|The sound of the uilleann pipe is very distinctive. The chanter can range in volume from one maker
to the next, though an uilleann chanter is generally about as loud as a fiddle or concertina. A typical
chanter will have a range in excess of two octaves and can be even greater with an exceptional reed.
The chanter itself has nine main holes – eight of which are played with the hands, and the ninth on
the leg. The drones are switched and can be turned on and off mid-tune. They are usually tuned to
three octaves of the bell note of the chanter (commonly D). Regulators come in a variety of
arrangements from one to four or more, each often having between three to six keys, allowing single
and multi-note chords to be played along with the main melody.
Many beginners are overwhelmed by the complexity of the instrument and if they needed to learn it all
at once might only play for an afternoon before giving up. Consequently, they can be broken down
and played in a variety of sizes or "sets".
A Practice Set consists of only a bellows, bag and chanter.
A Half Set is a practice set with drones (commonly 3 drones) added.
A Three-Quarter Set usually adds two regulators to the half set.
A Full Set is comprised of bag, bellows, chanter, drones and three or more regulators.
All this makes the uilleann pipes quite challenging to play, but also allows for exceptionally sweet
tone and amazing possibilities with tunes and harmonies. The famous piper Seamus Ennis once said –
“It takes seven years listening, seven years practicing, and seven years playing before becoming a
good piper.” Obviously they are not an easy instrument to learn, but with practice and patience, they
can be highly rewarding.
|Copyright © Salt Lake Piping Club 2003 - 2011
|The Irish uilleann bagpipe is a unique instrument and are noteably different from the type of pipes
that many people are familiar with. The word 'uilleann' (say ILL-uhn) is the Irish Gaelic for 'elbow' or
'forearm' which is used (on both sides) to play these pipes. The piper will play seated and ‘straps
himself in’ to the bellows. As the bellows are pumped, air is fed through a blowpipe and into the bag.
From the bag, the air is then directed to the chanter which creates the melody. Air may also be
directed through a set of drones (usually three) and for more advanced pipers, regulators, which are
basically stopped and keyed chanters which lay across the pipers legs and are played with the wrist.