Drones for a set of Highland bagpipes

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c. 1870

Postcard of Drones for a set of Highland bagpipes.
© National Museums Scotland

Drones for a set of Highland bagpipes

Drones for a set of Highland bagpipes, c.1870, made of blackwood and bone mounted with 'button' mounts. This set probably dates from the second half of the 19th century but demonstrates anachronistic stylistic detailing in the mounts that were more common on instruments earlier in the century and may therefore indicate an instrument made remotely from the urban communities of Central Scotland.

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.

The Highland bagpipe of Scotland is a universally recognised musical instrument but historically, in the last 2-300 years, only one in a variety of bagpipes growing out of the rich piping and musical traditions of the British Isles. Though its precise origins are still obscure, it seemed to arrive in the Highlands in the 15th or 16th centuries and was adopted as the principal musical instrument after the clarsach of the Gaelic clans. By the late 18th century, the Highland bagpipe had emerged in more of less fixed form with chanter and three drones, the style and embellishment becoming a matter of fashion as well as standardisation with a uniformity being required for band playing and competition. By the early 19th century professional bagpipe makers were offering different sizes of Highland bagpipe such as 'Full-size', 'Half-size', 'Reel' or 'Lovat Reel Pipe' and Miniature.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-000-579-768-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0869: The Bagpipe Collection
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  K.1999.258
Date: 1870 (date of manufacture)
Material: Cocus wood
What: Drones
Description: Drones for a set of Highland bagpipes of blackwood with bone mounts.
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