The Uillean pipes are pretty differnet than highland (Scottish) pipes.
For one thing, they're much softer!
Uillean pipes, Northumbrian pipes, Border pipes and Scottish small pipes
are all bellows blown pipes. That means the piper has a bellows under
his right arm, and a bag under his left arm. Whereas a highland piper
blows through a mouthpiece into the bag, thereby, among other things,
creating a LOT of moisture, which the reeds like, to a point, a bellows
(or cauld-wind) piper uses the bellows to fill the bag.
The bag in either case is used as a reservoir of air to supply
continuous air to the four reeds. I believe all of the bagpipes I
previously mentioned have three drones plus a chanter. The drones play
a continuous note, the melody is played on the chanter, which has holes
and looks kind of like a recorder. The chanter, atleast for highland
pipes, is a double reed, whereas the drone reeds are more like a
cylinder of reed with a slice out of one side of it, separated slightly
from the cylinder so that it can vibrate.
Anyhow, Uillean pipes (which are played sitting down, not standing up
like Highland pipes) also have valves on the drones, which the player
manipulates with his wrist. So the drones themselves can be "keyed" and
this has been described by some to sound kind of like a bunch of car
horns beeping in a traffic jam. (this is not a complaint just a
The fingering on Uillean pipes is also different than for Highland
pipes. But it's a little difficult to explain how. Highland pipers
usually lift combinations of fingers to get a note, whereas Uillean
pipers sometimes lift just one finger at a time to get a note. I don't
know about Northumbrian/Border pipes... I've been wondering, and I guess
I'll find out after my friend goes to Balmoral piping school (a US
piping school) and tries the Northumbrian pipes, which are being taught
here for the first time.
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