Playing the Highland Bagpipes...
The technique to playing the highland bagpipe is to blow air in to the bag via the blow pipe and to maintain the flow of air by squeezing the bag with the arm whilst inhaling, before refilling the bag via the blow pipe. The drones will give a constant tone which will provide a harmony to the tune played on the chanter. The skill in playing is to keep the flow of air at a constant pressure without any break in the notes played on the chanter and takes years of practice to master. The tunes are made up of melody notes and grace notes, the latter being rapid short notes or combinations of them played between the melody notes. This gives the highland bagpipe its distinctive sound.
A short history of the Highland Bagpipes...
There are many different types of bagpipe played in Scotland and indeed Britain, such as the Lowland Pipes, the Shuttle Pipes and the Scottish Small Pipes, but by far and away the best known is the highland bagpipe ("Piob Mor" as it is in Gaelic)
It is understood that the highland bagpipe is a derivation of pipes which were played in Europe and came to Scotland by various means around the 15th Century. It is believed from artists depictions of musicians, that bagpipes were in existence around 2500 B.C. in Egypt. However, due to the nature of bagpipes, being made of wood and natural material, no instruments have been found preserved above or below the ground, which would allow carbon dating to test this theory.
The highland Bagpipe as we know it today never reached the highlands until possibly the 16th Century and did so by superceding the "clarsach" (celtic harp) as the predominant musical instrument. It is likely that part of the reason for this is that with the proliferation of war at this time, an instrument whose sound carried further than the clarsach was needed to rally men going into battle. At this time the highland bagpipe was more commonly known as the "warpipes".
Since its days as the "warpipe" the higland bagpipe has fitted into Scottish society at many different levels both as a solo and band instrument. The 1990's has seen a great increase in the popularity of the instrument and not before time according to many people around the globe.
It is, in our opinion, safe to say that since its birth in Scotland the highland bagpipe has earned itself a place among the most revered of musical instruments worldwide.