Guide to the Great Highland Bagpipe

highland Pipes. Blackwood, by R T Shepherd and Sons Ltd of Cardenden, Fife, Scotland

highland Pipes. Blackwood, by R T Shepherd and Sons Ltd of Cardenden, Fife, Scotland

Love it or hate it, there’s no getting away from the GHB, which, thanks to the British Empire (and Army), is played all over the world (and by such luminaries as Evelyn Glennie and Alastair Campbell). It’s the instrument everyone thinks of when they hear the word bagpipes.

Perhaps because of its military associations, or the historic need to preserve Highland culture from erosion, its style is highly regimented and regulated. Expect a sharp rap to the knuckles if you try to bend the rules. Famously a high-pressure instrument requiring a stiff blow, the GHB is in A (or concert Bb), has a nine note mixolydian scale with its own variant of half-closed fingering, and three drones worn over the shoulder.

With its own distinct repertoire, the GHB is ideal for marching soldiers into battle, lamenting the fallen, or rousing the living with a furious reel or stately strathspey.

Scottish small pipe fingering chart

Scottish small pipe fingering chart

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