Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Miranda. Miranda Wonders, “If bagpipes are a reeded instrument and condensation builds up like it does when a saxophone is being played, why don't bagpipes have a spit valve?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Miranda!

The music world is full of many types of instruments. They’re all different, but the bagpipes might be the most unique of all. Have you ever seen someone play them in person? It’s fun to watch! Often, the people playing wear traditional Scottish outfits, including a kilt.

Bagpipes are part of Scottish tradition. However, they weren’t invented there. Historians say early versions were used in ancient Rome. They also appeared in parts of the Middle East, such as Persia (known today as Iran).

As bagpipes became more popular, they spread across Europe. Very few ancient ones have actually been found. Still, they appear in old works of art, such as paintings and carvings.

When bagpipes reached Scotland, they flourished. During the world wars, Scotland trained many musicians for military service. That’s when people began to link the instrument with the nation. Today, Scotland and Pakistan lead the world in bagpipe production.

How do these instruments make music? First, pipers blow air through a blowpipe into a bag. This may be made of animal skin or synthetic materials. The bag supplies a steady stream of air to another pipe called a chanter. The chanter contains reeds that make noise when vibrated. 

Bagpipers use two hands to play the chanter. This produces the melody of the song. Other pipes, called drones, also contain reeds. The drones make one continuous sound. This plays under the melody coming from the chanter. 

Pipers can create a continuous sound that lasts some time. While playing, though, players must regularly blow into the bag to keep it full. The chanter is open-ended, which means that players cannot easily make it stop sounding once it’s started. This is why most bagpipe music has no rests (pauses) in the music.

Does the bagpipe sound like a challenging instrument to play? It certainly takes practice! Would you like to play it one day? Would you like to learn another instrument? You have many options!

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.8

Wonder What's Next?

Tag along with us as we examine the ins and outs of belly buttons tomorrow in Wonderopolis!