The Bagpipe Society

Guide to the Swedish Bagpipes

Swedish Smallpipes. Modern variant with paired holes giving alternative scales and second thumb hole to give minor third. Drone plays E
swedish pipes in white resin.

Swedish bagpipes have their closest relatives in some East European bagpipes. They are mouth blown and have one free standing drone, across the piper’s chest. Single reeds are used in both the drone and the chanter. A distinctive feature of the chanter a deep depression for each finger, making it almost impossible to miss a finger hole. The pipes have a ‘reedy’ but reasonably quiet sound, comparable to a harmonica in tone and to a forcefully played violin in volume. The basic Swedish bagpipe chanter has 6 finger holes and one hole for the top hand thumb. This is consistent with the preserved instruments from the past. The scale is an A-minor scale with the key note in the middle, ranging from e’ to e’’. The single drone is usually tuned to a’. Today, one will also find Swedish bagpipes with more drones, bellows blown instruments, and chanters in D/G and C/F. Many modifications and extensions have been made to the basic scale. The most common is an extra finger hole just above the c’’ hole, sounding c#’’. The chanter can now also be played in A-major, if the c’’ hole is closed, usually by means of a rubber band but sometimes a small plug or wax. See for more information about this fascinating instrument.