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Highland bagpipe chanter by tradition played at the Battle of Waterloo

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18th century

Highland bagpipe chanter by tradition played at the Battle of Waterloo
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Side view, showing extreme wear, of a Highland bagpipe chanter made from ebony with an ivory sole and bulb at the tenon. It is said to have been played at the Battle of Waterloo by a Campbell from Muir Croft, Lochdon, Mull. The chanter probably predates the Battle of Waterloo and is 18th century in date.

The Highland bagpipe, though a musical instrument with a robust and powerful sound, was, as a wind instrument, prone to warping and cracking and other forms of wear and tear. A typical set of Highland bagpipes consists of about 16 components and separate pieces as well as four delicate reeds. Typically, broken parts would be discarded and replaced and it is rare for old bagpipes - earlier than about 1850 - to survive intact.

In its origins, the Highland bagpipe in common with other European and World bagpipes is a prehistoric wind instrument. Its main elements are the melody pipe or 'chanter' on which the music is played with the fingers (usually on a scale of nine notes) and with an accompanying fixed note or chordal accompaniment from the drone or drones, all of which are held in stocks tied into an animal skin bag (now coming to be replaced by synthetic materials). The player blows into the bag to supply a constant pressure and flow of air onto the reeds which are set into the chanter and drones and which make the sound. The air flow is controlled by a simple non-return valve on the blowstick.

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