Guide to the Uilleann Pipes

From Riverdance to Titanic via Braveheart, the keening upper reaches of the Irish, Uilleann Pipes (pronounced ill-en) have so seduced the modern world that the sound is a universal shorthand for all things ‘Celtic.’

The most sophisticated pipe there is, expect to dedicate your life to mastering it: it is said to take twenty one years, of which the first seven are required to save up the money to buy a set!

Bellows blown and with a uniquely fingered scale and a two octave range, the chanter can be played open or closed by stopping the end on your knee, which allows staccato playing. In addition to the drones, which lie across the chest and legs, UPs have a set of regulators. These are keyed drones that remain silent until played with the wrist, allowing rhythmic and harmonic accompaniment.

The repertoire is large, mostly Irish and Scottish, and there are distinct regional styles in Ireland (and amongst the Irish diaspora), not to mention those that have emerged from the travelling community.

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