with a D. Anciently the pipes were set to lower pitches, and a small number of instruments are regularly heard in keys of C#, B and B-flat. These are generally quieter and are most often played solo since it is somewhat difficult for other common Irish instruments to tune to them.
The instrument must be played seated with one leg lowered. The chanter bottom is placed onto this leg to seal the opening shut, so that the piper can play either continuously or, as desired, can stop the chanter to play interrupted or stacatto notes. Click here (84 KB) to see a photo of a full set of Irish uilleann pipes being played.
Why is it built this way?
The chanter of the uilleann pipes (or their ancestor) seems to date to about the time of invention of the modern oboe. Whereas most varieties of bagpipe retained their traditional form as classical music evolved, uilleann pipers embraced a great deal of innovation in their instrument. The oboe's 2nd octave and full chromatic scales were first adopted. The drones were fitted with a stop-valve so that they could be turned off when playing in keys for which they would be undesireable.
The regulators provided a simple but much wider variety of harmonic accompaniment than the drones. Uilleann pipes have continued to evolve in the modern era, responding to the needs of stage playing in the days of Vaudeville with louder sound and higher pitch. Increasing demands for precise tuning in the modern era of digital music have produced instruments which can hold their own very well in music other than traditional Irish music.