The iconic bagpipes have to be one of the most endearing sights and sounds of Scotland. And if you are lucky enough to visit this beautiful part of the world you cannot possibly fail to hear the unique sound of the bagpipes emanating from shop doorways and busy streets.
Bagpipes are an integral part of the culture of Scotland and are known globally as a symbol of the country. This recognition comes from the historical past of Scotland where the pipes where used in the British military leading the troops into battle.
The Power of the Instrument
Okay, there is a cheesy side to the bagpipes, being used on every tin of shortbread and packet of toffees. But this is because it represents Scotland to tourists.However, if you have ever been to the Edinburgh Tattoo and heard hundreds of pipers playing simultaneously, then you can fully understand the awesome power that the bagpipes can generate. If you happened to be on the opposite side in a battle when the pipes struck up, it must have been terrifying.
A recent trend to use this ancient instrument on the modern streets of Edinburgh and Glasgow is for Bagpipe Busking. Young pipers can be seen at tourist hotspots playing their hearts out for coins thrown into hats and blankets. But the unique sound the pipes make stir not just tourists’ attentions; it plays on the emotions of the locals as well. This is because the bagpipes are synonymous with family and personal events such as weddings, birthdays and special occasions. The bagpipes play an important part of every Scottish life, more so than any other single instrument from any other country. It is totally unique to Scotland both as an instrument and as an iconic symbol of the country.
How Bagpipes Work
There are three elements to the bagpipes, The Drones, The Bag, and the Chanter. When these elements are combined, they form a collective sound that we are all familiar with. Playing the pipes takes some skill and pipers are truly great and talented musicians.
- The Bag – how the Bag is made is a specially guarded secret by manufacturers. This is because a special mixture is made to season it and every bagpipe maker has their own unique recipe. Basically, the bag is sheepskin which is ideal as its lets moisture out but keeps air inside.
- The Drones – there are three drones, one bass and two tenors, which basically play the same notes. In each drone there is a reed which is traditionally made from cane but nowadays are usually some sort of synthetic material.
- The Chanter – the chanter is the fingering part of the instrument, which is the first thing that learners try to grasp the use of. It has holes that are similar to a recorder, so early days of playing this popular school instrument will come in really handy.
Without the bagpipes Scotland would lose some of its identity, the pipes are linked so strongly to Scottish culture that you cannot imagine Scotland without them. And this is why they are so important to the people of this proud nation.