Posts Tagged ‘Scots’
The Bagpipe of The Scots
Nowadays, when one mentions bagpipes, one usually thinks of tartan-clad pipe bands, or the label of a bottle of Scotch whisky. But bagpipes had been around for thousands of years before they reached the shores of Scotland.
It is unknown when the Highlands first echoed to the keen of the pipes. They may have been introduced by the Romans when they invaded the British Isles, or perhaps carried over from Ireland when the Scots invaded and settled the highlands – or they may have evolved independantly.
Early Highland pipes were quite different to their modern cousins. The actual pipes themselves were crafted from whatever was available – even bone was used. Tonally, they were probably somewhat lower in pitch than modern pipes. Early bagpipes only had one drone. The design gradually improved, with more drones being added, until by the time of the last Jacobite uprising in 1745-6, bagpipes with two drones were the norm, although three-drone pipes were not unknown. Two-drone bagpipes are still played by Irish regimental bands, and are called Irish Pipes.
The modern Highland Bagpipe consists of three drones – one bass, two tenors – a chanter (the melody pipe, through which nine notes are produced), a blowstick ( through which the bag is inflated), and, of course, a bag of leather or synthetic material. Read the rest of this entry »
I think of Celtic music as having four main branches: the dance tunes played on the fiddle, whistle, accordion, and other melody instruments, the harping tradition, songs, and the music of the Highland pipes. Although fingerstyle guitarists have drawn extensively from these first three categories in creating arrangements, the ancient and powerful bagpipes have been largely overlooked as a source for fresh music. In the course of adapting over 250 Celtic tunes for solo guitar, I’ve come across a way to make the six-string actually sound like a set of pipes. So for this issue’s solo, I’d like to offer you a bagpipe arrangement, tell you how I worked it out, and briefly describe the Highland pipe tradition itself. Read the rest of this entry »
“You know what they say about the pipers…tuning half the time and the other half out of tune…” So says Allan Macdonald as he warms up his pipes for a Friends of Highland Music lecture at Eden Court, Inverness. He is tuning small pipes – “a bit more friendly in your ear, probably” – fastened with straps round his chest and arm. This instrument has become increasingly popular in the last 10-20 years; it can be played with other instruments and gives the player the opportunity to sing whilst piping. Allan, a natural orator and gifted musician, has carried out detailed research into the history and culture of Scottish piping.
Allan has been playing bagpipes since he was a child, and in early adulthood started to question what he saw as the conformist nature of pipe playing in Scotland. This led to a lifelong interest in the traditional roots of bagpipe music and the changes that have occurred as piping moved from an oral to notated tradition.
It seems likely that bagpipes arrived in Scotland via Ireland or England. Early references are sparse, but it seems probable that bagpipes arrived in Scotland in the thirteenth century. There is a record around 1362 of James I giving payment to pipers. Rosslyn Chapel has an early carving of an angel playing a one-drone bagpipe. Read the rest of this entry »
There are many varieties of instruments known as bagpipes throughout Europe and in parts of Asia, but in the Celtic world of the British Isles, there are two main types, The Irish (Uillean or Elbow) and the Scottish (Great Highland or Small Border). How do we distinguish between them?
The Great Highland (Bagpipe) is probably the most prolific bagpipe worldwide today, due in no small part to the vast extent of the British Empire in the 19th century. The English military appropriated the ancient Scots use of the bagpipe as a tool of intimidation and inspiration in war, and developed military marching bands which accompanied their troops throughout ‘the colonies’. Hence, the playing of the Highland Pipes is very widespread today from New Zealand and Australia, India and Pakistan, through to Canada and the United States. Read the rest of this entry »