When you think of bagpipes, it's likely that Scotland comes to mind. So you might be surprised to learn that the instrument does not have its origins in Scotland. There are some interesting and little-known facts about the bagpipes, including what they were made of, how they are played and even why they were once banned in Scotland.
Origins and History
Contrary to popular belief, the bagpipes did not originate in Scotland. However, it was Scotland that kept the instrument alive. As a result, it is Scotland that is most often associated with the instrument. While the exact origins of the bagpipes are disputed, the oldest reference to the now-famed instrument is from Asia Minor. The reference was carved on a stone slab dated back to 1000 BC. Bagpipes were eventually found in various countries all over the world, including India, Spain, France and even ancient Egypt. Historians are unsure as to whether the Scottish bagpipes were imported from Rome or if they were brought to the country from Ireland.
In every country where bagpipes were found, they were all made with the same general components. Each bagpipe consists of a chanter, a bag and one or more pipes, also known as drones. Today drones are typically made from hardwood, but in historic times they were constructed of bone or ivory. The bags were made from the skin of animals, including sheep, cows and goats.
Creating a Melody
The Scottish bagpipes are also known as the Highland bagpipes. The pipes are played by blowing into a blowpipe by mouth, whereas other types of bagpipes are bellow-blown. No matter how the air is provided, the melody is played via the chanter. One interesting thing about the bagpipes is that when the musician is taking a breath, he can continue to play using the air stored in the bag. Bagpipes are known for two types of music: the march music used by armies and symphony music.
The Bagpipe Ban
A little-known fact about the history of bagpipes in Scotland is that the instrument was actually banned in the country -- once in 1560 and again in 1746. James Reid, a bagpipe musician, was executed for having a bagpipe during the ban. During 1746, bagpipes were considered war instruments. It is reported that during WWI more than 500 pipers were executed for playing the bagpipes.
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