Pipes by David Burleigh
The Northumbrian Smallpipes
When most people think of bagpipes they think of the great Highland
Pipes from Scotland but the bagpipe is a large family of traditional
music instruments which can be found all over Europe in many different
The Northumbrian Smallpipes consist of a set of elbow-operated bellows
which deliver air to a large airbag. This in turn feeds the air to the
chanter and also to a set of harmonising drones. Each of the drones
produces a single note, but they are tuned to produce a harmonic
background sound to complement the melody being played on the chanter.
There are three particular features which make the Smallpipes one of the
most sophisticated and refined forms of bagpipe:
The addition of keys to the chanter extends the range and allows the
player to use accidentals (sharps and flats) outside the normal scale.
Unlike any other bagpipes (or any other wind instrument) the end of the
chanter is closed or stopped up, so that when all the holes on the
chanter are covered by the player’s fingers no sound is produced. This
allows the playing of the staccato sound associated with traditional
The music of the Smallpipes varies from haunting slow airs and waltzes
to the lively reels (4/4 time), jigs (6/8 time) and hornpipes (dotted
4/4 time). This music was at one time one of the main sources of
enjoyment and entertainment for the country people of Northumberland and
Instrument Loan & Tuition
We can generally arrange
instrument hire for a modest charge to anyone in the local area
interested in learning to play who is willing to join the Society.
Adult Education Classes for beginners and intermediate players are
normally held at Dr Thomlinson Middle School in Rothbury on Tuesday
evenings from the Autumn Term through to Spring Term, and there is also
a self-programming class for more experienced players.
For further information please go to the Contact page.