Bagpipes – The National Instrument of Scotland

Bagpipe player in traditional dress

Bagpipes in Scotland

Bagpipes are Scotland’s National instrument and a large part of the traditional Scottish culture.

You can enjoy bagpipe music across the country at celebrations such as weddings, during Highland Games, at Pipe Band Festivals. You can even hear it on the streets of our cities thanks to the street musicians who entertain passers by. Our Tour Leader Fergie sometimes treats his passengers to a little tune too as you can see in the image on the right.

Glasgow is usually the host of both the Piping Live festival and the World Pipe Band Championships every August when hundreds of musicians in their Highland dress flock to the city. Sadly this year the championships were cancelled but Piping Live is still going ahead this week (Aug 7th – 15th) providing great entertainment to locals and visitors alike. We look forward to welcoming pipe bands from around the world again in 2022.

In the meantime find out more about bagpipes and their historical connection to Scotland below.

Tour Leader Fergie playing the bagpipes, taken by one of our passengers

Did you know?

There are records of bagpipes in Scotland from as early as the 1400s.

An infographic showing the 4 main parts of bagpipes. 1. The blowstick which allows the piper to blow air into the instrument. 2. The bag which holds the air and is then compressed to make music. 3. The chanter which looks similar to a woodwind instrument, the piper covers holes to set the note. 4. The drones, bagpipes normally have 3 of these set to different notes, they are the part of the instrument that emits sound.

Did you know?

A musician who plays the bagpipes is called a piper.

 FAQs

Do bagpipes originate in Scotland?

No, although their country of origin isn’t certain either. Some historians believe they travelled over from Europe while others think they came from as far away as Ancient Egypt.

Bagpipes appear in Scottish records from as early as 1400 but there are earlier records of them in Europe. Their Gaelic name is Piob Mhor which means big pipe. In modern times there are many types of bagpipe but the Highland Bagpipe is one of the most commonly known.

Was playing the bagpipes once banned in Scotland?

There was a ban on playing of the bagpipes after Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite uprising of 1745. They believed it to be an act of treason against the king who was English. Many chose to play the pipes in secret, risking the harsh punishment if someone was to hear.

In 1746 a piper was put to death for treason. He had chosen to play his pipes which they deemed an instrument of war. The government chose to remove the ban in 1785. After this bagpipes rose in popularity through to modern day.

Do pipers play alone or in a group?

A lone piper often plays the bagpipes at smaller gatherings and weddings.

However, many would say there’s nothing better than the sound of a pipe band. The band usually consists of a section of pipes who are accompanied by snare, tenor sections and one or two bass drummers too. This helps create a well rounded multi tonal sound which everyone will enjoy.

Can bagpipes only play traditional music?

As a musical instrument the bagpipes are traditional and so many of the songs you will hear will be traditional too.

However some musicians can play modern songs too. Famous bands such as the Red Hot Chilli Pipers cover modern well known songs that all audiences will recognise.

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