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    Uilleann Pipes History Part 1 of 3

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    John

    by John

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    Short history of the uilleann pipes including the bagpipes and hurdy gurdy etc.

    Uilleann pipes (IPA: [ˈɪlən]) are the characteristic national bagpipe of Ireland. The uilleann pipes bag is inflated by means of a small set of bellows strapped around the waist and the right arm. Found in other European bagpipes (ex. Northumbrian pipes, Scottish smallpipes), the bellows not only relieves the player from the effort needed to blow into a bag to maintain pressure, they also allow relatively dry air to power the reeds, reducing the adverse affects of moisture on tuning and longevity. Some pipers can smoke, converse, or sing while playing as well.

    Cushioned bellowsThe uilleann pipes are distinguished from many other forms of bagpipes by their sweet tone and wide range of notes — the chanter has a range of two full octaves, including sharps and flats — together with the unique blend of chanter, drones, and "regulators." The regulators are equipped with closed keys which can be opened by the piper's wrist action enabling the piper to play simple chords, giving a rhythmic and harmonic accompaniment as needed. There are also many ornaments based on multiple or single grace notes. The chanter can also be played staccato by resting the bottom of the chanter on the piper's knee to close off the bottom hole and then open and close only the tone holes required. If one tone hole is closed before the next one opened, a staccato effect can be created because the sound stops completely when no air can escape at all.

    The uilleann pipes have a different harmonic structure, sounding sweeter and quieter than many other bagpipes, such as the Irish Warpipes or Great Highland Bagpipes. The uilleann pipes are usually played indoors, and are always played sitting down.

    A hurdy gurdy (or hurdy-gurdy) is a stringed musical instrument with several strings arranged so that they can be played simultaneously by a rotating wheel covered with rosin. It is essentially a mechanical violin. This method of producing sound is similar to string instruments such as the violin, but because the hurdy gurdy produces several notes together, with a melody accompanied by chords made by "drone strings", its sound is perhaps more comparable to that of bagpipes. For this reason, the hurdy gurdy is often accompanied by the bagpipes, particularly in French and contemporary Hungarian folk music.