About Uilleann Pipes

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The Uilleann pipes are a bellows blown bagpipe which are generally played seated and indoors. This distinguishes them from their noisier bag piping brethren the Scottish pipes. They have a generally mellow tone, comfortable volume, similar to that of a flute or fiddle, and range of notes. The chanter has a range of two octaves in a tempered scale. They are generally tuned in the key of D, but other tunings can be purchased as well such as C, C#, and B. These are usually referred to as "flat" pipes, because they are flat to the pipes in D. D pipes are generally referred to as "Concert Pitched" pipes. The melody part of the instrument is called the chanter. This is where 98% of your learning and effort is directed as it is where you move your fingers to play a tune. Bagpipes are generally known for the constant sound of humming associated with their playing. this sound is made by a set of drones which are tunes to the tonic note. This is generally true with the Uilleann pipes as well, however, on the Uilleann pipes the drones can be turned on and off with a switch allowing for greater dynamic build through a tune by adding or removing the droning note. A third dimension of the Uilleann pipes that differentiates them from other pipes are the regulators. The regulators are located in the lap of the player coming out of the stock above the drones. They are essentially additional stopped chanters equipped with keys which can be opened by the piper's wrist enabling the piper to play simple chords, giving a rhythmic and harmonic accompaniment as needed.

Their current name, earlier known in English as "union pipes", is a part translation of the Irish-language term píobaí uilleann (literally, "pipes of the elbow"), from their method of inflation.

The bag of the uilleann pipes is inflated by means of a small set of bellows strapped around the waist and the right arm. The bellows not only relieve 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 effects of moisture on tuning and longevity. Some pipers can converse or sing at the same time as playing.

The uilleann pipes are distinguished from many other forms of bagpipes by their 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 that 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 thigh 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 is 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 Great Irish Warpipes, Great Highland Bagpipes or the Italian Zampognas. The uilleann pipes are often played indoors, and are almost always played sitting down.

The uilleann pipes are distinguished by their tone and range of notes. The chanter has a range of two octaves in a tempered scale which include sharps and flats. The chanter is accompanied by a set of drones, however, on the Uilleann pipes the drones can be turned on and off with a switch.

A third aspect of the Uilleann pipes that diffierentiates them from other pipes are the regulators. The regulators are equipped with keys which can be opened by the piper's wrist enabling the piper to play simple chords, giving a rhythmic and harmonic accompaniment as needed.