All bagpipes have one common feature: they have a bellows, which is inflated by air (breath-fed or a mechanical bellows) and has several tubes attached to it: a blower tube (“blower”) and a or more sound tubes: a melodic tube (“pointer”) and one or more staff (“snore”). Then you will also have the best bagpipe reeds which is a very important part.
- As an example of the basic morphology of a bagpipe, a Transmontane Bagpipe with the characteristic full goat bellows is illustrated.
- This type of bagpipe, from Portugal, has all the common elements of bagpipes that can be found all over the world.
In the illustration you can see in more detail all the parts that make up the different elements of a harmonica, including the single and double reeds, which generate the sound and which are attached to the sound tubes – the names of the instrument parts indicated here vary in different regions of the country.
Elements of a Bagpipe
The bellows is the flexible reservoir where air is stored. It has several wooden drawers, which fit the various parts of the instrument (these should enter the drawers smoothly, but without cracks to allow air to escape). It can be made from different materials: rubber, (falling into disuse as it impairs the tuning and maintenance of the instrument), animal skins such as goat, calf, etc., or gore-tex, very synthetic fabric. This has recently been employed by some artisans as it prevents moisture accumulation.
- Rubber is not recommended, as it produces water condensation inside the bellows, which causes problems such as water leaking through the reed (with the consequent sound deficiency), the rapid rottenness of the boxwood, a less precise tuning – given the elasticity rubber – among others. A widely used and recommended material is goat skin.
- Recently, two-sided, cooked and glued bellows bellows have become popular. When the skin is very dry, it becomes more porous and loses air, so in order to maintain the tightness and good preservation of the bellows, the pores of the skin should be bathed with a special shutter fluid bath.
It is customary for the bellows to be protected with a cloth bag that completely covers it, which can be made of fabrics of various colors and patterns, to the piper’s preference. This jacket can be called “Dress”, “Dressing” or “Clothing”. Along with the top rated kilt belts you need to be specific on your attire.
Some bagpipes may have, instead of an insufflation tube, a mechanical bellows (similar to those used in fireplaces) that is arm operated and connected to the flexible bellows through a tube.
Examples are the Uilleann Pipe, the Smallpipe and the Galician bagpipes.
The advantage of the mechanical bellows is that it prevents moisture from entering the bellows as it does not need to blow, better preserving the blades and other elements.