What is a Bagpipe Chanter ?
The bagpipe chanter is the part that contains the finger holes, which – as in many woodwind instruments – are covered and uncovered in certain ways to create the tune played, and this is why the bagpipe chanter itself is among the most important aspects of a quality set of bagpipes.
Many people, when learning the bagpipes, choose to start with a practice chanter rather than a full set of pipes, in order to get the fingering correct and the feel of the instrument as a whole; there is much to learn when it comes to playing pipes, as the whole blow, squeeze and play routine is a constant sequence that enables the tune to be played to best effect.
Bagpipes have been around for several hundred years and while many people associate them with Scotland there are many recorded examples of bagpipe chanter style instruments across Europe. Drawings of an instrument resembling a bagpipe chanter have been found as early as the 13 th century in Spain, while it is believed the 15 th century is a more likely starting point for the bagpipes in Scotland.
It is important to remember that while the bagpipe chanter is a vital part of the instrument there are other components that are equally so: the bag itself and the drones plus the mouthpiece and reeds are all essential parts of the makeup of this complex and very interesting instrument, and all come together to create the unique sound that is instantly recognisable.
Indeed, the sound of a bagpipe is largely down to the way the bagpipe chanter works with the drones to make the unique, tuneful and often haunting noise that is much associated with Scottish and British army military bands.
Also, there are other types of bagpipe which all feature some form of a bagpipe chanter – the slightly smaller Border pipes being one sort and the related but different Northumbrian Small Pipes being another – and all rely on the same principle although those two are operated largely by bellows rather than by blowing up the bag.
All in all, a bagpipe chanter on its own resembles a recorder of sorts, a woodwind instrument that is long and thin with finger holes, and these holes are often recessed for better action.
As with all musical instruments there are many different grades and qualities of bagpipe chanter to choose from, just as the reeds themselves are a component that will influence the tone, sound and actual performance of this fascinating instrument.