INFORMATION ON THE UILLEANN PIPES 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.
They comprise the following:
- THE CHANTER
A wooden tube of varying length, which supplies the melody. It is stopped on the bottom of the chanter by placement on the knee.Pipers usually have a strap of leather on the knee to provide a seal. Ithas a range of two octaves.
- THE DRONES
These form a sound platform and perform a similar function tothe mouth blown 'piob mor' or highland pipes of Scotland (the pipesthat rest on the shoulders) They are (usually) three tubes which playthe same note resting on the knee.
- THE REGULATORS
These are a further set of piping tubes. They sit over the drones and have levered keys covering the notes instead of open holes as onthe melody chanter. They are played with the heel of the hand or thefingers while the melody is being played on the chanter. I told you theyare complex!
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 |