Information on the Uilleann Pipes

Irish Piper cartoon

The Uilleann or as they were once known, the Union pipes, were developed during the early 1700`s. They are the most sophisticated and complex of all the world bagpipes and are now recognised as the indigenous pipes of Ireland.

The Uilleann pipes are NOT mouth blown, but use a bellows to pump air to the bag. The bellows are anchored to the arm and the bag is held under the other arm.

Irish Piper cartoon

They comprise the following:

The pipes come in various keys. The most popular being the key of D (The D above middle C on the piano i.e. Concert pitch) These were developed in the 1920`s by the Taylor Brothers in Chicago who needed pipes which were louder and could play in ensembles. The previous pipes made were for solo playing and were in the keys of C.

Composers need to be aware of the properties of the pipes. I have gone to recording sessions in well-known London studios where famous and expensive film composers have written music incorporating the pipes only to find that what was written, was virtually impossible to play!

I have three sets. Please find below the main and optional keys:

Chanter key
Optional keys
D; G; Am; Em; (Poss. A)
C; F; Dm; Gm
Bb; Eb; Cm; Fm
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