northumbrian smallpipes

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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 forms .

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 Northumbrian music.

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 surrounding areas.

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.

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