Swedish Bagpipes

I first came across the Swedish bagpipe (säckpipa in Swedish) in 1990, when I was staying with my friend Joachim von Usslar in Hamburg. We had met on the London College of Furniture’s Early Woodwind course and, several years after we finished, I went to work with him for a month in his basement workshop. Jo had become a fantastic street entertainer and found the living much better than being a maker, so he employed me to do some turning to complete some orders, even though I hadn’t set up as a maker myself at that point and hadn’t turned anything for three years.

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Review: Double Yolks, Duo Gällmo Branschke Mar 2020 in Chanter 2020 Spring

CD: Double Yolks - Duo Gällmo Branschke Since 2011, Swedish riksspelman Olle Gällmo and German bagpipe maker Matthias Branschke have jointly taught the Säckpipa course at Spielkurs Pipenbock, offering an equal mix of traditional Swedish and re-discovered German tunes.• ‘Double Yolks’ is the first CD resulting from this collaboration and features 22 of their favourite pieces played as duets. The two pipers have different playing styles which complement each other well - Matthias punctuates the tunes with rhythmic ‘hiccuping’ borrowed from Hungarian piping tradition while Olle’s piping has the typically sweet Swedish lilt, with lots of subtle ornamentation.

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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.

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In the bag - Anders Norudde Mar 2015 in Chanter 2015 Spring

Anders Norudde is a multi-instrumentalist and violin maker, most famous for playing in Swedish/Finnish band Hedningarna (‘the Heathens”). As well as violin, moraharpa, bowed harp, willowflutes and whistles, he plays Swedish bagpipes, which he took up in 1981. The most recent Hedningarna album, &, was released in 2012. What bagpipes do you play. I play the Swedish bagpipes. Until six months ago I just had my old set from the 80s made by Leif Eriksson, though modified by me with a new bag.

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Swedish Bagpipes - A Performer's Perspective Mar 2015 in Chanter 2015 Spring

Let’s face it: As bagpipes go, the Swedish one doesn’t strike you as particularly impressive at the first look. In its most basic form, it really boils down to the essence of a bagpipe without bells and whistles: There is a leather bag, a blowpipe, one cylindrical chanter and one short, stubby drone (traditionally tuned to the unison of the chanter’s lowest melody note). Both the chanter and the reed are fitted with a single reed, giving the instrument its rather nasal – and typical – sound.

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Synthetic Chanter Reeds for Swedish Bagpipes Mar 2015 in Chanter 2015 Spring

Swedish bagpipe reeds are traditionally made from the most suitable material growing in Sweden - Phragmites australis (common reed). Unfortunately Phragmites is a very fragile material and sensitive to humidity. Reed/tuning problems were most likely one of the main reasons that the instrument almost disappeared. Most active pipers today use imported cane, Arundo donax, the most common reed material for other reed instruments (including most other bagpipes). Arundo donax is harder and more resistant than Phragmites australis.

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