Bagpipe, a musical instrument of high antiquity, common in certain varied forms to many European and Asiatic nations, especially among those of Celtic origin.
Its British form consists of a leathern bag, formed of the skin of a kid or other small animal, which retains the wind with which it is inflated by the mouth of the player. There are three pipes, two of which form the drone, and only produce the key-note and its fifth; the third, called the "chanter," is furnished with a reed, and is bored with holes which are stopped by the fingers of the player when the tune is produced. The compass is only nine notes in extent. The bagpipe originally came from the East. It is supposed that the word "symphony" mentioned in the marginal reference in the Bible (Dan. iii. 7) refers to the bagpipe.
The popularity of the instrument among the English in mediaeval times is proved not only by the frequent mention of it in contemporary MSS. and the early poets, but its influence is shown also in the character of some of the melodies of undoubted antiquity which have survived; some of which are mentioned by Mr. W. Chappell in his Popular Music. The bagpipe is usually considered in Great Britain as the national Scottish instrument, and some writers have asserted that Bruce's march, "Hey tuttie, taitie," a melody more familiar through the words "Scots wha hae," by Burns, was the identical tune played on the bagpipes at the battle of Bannockburn, 1314. Barbour, the chronicler of the event, makes no allusion to this. The earliest mention of the bagpipe as a military instrument among the Scots was at the battle of Balmines in 1594.
The Irish pipes are generally called the "Union" pipes, a word corrupted of the term "Ullan," which means the elbow; the Irish pipes being inflated by a bellows worked by the elbow of the performer.
There are three drones in the old Irish pipes, two tuned in unison, and the third an octave below. Many pipes are provided with valves to shut off the drone if required, and some have a contrivance by means of which the common chord of the key in which the pipes are set may be sounded at will to help the effect. The tone of the Irish pipes is softer and sweeter than the Scottish pipes, which are of a more piercing and stimulating tone. The Musette, popular in France at the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th centuries, was a sort of "parlour bagpipe," sweet and delicate in tone. It was often adorned in artistic style, and the bag enclosed in richly embroidered covers.