Pipe Up! Bagpipe Music for Beginners
If you ask someone what they associate with Scotland, bagpipes usually come high up on the list – along with haggis, highlands and delicious Scottish shortbread. The classic image of a tartan-clad piper with a kilt, sporran, ghillie brogues and a glengarry bonnet (the shoes and hat traditionally worn by bagpipers) is a common motif on postcards and souvenirs from Scotland. You can study some of the traditional details on our popular Walkers piper tin, filled with tasty shortbread rounds, which are just the thing to enjoy while listening to bagpipe music. And if you are not that familiar with the age-old traditional bagpipes, keep reading for some insight into what it all means.
What you need to know
For the un-initiated, bagpipe music can sometimes sound like it is all the same, but once you start appreciating the finer nuances, you’ll find a world of variation and engaging tunes. Bagpipes have been around since pre-Roman times, and the typical Highland bagpipes we know best today have roots back to the early 1500s in Scotland. Bagpipes are aerophone instruments, with an air supply, a bag, a chanter or melody pipe and a drone that provides a constant note throughout playing. Bagpipe tunes are split into airs, marches, reels and jigs, with a number of variations possible within each category. Weddings, funerals, ceremonies and traditional Scottish events are typical occasions for bagpipe music. At royal events at Balmoral Castle you’ll often find a piper, and the famous Scottish Burns Supper in January has pipe music as a natural background. There are several huge pipe band events like the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and Piping at Forres, sponsored by Walkers Shortbread. These popular celebrations of bagpipe music contribute to promoting the traditional skills involved, and show the audience amazing performances by talented Pipers, Drummers, Highland Dancers and Pipe Majors.
Our all-time favourite bagpipe tunes
The one bagpipe song everyone seems to know is Scotland the Brave. And with good reason! This classic is often included in movies and ads, while many buskers play it on the street, to great delight by tourists and passers-by. It evokes beautiful scenes from the Scottish Highlands, like this one featured on the Walkers Shortbread ‘Path to the Hills’ tartan tin. Amazing Grace is often played on bagpipes at funerals, and the emotional tune is another favourite with bagpipe beginners. Robert Burns’ Auld Lang Syne is beautiful on the bagpipes, and we also love the unofficial Scottish national anthem, Flower of Scotland, representing the country on many sporting occasions. But did you know that bagpipes show up in other musical genres too? Pop hero Paul McCartney from the Beatles released the single ‘Mull of Kintyre’ which features pipers from Kintyre’s Campbelltown Pipe Band, and it became the bestselling single in music history in the UK. U2 included the Irish bagpipes, traditional uillean pipes, on their song ‘Tomorrow’ from the album October in 1981, and hard rockers AC/DC even have an extended bagpipe solo on their song ‘It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock’n’Roll)’. Bagpipes are not just for traditional music!
Check out this Spotify playlist for more bagpipe tunes.
The most Scottish of traditions
Bagpipes are engrained in the Scottish identity, and at Walkers Shortbread we are proud to honour the long traditions with our involvement at events like Piping at Forres and our fun shortbread piper tin. We hope you join us and listen to a traditional Scottish bagpipe tune this summer!