Syntagma Musicum:
The Bagpipe Pages

Michael Praetorius wrote his book on the musical instruments of his day "Syntagma Musicum" during the period 1618/19.

Amongst the many instruments described are a number of bagpipes. His description of them is as follows:


Of bagpipes (Latin, tibia utricularis; Italian, corna-musa) there are many kinds:

1. the Bock, which has just one long chaunter tube, on the deep C. Some are a fourth deeper, on GG, and are rightly called large bocks.

2. the Shepherds Pipe, which has two drones on b flat and f. Shepherds pipes are usually out of tune in the upper holes. I believe this is because they have no thumb holes in back. But other bagpipes, such as the Bock, Hümmelchen and Dudey, have a hole in back such that their tuning may better be regulated.

3. the Hümmelchen, which also has only two drones on f' and c'.

4. the Dudey, however, has three small drones, on e' flat, b' flat and e" flat.

5. In the archbishopric of Magdeburg I saw a special kind of bagpipe somewhat larger than the shepherds pipe and a third lower. It had two chaunters, and below had two small drones as well, one for the left hand and the other for the right, On each of these latter there were three holes in front and one in back, for the thumb, such that g, a', b', c' and d' could be played with the left hand, and d', e' f', g' and a' with the right. Thus bicinia (12) could be played on it quite easily. A drawing of it is to be found on plate V.

6. In France a little bagpipe or Hümmelchen (plate XIII) has been constructed into which air is pumped by means of a small bellows operated by one arm alone.

An inventor, mentioned earlier in article V, gave this matter much thought and fashioned an entire set of five of these bagpipes controlled with bellows, such that a piece for four or five voices could be played by them. But I do not find the sound of such a combination very pleasing.