Irish bagpipe: instrument structure, history, sound, playing technique

Irish bagpipe: instrument structure, history, sound, playing technique

It is believed that this wind musical instrument is suitable only for performing folk music. In fact, its capabilities have long gone beyond the performance of authentic melodies, and the Irish bagpipe is used in various styles and genres.


Due to its device and performance capabilities, the Irish bagpipe is considered the most developed in the world. It differs from the Scottish one by the principle of air injection – a bag of furs is located between the elbow and the body of the musician, and the air flow comes when the elbow is pressed against it. In the Scottish version, blowing occurs only through the mouth. Therefore, the instrument is also called “uilleann pipes” – an elbow bagpipe.

Irish bagpipe: instrument structure, history, sound, playing technique

The instrument is complex. It consists of bags and fur, a chanter – the main pipe that performs a melodic function, three bourdon pipes and the same number of regulators. There are seven holes on the front side of the chanter, one more is clamped with the thumb and located on the back side. The melodic tube is equipped with valves, thanks to which its range is quite extensive – two, sometimes even three octaves. By comparison, the Scottish bagpipe is capable of sounding in the range of just over one octave.

Bourdon pipes are inserted into the base, which has a special key, with the help of which the bourdons are turned off or on. When turned on, they provide a continuous musical background of 1-3 sounds, which is typical for illian pipes. Expand the capabilities of the Irish bagpipes and regulators. These tubes with keys are needed so that the musician can accompany the chanter with chords.

Irish bagpipe: instrument structure, history, sound, playing technique

The instrument should not be confused with the military bagpipe. This is a variation of the Scottish highland bagpipe, the main difference of which is that it is equipped with a single bourdon pipe, and not three, like in the prototype.


It is known that the tool was used as early as the XNUMXth century, it was considered a peasant, common people. At the beginning of the XNUMXth century, they entered the everyday life of the middle class, became the leading instrument in national genres, displacing even the harp. In the form in which we see it now, the bagpipe appeared in the XNUMXth century. It was a rapid rise, the heyday of the illianpipes, which came to naught as quickly as it brought the instrument into the ranks of the most popular in the country.

The middle of the 19th century was a difficult period for Ireland, which in history was called the “potato famine”. About a million people died, the same number emigrated. People were not up to music and culture. Poverty and hunger gave rise to epidemics that mowed down the people. The population of the country has decreased by 25 percent in just a few years.

At the beginning of the XNUMXth century, the situation stabilized, the inhabitants of the country began to recover from the terrible years. The traditions of the Play were revived by representatives of the bagpiper dynasties. Leo Rous taught the instrument at the Dublin Municipal School of Music and was club president. And Johnny Doran developed his own style of “fast” playing and was one of the few people who could play the bagpipe while seated.

Irish bagpipe: instrument structure, history, sound, playing technique

Play technique

The musician is seated, placing the bag under the elbow, and the chanter at the level of the right thigh. Forcing air with the movement of the elbow, he increases its pressure, opening access to the flow to the upper octave. The fingers of both hands pinch the holes on the chanter, and the wrist is involved in controlling the bourdons and playing the regulators.

There are very few Irish bagpipe factories in the world. Until now, they are often made individually, so the tool is expensive. For beginners, it is recommended to use training instances, which consist of a bag and a single tube, and only after mastering the simplest option, proceed to variations on a full set.

Ирландская волынка-Александр Анистратов

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