Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: bagpipe from Musical Terms, Symbols and Theory: An Illustrated Dictionary

an instrument consisting of reed pipes and a bag. The pipes are divided into two categories. Chanter pipes include finger holes and produce the melody. Drones are for bass accompaniment, and sound unchanging tones. The Scottish variety's bag is filled with air from the player's mouth, and the Irish bagpipe produces sound by way of a bellows held under the player's arm. See also chanter; drone; reed; wind family.


Summary Article: bagpipe
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

musical instrument whose ancient origin was probably in Mesopotamia from which it was carried east and west by Celtic migrations. It was used in ancient Greece and Rome and has been long known in India. Some form of bagpipe was later used in nearly every European country; it was particularly fashionable in 18th-century France, where it was called the musette. Its widest use and greatest development was in the British Isles, particularly Northumberland, Ireland, and Scotland. The island of Skye was the home of a school for pipers. The Highland pipe of Scotland, the most well-known type, was a martial instrument and from it comes the modern great pipe; but at least six other types were once used in the British Isles. The basic construction of a bagpipe consists of a bag, usually leather, which is inflated either by mouth through a tube or by a bellows worked by the arm; one or two chanters (or chaunters), melody pipes having finger holes and fitted usually with double reeds; and one or more drones, which produce one sustained tone each and usually have single reeds, though the musette drones have double reeds (see reed instrument). Associated with folk and military music, it has been neglected by composers, possibly because of its short range.

  • See Podnos, T. H. , Bagpipes and Tunings (1974);.
  • Collinson, T. , The Bagpipe (1975).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

Related Articles


Full text Article Bagpipe
The Harvard Dictionary of Music

Any of a family of wind instruments in which one or more reedpipes are attached to a windbag, usually made of animal skin. The player holds...

Full text Article bagpipe
The New Penguin Dictionary of Music

(Fr. cornemuse , Ger. Dudelsack , Sackpfeife , It. cornamusa, piva, zampogna ) Instrument composed of reed pipes emanating from a bag,...

Full text Article Highland bagpipe [Gael. pìob mhór]
The Harvard Dictionary of Music

The bagpipe of the Scottish highlands. It is mouth blown, with a double-reed chanter and three single-reed drones . The first secure...

See more from Credo