Instrument Petting Zoo – Bagpipes

An instrument most people don’t get to experience, either hearing or touching, is bagpipes. I used to play the bagpipes through my junior high and high school years, but haven’t in quite a while and no longer own a set. (The picture of me playing is too awful to share!) Fortunately for us, Uncle Craig still plays. The boys had the opportunity to hear them, touch them and try them on his visit last summer.


If you’ve seen bagpipes in parades, you know they are quite loud. I know my boys don’t really take to things that are too loud, but these fascinated them, however, they still didn’t want to get too close or give them a try. Instead they examined them while either Uncle Craig or I were holding them, asked a bunch of questions, and then just danced while Uncle Craig played.

The bagpipes are a curious instrument, with a bag held under the arm, a chanter (the fingers cover or uncover the holes to create high notes as the air moves over them after passing through a reed as it is forced out due to pressure placed on the bag) and the pipes (which make the low sounds as air is forced through reeds as it is forced out due to pressure placed on the bag.)

It takes a lot of coordination to play the pipes, but not as much lung power as people usually assume. All at the same time the player is moving their fingers, managing airflow out of the bag with their arm, patterning their breathing to fill up the bag at the proper time and consistency, and listening to the pitch both of the notes from the chanter as well as the pipes leaning on their shoulders. In addition they are listening to the other pipers they are playing with, marching in time, and listening for cues from the lead piper! A good piper plays good music while also making it look easy to play the pipes!

Traditionally pipers wear a kilt in a specific tartan (which represents a clan in Scotland), a sporran (the ‘purse’ that hangs around their waist and typically carries extra reeds and other emergency supplies for the pipes and piper), brogues (shoes), and wears a balmoral on their head. Their big woolly socks are called hose and are usually adorned with garter flashes. Some pipers also wear jackets. The band I was a member of only wore our jackets in colder weather.

What instruments have you wanted to try, but haven’t had the opportunity to? Maybe, with the help of Hubby, we can highlight one for you if we haven’t already!

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