Best UK Bagpipes
Updated: February 2020
Here are our top selections in the category of best bagpipes to buy in the UK.
#1 Pick: Score = 95%
#2: Top Alternative
#3: Another Great Pick
Bagpipes: A Buyer’s Guide
When you think of some of the most iconic symbols of Scotland, you are likely to think of bagpipes at some point. These amazing instruments produce some truly unique and magnificent sounds, and when played well, can create truly haunting melodies. To the outsider, it can seem as though to play the bagpipes, all you need to do is blow in and squeeze the bag.
Sadly, it’s often not as simple as that. Learning how to play the bagpipes can take time and effort, just as learning any instrument can. However, another tricky scenario to consider is how you’re going to find the best bagpipes for your skill level!
It’s easy to think that one pair of bagpipes is going to be the same as all the others. However, you will actually find that you need to narrow down your choices based on your individual profile and how proficient you already are at playing. If you’re just starting out, for example, there will be some bagpipes and types that work better for you.
If you’re a maestro on the pipes, then you may want to look for something a little more advanced. In any case, always be ready to look at a wide variety of instruments, particularly if you’re really not sure what the best options are!
In this buying guide, we’ll look at all the various ins and outs of bagpipes, and why it’s so important to make the right choice. If you still struggle to make the best decision for you by the end of the guide, we’ve lined up a few frequently asked questions to help you on your way.
Getting Started with Bagpipes
Please be aware that this is not a guide on how to play the bagpipes! Rather, it is a guide on what to expect when you start looking for your ideal instrument, and what you should do to prepare. The first thing you should do, of course, is equip yourself with a guide on how to play the instrument.
While there are plenty of guides and even video tutorials online, you really cannot beat a good, solid guidebook. There are many to pick from online as well as in good music shops, so don’t be scared to reach out and do some light reading!
You may even want to make sure you get some personal tuition. While the bagpipes are an instrument that is, say, rarer to get instruction for than the piano, that doesn’t mean you won’t find teachers and tutors who can help. In fact, you may even be able to pay for one to one tuition online.
Beyond this, you should consider contacting your local music school for full details. There may be a tutor in the faculty who has the experience you need.
What Are the Parts of the Bagpipes?
This buyer’s guide is a little different from our usual posts, simply because to know which bagpipes to buy, you need to know about the parts of the instrument. Here’s a quick run-through of what to expect.
The Bag and Blowpipes
The bag, of course, is the main body of the instrument. This fills with air and squeezes out to produce noise. The players blow air in through the blowpipes, which again, are fairly self-explanatory. It can get tricky to keep filling the bag while squeezing, which is where much of the technique you’ll hone will come from.
The drones are a crucial part of any bagpipe system. It’s the drones that produce the sound we all know, and many of us love. Some bagpipes have different drones and tones, meaning that some will have multiple bass and tenor drones.
However, the standard number of drones to expect is two, one of each type for bass and tenor. These drones sit up on your shoulder and contain reeds which vibrate to produce the classic bagpipe sound.
Your chanter is where you’ll play the actual notes. Think about how you would use your fingers on a flute, a clarinet, or a recorder. The action is very similar with bagpipes. Your chanter can create several different tones, which is, of course, how you play songs. Learning how to manage the chanter alongside squeezing the bag and blowing in is, of course, all part of the fun.
Things to Consider
As mentioned, we’re not going to discuss how to play the bagpipes here, as we’re sure you already have that well underway! Instead, let’s take a moment to consider a few of the things you might need to shop around for when buying the perfect instrument.
Generally, the better the quality of wood, the better the sound. However, the better the quality, the more you may need to pay. With that in mind, do be ready to invest a little more cash if you are serious about finding the best bagpipes to learn on.
Ease of Tuning
The best bagpipes should be easy to tune – that’s a given! However, this isn’t always easy to spot through product marketing unless you really know what you’re looking for. That’s why you should look carefully at verified buyer reviews.
Make sure to see what beginner players, in particular, have to say about control and ease of tuning. If the consensus is that it’s fairly tricky, make sure to look for a more entry-friendly instrument.
If you’re serious about playing the bagpipes, that bag is going to see a lot of squeezing! Therefore, make sure to buy an instrument with high quality fabric and craftsmanship. Otherwise, you could find yourself breaking a hole in the bag if you go too hard on it. If this happens, you may as well buy yourself a brand new set of bagpipes!
Box or Carry Case
As bizarre as it sounds, a box is probably going to be a fairly big draw for most bagpipe players. That’s because they are very unwieldy to carry around at times! Bagpipes are unique in shape and form. Therefore, you are going to need a special bag to keep everything contained in.
Most bagpipes available online should have sturdy boxes that come with the instruments, however, do be prepared to pay more for bagpipes that come with especially luxurious cases.
The quality in sound on a set of bagpipes is something that can be up for debate. However, aficionados know the mark of a quality build when they hear it! Therefore, again, it is worth listening to opinion in this regard. Make sure to check out buyer reviews and video guides to hear them for yourself. If you can ask for a demonstration in a music store, then this is all for the better.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you are completely new to playing the bagpipes, there’s likely to be a few questions you may want to ask. Here are just a few that we’ve rounded up, along with answers you might find useful.
Is It Difficult to Play the Bagpipes?
There are no two ways about this – yes. The bagpipes present some of the trickiest musical challenges you might ever face. There is a lot of skill involved in controlling the bag, the chanter, and making sure you get the right tones! Therefore, do make sure you are up to the challenge.
Do some research, watch videos, and even buy a practice chanter and bag to see how you get on.
How Much Do Bagpipes Cost?
There is no straight answer to this question! Bagpipes vary in cost depending on build and quality. The more you pay, supposedly, the better quality reeds and wood you get in return. However, this doesn’t always follow.
You can buy beginner’s bagpipes for as little as £40 to £50, however, you could pay hundreds for the best instruments. If it is a hobby you are serious about pursuing, you must be willing to make the investment!
How Long Can It Take to Play the Bagpipes?
It can take some people years to learn how to master the bagpipes. It really varies from one person to the next! Some people can pick it up very easily and can play basic tunes in just a few weeks to a few months. Full proficiency, however, takes true dedication, and a lot of skill. The next time you see someone playing the bagpipes, you should show them some serious respect!
Learning to play the bagpipes is a serious challenge. However, with the right kit and tuition, there is nothing to say you couldn’t ever get the hang of it. Take a look at various options online and in music shops and do be willing to start learning with an open mind.
It is not an instrument for the faint of heart – but if you really get the hang of it, it’s an amazingly haunting instrument, and a fantastic talent to show off to people who love traditional music. Go for it – start learning and see how you get on!