~ The Universe of Bagpipes ~
A Web Site by Oliver Seeler

Page 10 of 30 illustrating the pipes heard on Bagpipes of the World

For more information on the album click on the cover at left

France ~ Brittany
Biniou (the bagpipe): conical bore chanter, double-blade reed; one cylindrical bore drone, single-blade reed
Bombarde (the oboe-like woodwind): conical bore, double-blade reed

General Comments:

This is the bagpipe your mother warned you about. There just isn't anything to call it but "shrill" - although that does not mean unmusical. The sensations produced in the ear by the overtones of a nearby Biniou and its common accompanying instrument the Bombarde are of the sort that cause alarm among mechanical engineers, race-car drivers and such - somewhere lubrication has failed and something important is about to break. This may have had something to do with the adoption of the Great Highland Bagpipe by many Breton pipers, which it is said began when the French were exposed to the Highland pipe by their allies from across The Channel during World War I.

Musical Notes:

The scales and key signatures given may be regarded as approximations; bagpipes may deviate from conventional standards in absolute and relative pitch.

Left, the Biniou being played by Sean Folsom; right, Sean accompanying himself on the Bombarde, an oboe-type woodwind. The Biniou is almost always accompanied by a Bombarde, which while itself actually a high-pitched instrument sounds like a fog-horn in comparison to this bagpipe. In making the CD, we were unable to find anyone willing to risk their dental fillings by accompanying the Biniou, so Sean had to do it himself - the only such instance of multi-tracking on the recording.

As suggested by its outside diameter and taper, the Biniou chanter has a bore that is steep and wide relative to its length, while the finger-holes are also fairly large. These features contribute to the loudness of this pipe.

Note the tuning-wax in the fingerholes. Short wide bores tend to be very sensitive in complex ways, and thus adjustment of the finger-holes to maintain correct pitch is routine.
The tiny chanter reed looks harmless. It isn't.

Photographs & Text Copyright 1999 - 2002, Oliver Seeler,

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