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The Bagpipe Society

A new resource for curious minds

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Coinciding with the publication of this edition of Chanter is the launch of a fascinating new online dictionary and encyclopeadia of bagpipes. It really is a tour de force especially considering that it is the work of just one man, Wiebe Stodel.

The full title is an “Encyclopaedic dictionary of international termingology of Bagpipes and related instruments”. Subtitled, ‘an organological-linguistic study, provided with several appendices’, it consists of over 8000 entries and studies of instruments and terminologies in over 120 languages and dialects.

Wiebe, who is Dutch, has been working on this project since the early 1990’s. He has always had an interest in traditional instruments but also in languages. Then, after aquiring a copy of Božidar Širola’s ‘Sviraljke s udarnim ježickom’ [Aerophones with a beating tongue] (Zagreb, 1937), he started to make some notes whilst reading it. That kickstarted the project and, in a way, he never stopped looking and referencing. After reading Širola’s book, he started to read and collect more books on the subject and he now has a rather large library! As well as his own personal collection of about 600 books, the internet has been a good source of information using and JStor which has enabled him to reference rare or hard to source material. Then, of course, Wiebe has enlisted the knowledge of friends, scholars, pipers and makers he has met over the years.

He started with the aim of collecting as many names of bagpipes and as many terms of bagpipe parts and specific techniques, in as many languages as he could possibly find. Only later did he then decide to add the names of all the pipers and makers Širola mentions in his “priceless” book. He added others over the years but he limited himself to include the names of those already deceased, with a few exceptions because of their importance.

It is a remarkable resource and one could easily lose hours going from one reference to another. The site is broken down into several sections, all of which link into each other like a giant spider’s web. To compile the encyclopaedia, Wiebe established a systematic thesaurus with enough space to allow him to establish codes to define even the slightest detail that exists in only one bagpipe. The result is a system with 762 codes that allow easy concordance between types which are then automatically mentioned on every relevant page.

As well as bagpipes, Wiebe has included hornpipes, mouth organs and launeddas. These are broken down into the following divisions.

  1. Bagpipes: mouth- or bellows-blown, type of chanter, number of drones (if any), &c.
  2. Hornpipes: number of pipes, type of mouthpiece (if any), types of reed (down- or up cut).
  3. Mouth organs: type of wind chest.
  4. Launeddas: 1 type only…

The easy to use site allows one to flick between countries, terminologies, instruments and the parts of the bagpipes. As an example, each country has a sub division of the instruments found there, the local terminology and the craftsmen and performers associated with it. The Performer section, as mentioned above, notes notable players from the past. It is possible to subdivide the list to show only female pipers which, of course, I instinctively investigated. Sadly (not surprisingly) the list is short!

Some sections such as proverbs and MFO (museums, festivals and organisations) are still being developed and are in their early stages.

The key to any project like this is keeping it updated and capturing new information or amending current entries in the light of new sources. Wiebe tells me that he currently has a “To Do” list consisting of about 300 items! (For once I’ve found someone with a longer list than mine). That will keep him busy for the next few months he reckons but, as always, as one job gets ticked off another appears. In the future he hopes to secure a way of preserving the information he has gathered over the years, together with his vast collection of books and instruments. And, of course, he does not want the site to be lost and to continue to ‘live’ after him.

The information isn’t perfect, Wiebe is happy to admit that (and amendments are being made all the time), and I found a few errors but don’t let those detract you from admiring his amazing achievement and years of dedication to bring this project to fruition.

I urge you to visit the website which can be found at (It goes live on 30th November). There will be a contact form which can be used for any corrections, additions, etc.