Pipe Pipes and Drones
When you see a top piper, everything seems to come together to make beautiful music. This is because a lot of work has gone into getting their instrument to this point.
The bagpipes’ familiar blowbag is the air reservoir from which all other pipes, chanter and the blowstick get their oxygen. Traditionally the bags were made from animal hides but these are being replaced by synthetic materials.
A bagpipe is a musical instrument that uses a pipe to play music. It has a chanter to play the melody and drones (stacks of pipes) to provide a constant, non-wavering pitch. It is a very versatile instrument and can be played many different types of tunes.
The chanter is the part of the pipes that creates the melody, and has a set of holes in it that are covered or open to make different notes. The chanter has a similar appearance to the recorder and is played by covering the holes in various combinations.
The pipes are blown by blowing into the bag, and it is important to master the combination of striking and blowing to maintain air flow and pressure within the bag. Striking is done with the hand and how it is positioned and a technique called maintaining is the art of keeping the flow of air flowing into the pipe. This allows the reeds in the drones and chanter to continue vibrating, providing the beautiful tone that the pipes are famous for.
The chanter is the part of the pipes that produces the melody, and looks similar to a recorder. It has holes that are fingered to produce nine different notes.
Like other pipe music, chanter tunes do not use harmonic modulation. This is because the chanter melody must be played against the unchanging tone of the drones. This trades flexibility in harmony for greatly enhanced purity of tuning.
Chanters can be parallel or non-parallel bore: the Jones set has a parallel bore, while many Northumbrian and Uilleann sets have a conical bore. This makes a difference in the tone, with parallel bore chanters sounding more open and sweeter than conical bore ones.
There are various tuning schemes used for chanter pipes, and some of these have changed with time. Generally speaking however, a chanter is tuned 10 to 30 cents flat from a true octave relationship with the drones. This is to allow the high A to be heard clearly against the drones and to guard against the reed sharpening up during play.
The drones of a bagpipe are cylindrical tubes with a single reed that produce a sound much like the chanter. Generally, the tenor drones are about 16 in (40 cm) long and the bass drone is 31.5 in (80 cm) long. They are tuned to a pitch one or more octaves lower than the chanter.
The reeds for the drone pipes are made in much the same way as the chanter reed but with two major differences. First, the reeds are cut on an angle to provide a “tongue” that vibrates as air passes through it. This creates the continuous tone that piper’s are famous for.
The drones are connected to the bagpipe’s stock – a wooden cylinder tied into the pipe bag. The stock also connects the reeds for the regulators (a full set of bagpipes with three drones and three regulators) that allow the piper to control the drones’ pitches, providing a wide range of tones.
A set of uilleann pipes—Irish for “elbow,” because the air required to play them is stored in a bag under the elbow and supplied with bellows strapped to the piper’s knees—offers a more melodic sound than Highland pipes, which require mouthpieces. The uilleann piper fingers his chanter, which plays the melody, and uses the heel of his right hand to play chords on one of three regulator pipes, which provide rhythm and harmony.
Modern scholarship has highlighted the importance of evangelical Christianity in shaping the Regulator ethos and defining their antiauthoritarian stance toward what they perceived as an evil, inhumane governmental structure. Many backcountry settlers embraced Baptist, Presbyterian, Quaker, and Moravian sects, which preached personal salvation and encouraged frontier Protestantism as a path to peace with God. Such fervent faith likely welded these backcountry farmers together and helped motivate their antagonism to the elites of the tidewater settlements. As a result, their resentment often gave way to violence.