Mechanics & Build

By Samantha Hahn

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The bagpipe is made of five distinct parts the blow pipe, chanter, drones, the stocks, and of course the bag. Each part has a significant duty and without all of them working together it would not create the sound that it does.

The blow pipe is the initial part of the bagpipe, in order to allow air to flow into the bag you must blow into the blow pipe. Ideally the blowpipe should be 3/8” and it must be airtight in order for the bag to fill with air properly. Also there is a rubber valve inside of the pipe that will keep the air in when nothing is being blown into it. These pipes are primarily made of either wood or plastic.

The bag is the next part of the bagpipe that is where the name of the instrument came from. It collects the air that is blown into the blow pipe so the player can take breaths while the bagpipe continues to play. Different types of fabric are what the bag is made of; some are skins of animals while others are made of more common materials that are airtight.

The chanter is another part of the bagpipe that has a specific role. It has nine holes in it where your fingers go in order to play different notes. They can be made two different ways, cylindrical bore and conical bore. They have two different sounds; conical are louder and harsher, while cylindrical are softer. It is not uncommon for players to have more than one chanter because each one is so different. It is even said that not one chanter makes the same sound. This is because there are so many different features to the chanter so you can personalize and it causes a different sound every time. They are either made from wood or plastic, wood is primarily more expensive than plastic.

Next are the drones, both tenor and bass and usually there are a total of three drones with the exceptions of older bagpipes which had only one or two drones. The make of these drones determines what sound is going to come out of each pipe. The bore of each drone is different; it becomes larger as the drone becomes longer. If the bagpipe is not tuned these parts will serve no purpose because their sound will not be represented well so it is very important for the players to tune their bagpipes. Along with the rest of the bagpipe the drones are also made out of either wood or plastic.
Another part of the bagpipe that makes an impact, although it may not be musically, is the stocks. They hold together each piece in order to keep the bag from falling apart. It is also important that when these are delicately sewn that they create an airtight seal so it doesn’t ruin the bag completely.

Bagpipes are a very complex instrument. They have many parts and without each one it would not consistently work. Whether it be playing the instrument or just upkeep on the instrument it is very important to be aware of what you are doing when working with the bagpipes

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