The Bagpipe and Its History

You may have heard that bagpipes are a Scottish invention; you may have heard that they are an Irish invention. The truth (of course) is neither one. The bagpipe was invented in the middle east.The Old Testament mentions the instrument in the book of Daniel chapter 3, where it is listed as one of the instruments that was used to call the people to worship a golden statue that king Nebuchadnezzar had set up. (Anyone who disobeyed had to be thrown into a blazing fire –yaiks!!) This event took place in ancient Iraq, which was then part of the Babylonian empire.

From the middle east migrating tribes of peoples took the instruments to different parts of Europe, Asia and northern Africa.

Some 200 years ago the instrument was very popular throughout Europe.

It was around that time that the ruling class started to forbid the instrument.

It was decided that this instrument, with it’s droning sound was a “poor man’s instrument” and should have no part in modern music.

As a result, the instrument was forbidden in almost all of Europe, except for a few outposts such as Scotland and Bulgaria.

The bagpipe in its many forms, as of today still has retained its natural tuning.

The melody pipe or chanter has to tune in with the drone, therefore, it is hard to play together with other “tempered tuned” instruments. The key cannot be changed, also on account of this droning.

However, modern music, even though more sophisticated, has lost a very important ingredient of music, namely the rich overtones.

Those rich tones that you can hear in a well-tuned bagpipe can only be heard when the notes are exactly tuned. This is only the case in bagpipes, hurdy-gurdies (a similar instrument that operates with strings instead of pipes) and in voice.

However recently the bagpipe has been revived in modern music and there are now world wide many people who play the instrument.

This is primarily due to the fact that the (scottish highland)bagpipe has been used as a military instruments.

Today the instrument is being used in many different types of music, there are not only players of many different kinds of bagpipes again, there are also modern bagpipe builders.

This modern revival of the instrument has been inspired by painters such as Pieter Brueghel, who painted the instrument as it was played in the 1600’s.