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.