Difference Between Irish and Scottish Bagpipes

Irish vs Scottish Bagpipes

An almost forgotten musical instrument with a haunting sound, bagpipe is mostly related with the highlands and the rustic lifestyle led there. There are two main types of bagpipes in existence in the world. Irish and Scottish bagpipes are quite hard to tell apart to the untrained eye, but several acute distinctions set them apart as unique instruments from one another.

What is an Irish Bagpipe?

Also known as the Irish Uilleann Pipes, the Irish bagpipe is considered the most elaborate bagpipe in the world. Developed during the 1700’s, the Irish bagpipe has been called the union pipe and the organ pipe in the past with the current name Uilleann translated from the Irish word for elbow. The Irish bagpipe is not blown by mouth but is inflated by bellows. Its most distinct characteristic, however, is perhaps its chanter which is capable of playing more than two complete chromatic octaves while most bagpipes are only capable of playing one. It is somewhat quiet with the loudness of about two fiddles. Irish bagpipes also have three drones, but the most remarkable characteristic of the instrument is its three oboes or more, shaped in the form of 1-octave, 4- or 5-note harmony pipes with keys that are operated by the wrist which allows several chords to be played in accompaniment. It is typically played seated with one leg lowered.

What is a Scottish Bagpipe?

Perhaps the most known bagpipe in the world, the Scottish bagpipe is said to have been developed in the Gaelic speaking, mountainous western islands and the highlands of Scotland roughly around 1500’s. It possesses one high-pitched chant which is capable of playing a small fixed scale of about 9 notes and three large drones all of which are connected to the bag held under the ram that contains the air which is blown by mouth through the blowpipe. The drones are tuned to B-flat and play a single constant bass/treble tone. The scale of the Scottish bagpipe runs from A to A but includes one note below the scale as well, usually a G or a 7th. Originally, Scottish bagpipes were used to play lengthy and slow pieces known as “Piobaireachd” or “pibroch” known colloquially as “piper stuff.”

What is the difference between Irish and Scottish Bagpipes?

Admittedly, the knowledge of the world with regards to bagpipes is somewhat limited. This is exactly why there exists a profound confusion between two of the most prominent bagpipes in the world, the Irish and the Scottish bagpipes.

 • The Irish bagpipes were developed in the 1700’s. The Scottish bagpipes were developed between 1500’s and 1800’s.

• The Irish bagpipes play more than two complete chromatic octaves while the Scottish bagpipes play only one octave.

• The Irish bagpipe is more elaborate and complex than the Scottish bagpipe. It is known to be the most elaborate bagpipe in the world.

• However, the Scottish bagpipe is the most known bagpipe in the world.

• The Irish bagpipe is not blown by mouth but is inflated by bellows. The Scottish bagpipe is blown by mouth.

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