Saturday, January 12, 2008


You're here because you either heard about my band, Diabolis In Musica, or you were inspired by a European Medieval band, and want to learn more about Medieval Bagpipes. No matter how you ended up reading this, this blog will attempt to chronicle what I have learned about Medieval Bagpiping, and bagpiping in general.

I was first inspired by a German band called In Extremo. A pen-pal of mine sent me some of their music, and I was hooked. When I found out that the cool sound I was hearing were these giant-ass medieval bagpipes, I thought "I have to get me one of those!" So I searched for my local cranky Scotch Bagpipe supplier, and bought a good practice chanter. I found that playing bagpipes was a lot easier than I thought. The chanter is not too different from playing a recorder, but obviously you need a lot more wind to keep it going. Within a year, I have learned about 20 or so odd songs, and figured it was time to buy my first set of pipes.

My first set of pipes were the cheap ones that you get online from Mid East Ethnic Instruments, and everyone I talked to advised against anything so cheap from that kind of company. Of course, they were all Highland Pipers, and didn't understand that these pipes were jsut what I was looking for.

My knowledge of how to set them up was not there, and it took me about a year to figure out how to properly set them up and use them. Eventually, I got them working completely, and even found good plastic reeds for them. Soon I was thinking about some big pipes.

Inside the USA, there are very few options for pipers who seek non-highland pipes. There are only a couple of makers of them in the USA, and well, what they make is limited. None of the people I met in the USA makes the giant-ass German pipes I was looking for, so I eventually had to get them from Germany. Before I got enough money for my German pipes, though, I played around with Pakistani bagpipes, and got a nice set of Highland pipes that were designed to look like medieval pipes. I struggled with those for about a year before I got enough wind to play them, and only when I could play them with Both Drone going for an hour without stopping did I know I was ready for the Big German pipes.

In the process, I became a music instrument seller and importer, joined the SCA, met the girl of my dreams, started a music trend, became a musical entertainer at renaissance festivals, did a ton of traveling, and formed a band of strange musicians in the Boston area who all had the same ideas I had for medieval music done differently... HOLY CRAP! Now that I think about all of this, I really did quite a lot of stuff in the last 3 or 4 years! There I was thinking my life was stagnant!

My future bloggings will try to give instruction and advice to the aspiring medieval pipers out there who share my dream. Playing bagpipes can be easy if you work hard at it, it will surely be a challenge on many levels, no matter how talented you are already. You will make enemies out of neighbors when you practice, cause dogs run away in terror, make some people cry, make others smile, and whinos in public parks will want to be your friends -- but more on that later.

Welcome to my world. Medieval bagpipes... Oh, shit... Just what the hell have you gotten yourself into...??


artlady said...

Greetings Dear Minstrel,
I can't thank you enough for imparting your wealth of knowledge about the pipes for us "newbies." At 49 I decided to do what I've always wanted to the pipes. However, I had no idea there were different styles, pipes, etc. My prior experience was watching people in kilts marching in bands. So, much to my surprise (because of your site)I was delighted to find there really was a medieval style of piping like my favorite band, Corvus Corax. Your journey into this whole piping experiences mirrors all the same feelings, questions, fears, etc. that I have. Tomorrow, I'm taking your advice and buying a cheap recorder from our muisc teacher at work (I'm an art teacher) and adding that to my practice routine,as you suggested. Keep posting, please. You are being heard!
P.S. I've been a regular at the Michigan Ren. Faire for years, and there is nothing like your band out there!

David W. Irish said...


There are many bagpipe sites, but few non-Highland bagpipe sites. I am trying to offer, from my limited experience, something to get more medieval pipers going. Not just medieval pipers, but medieval musicians in general.

Good luck, and when you're able to play the recorder, find an early reed instrument like a cornamuse, or check some of the links in my more recent articles for some of the craftsmen who offer inexpensive instruments.