Of all the different types of musical instruments, the bagpipes have one of the most unique sounds. Have you ever seen someone play the bagpipes in person? It’s fun to watch!

Bagpipes are most often associated with Scotland. In fact, when you see someone playing the bagpipes, they’re often wearing a traditional Scottish outfit, including a kilt.

Although the bagpipes are an important part of Scottish tradition, they weren’t invented in Scotland. Historians believe that primitive bagpipes were used in ancient Rome and other parts of the Middle East, including Persia (known today as Iran).

These ancient instruments were probably made of reeds stuck into a goatskin bag. As bagpipes became more popular, their use spread throughout Europe. Although ancient bagpipes have rarely been found, they can often be seen in old works of art, such as paintings and carvings.

Bagpipes may not have reached Scotland until hundreds of years later, but they did flourish there. Many people began to associate bagpipes with Scotland after World War I and World War II, because the Scottish trained large numbers of bagpipers for military service during those two wars. Today, Scotland, along with Pakistan, is one of the top centers for bagpipe manufacturing.

Bagpipes produce music from enclosed reeds that are supplied with a constant stream of air held in a bag. Although there are hundreds of different types of bagpipes, most consist of the same basic elements: an air supply, a bag, a chanter and a drone.

Bagpipers blow air through a blowpipe into a bag, which could be made of animal skin or more modern synthetic materials. The bag can provide a steady flow of air while playing music. This allows a player to create a continuous sound for some time. While playing, though, the player must regularly blow more air into the bag to keep it full.

The chanter is a pipe played with two hands. It produces the melody and contains either a single or double reed. It’s also open-ended, which means that players cannot easily make the chanter stop sounding once it’s started. This is why most bagpipe music has no rests (pauses) in the music.

Bagpipes usually also have at least one drone. Many have three or more drones. Drones are long tubes with single reeds. When a player starts to play the bagpipes, the drones emit one continuous sound that the melody is played over with the chanter.


36 Join the Discussion

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars  (6 votes, avg. 4.17 out of 5)
    • Well, then we’re glad today’s Wonder was all about bagpipes so you could learn more about them, Saad! Please let us know if you try to make the garbage bag and recorder bagpipe from today’s Wonder…we’d love to know how it works out! :-)

    • Thanks for taking a guess about what you think tomorrow’s Wonder might be, AH & KW! We can’t wait to visit Wonderopolis tomorrow to see if your guess was correct! :-)

    • We’re so glad that you and Wonder Friend, Saad, stopped by today’s Wonder to learn about bagpipes, Rashid! How cool that BOTH of you WONDERed about bagpipes and this Wonder of the Day® was all about them! :-)

    • Thanks for this AWESOME comment, Hunter! It makes us super happy that you thought today’s Wonder was cool! :-)

    • We appreciate your opinion of bagpipes, Clay! Thanks for sharing that you enjoyed watching the video for this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    • We think the music of Scotland is awesome, too, Abílio! Thank you for stopping by Wonderopolis today and leaving us this GREAT comment! :-)

  1. The video was cool! I wonder who taught him. The bagpipe is a cool instrument. Would you rather play the bagpipe or the recorder? Can’t wait for tomorrow’s!

    • We’re not sure which we’d rather play, Becca! Both the bagpipes and the recorder are GREAT instruments! Maybe we will try to make the “garbage bag and recorder” bagpipes from the links inside this Wonder and we’ll get to play BOTH at the same time…a bagpipe made out of recorders! :-)

    • They have a really unique sound, too, Kep! Thank you for sharing what you think about bagpipes today! We appreciate your comment! :-)

  2. I wonder if the bagpipes could be used in a concert band. The bagpipe has a beautiful sound. Wonder if I can learn to play in two lessons (smile).

    • We’re super proud of you for wanting to learn to play the bagpipes, Carmen! We agree…the music bagpipes make is BEAUTIFUL! :-)

    • That’s a SUPER point, Laura! We’re WONDERing how long it takes to learn to play the bagpipes and make all that WONDERful music? :-)

  3. Wow, bag pipes really cool. I’ve never even seen somebody play those before. I just think they should have those in our school. I would not play it, though.

    • We thought so to, buglover! We think he must have practiced a LOT! Thanks for visiting this Wonder and leaving us a comment today! :-)

  4. My friend plays the bagpipes and he is always in parades and stuff. One time, my friends drove over to my house and asked if my dad has ever worn a kilt (because we are 100% Irish). I want to learn how to play, but right now my alto sax lessons cost a lot of money. Maybe later, though!

    • That’s the spirit, Cassidy! We can’t learn everything we want to learn all at once, so it’s good to have a list of stuff we want to try when we finish the things we are learning about right now. Maybe WE will learn to play the bagpipes in the future, too! :-)

    • Thanks for sharing that you liked the video for this Wonder, Steve! We appreciate your comment and we think Charlie plays the bagpipes really well, also! :-)

    • We’re happy you liked this Wonder about bagpipes, Julie! The boy in the video is really good at playing them! We hope you have a WONDERful day, too! :-)

  5. The only thing wrong about bagpipes are the reeds. You have to keep some on hand, they go bad. I had to make my own out of sea cane, it’s the best thing to use 5/16 OD.

    • WOW, what an AWESOME instrument to play, Stephen! We love the amazing sounds of bagpipes, but it is so cool to learn about the different parts of the instruments! We bet you go through quite a bit of reeds, but playing the instrument and learning new songs must be worth it! Thanks for sharing your AWESOME story, Stephen! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How do you play the bagpipes?
  • Where were bagpipes invented?
  • What are the different parts of bagpipes?

Wonder Gallery

bagpipes_shutterstock_44694487Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to make your own bagpipes? If you have a garbage bag, some duct tape and a couple of plastic recorders, you can certainly try! They might not sound exactly like true bagpipes, but you’ll have fun making them and you’ll have a much better understanding of how real bagpipes work.

Click through How to Make Bagpipes out of a Garbage Bag and Recorders to see step-by-step directions. You can also watch a video of the finished project online.

If you’re not very musical, you could instead make yourself an outfit to wear, in case you ever get the chance to play the bagpipes or go to Scotland. Just check out the projects below and have fun!


Still Wondering

Check out ArtsEdge’s Woodwind Instruments and Pitch lesson to learn the types and parts of woodwind instruments and then create a woodwind instrument similar to panpipes.


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