Is the bagpipe originally a Scottisch instrument? Not a bit of it! The „Great Highland Bagpipe“ is the most famous bagpipe, but the instrument has probably come into existance about 2000 years for Christ in India, Pakistan and Iran. It already existed in the old Egypt and Turkey. Because of the journeys of Alexander the Great, die instruments came to the west and during the Roman empire they got spread all over Europe. Even today they are a part of the German, Scottish, Irish, Spanish, Serbian and Albanian music culture.
The instrument exists of a leather or synthetic bag, in which are four instruments integrated. Three of them, the „drones“, produce a continuous hum. They are cylindrical pipes with a single reed and can be used similar to a clarinet. The conical melody pipe, similar to a recorder, exists of a double reed and is because of that related to a oboe.
The hardest thing when playing on it, is that you have to make all pipes sound together, without being able to blow on them separately. This can be accomplished by blowing air in a bag, so pressure will be build, and the pipes will give a sound. The bagpipe player can regulate the pressure with his upper arm and a steady breathing technique. When the pressure is not stable, the sound of the several pipes will differ and the sound becomes unpleasant.
Another consequence of this technique is, that it can only be played „legato“, or without any breaks in between. Accents by variations in sound intensity or pauses aren’t possible. Because of that, little notes are being played, for example „gracenotes“, that can seperate several notes from each other. Just playing a couple of notes, like with a piano, is very difficult. You have to blow some air in the bag at first, and the right pressure must be build when the first sound is being produced. Stop playing the instrument is also something to be practiced. The bagpipe player has to push air out of the bag, long before the end of the song, or else it will produce sounds afterwards.