SCOTTISH LOWLAND SMALLPIPES
Introduction to the Scottish smallpipe
While there exist many examples in museum collections of small bagpipes, these tend to have narrow bores and are generally mouthblown. The modern smallpipes are more often blown by a small bellows held under the right arm.
This arrangement, which has obvious similarities to that of the Northumbrian small pipe, and indeed the Pastoral pipe, permits the use of 'dry' reeds which play at a lower pressure than the mouthblown sets and means a much longer life for the bags and the reeds which are not subject to constant changes of moisture content.
The usual pitches for the smallpipes are A (the lowest), Bb, C (useful to accompany singing) and D (good for playing with other instruments).
While these are actual pitches, all the smallpipes transpose, so that, with the music written in A, the A chanter transposes by an octave (downwards),and the other chanters transpose so that the music will sound in Bb, C or D.
A / D combination sets with 4 drones are available. These have interchangeable chanter stocks which permit either an A or a D chanter to be played in the set. Keys may be added to the chanters, and tuning beads to the drones.
Currently Blackwood is standard for the Scottish smallpipes, and brass and boxwood is used for the fittings, but other materials such as lignum vitae or rosewood can be available (made from old stock and only available to customers in the UK and Europe), with a variety of materials for the decorative parts.
Occasionally I am asked to provide instruments that will provide more than the customary range of the traditional bagpipe, either with keys or with tuning beads (sometimes known as tuning rings) on the drones, as for example Northumbrian style drones which will tune to either D or E with a Scottish 'D' chanter.