Great Highland Bagpipe (Chalice tops)

Great Highland Bagpipe (Thistle tops)

Great Highland Bagpipe (Pewter inlay detail)

Great Highland Bagpipe (with Double chanter)

Great Highland Bagpipe (Low D; Boru; Double & Plain Chanters)

Great Highland Bagpipe (Plain & Keyed chanters)

The bagpipe that can be taken anywhere!

Britain: Great Highland Pipes

This is without a doubt the most well known form of bagpipe having been carried throughout the World by the British Army. An unfortunate side effect of this is that in several nations where it has been adopted it has supplanted native varieties.

It is used to full effect in the massed pipe bands but is also an excellent instrument for solo piping and playing for dancing as the sound carries well.

There is no shortage of tutor books, many with cassettes to help learn the seemingly complex gracing and this is further helped by the use of the mouth blown, quieter practice chanter. The full potential of the pipes is rarely realised and only the basic nine note scale is normally used whereas in reality the chanter can be cross fingered to give a full scale.

The other normal effects used on bagpipe chanters work well such as vibrato and sliding of notes. For extended compass chanters see the following sections. The pitch is "b flat" or slightly sharper as in modern pipe band practice as well as "a" and even "g". My Highland Pipes, in common with many of the other varieties that I make have a removable chanter stock which makes it easy to have several different styles of chanter for the same instrument as each chanter has it's own stock, thus always leaving the reeds undisturbed.

It has also been adopted the Bagad, the Breton Pipe band where it is used alongside the Bombarde. The so called Grande Biniou (Biniou Bras) has to an extent supplanted the Bretons native bagpipe the Biniou Coz.

For use where the Great pipes would be too loud is the Reel Pipe which plays at 70% to 80% the volume.


Practice Chanter

The style that I supply is of the same length and size as the pipe chanter with countersunk holes so that there is no difference in the feel of the two instruments and is made in two sections to facilitate portability. Designed for use with both the windcap and in the pipes themselves (with the drones suitably stopped) as a practice goose. It can be supplied with keywork to emulate the following double and keyed chanters as well.

Double Chanter

For those who want extra carrying power or a sound that is different then I can supply a double bored chanter which is in effect two chanters in unison with both playing a full scale or with the top hand tone holes in the left bore and the bottom hand tone holes in the right bore to allow playing in harmony. These chanters can also be supplied with similar keywork systems to those described below to give an extended scale.

It is based upon an instrument by Francis Higgins who was making pipes in the first half of the 19th Century

Low 'D' Chanter

A recent request was to play alongside a local youth orchestra at their annual summer concert on a "Scottish Medley". The catch was that they had learnt the tunes in the key of G which necessitated designing a chanter with a compass from a low D (C leading note) to high d. The drones also required extension pieces to drop their pitch to G,g,g. If you are interested in sets in lower keys then please let me know.

Keyed Chanters

The object of adding keywork to the chanter is to extend the compass and to facilitate the playing of accurate semitone intervals normally only available by cross fingerings the advantages being that many more tunes can be played as originally written and no longer have to be adapted to the pipe scale. Attempts at "improving" the intonation of the Great Highland Bagpipe Chanter so that it would blend with the conventional tuning of modern woodwind and other instruments seems to have been first tried by Malcolm MacGregor of London in the early 1800's. This seems to have been just the addition of semitone keywork and did not meet with the approval of highland pipers. A further design appeared around 1836 when Robert Millar added keywork to extend the compass by two notes downward and one note upwards as well as semitones. About this time Reid added a high b key to a chanter for a set of Border Pipes and others added the occasional key to that of the Highland but nothing ambitious was attempted until William O'Duane and London based musical instrument maker Henry Starck working together designed a series of instruments based upon the highland pipes at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. All of the chanters from the following instruments can be used with the Great Highland Bagpipe.

Go to "Brian Boru" & "Dungannon".

Go to Fingering Chart

See also "Biniou Bras"


African Blackwood, Ebony or similar hardwood with mountings of Sterling Silver, Nickel Silver and Ivory. A further option is to have them inlaid with Pewter which gives a very splendid looking instrument and this latter is currently the only style that I make.