Ireland’s indigenous bagpipes take their name from the Irish word for ‘elbow’ alluding to the air-bag and bellows which the elbows operate. Piping is considered a very important part of the Irish tradition. Uilleann Pipes Basics is aimed at the absolute beginner and taught by Tom Delany. It is a really well thought out course, that will guide you skillfully step by step from zero to some of the most popular piping tunes on the circuit. Uilleann Pipes Technique, taught by Mikie Smyth, looks into a lot of technical aspects of uilleann pipe playing. If you have a handle on the basics of piping and want to push the boundaries of your ability then check out Mikie’s course.
Where can I buy a set of Uilleann Pipes?
Unfortunately, you can’t walk into a music store and ask for a beginner set of uilleann pipes, this instrument is usually manufactured on demand by a luthier or pipe maker. There are a number of uilleann pipes makers around the world that will make you a set that you can learn with and improve. Alternatively, look for a second-hand set on one of the many forums and facebook pages online.
I just want a beginner set for the moment, can I turn it into a half set or full set later?
If the maker of your practice set is still working it is quite likely that he will be able to add drones and regulators at a later date. Make sure to check with him/her. Another option is to sell your practice set and upgrade to a half or full set after a couple of years of learning.
Is the fingering on the pipes the same as the Flute or Tin Whistle?
No, it’s not exactly the same but playing the whistle or the flute will give you a good advantage to picking up the basic fingering. They are quite similar but different enough that you will not get them mixed up.
Can I start on a full set straight away?
Nothing says you should not start your journey in piping on a full set. The only difficulty might be that a full set is quite big and a little tricky to learn how to manœuvre when you’re getting to grips with the basic moves such as pumping, pressing the bag and learning the scales.
What is a practice set?
A practice set is the basic version of the instrument. It involves a bag, bellows and chanter. Enough to get you playing for a number of years.
What is a half set?
A half set is the intermediate set up of the uilleann pipes: Bag, bellows, chanter and 3 drones.
What is a full set?
A full set is the last set up of the instrument. It involves bag, chanter, bellow, 3 drones and 3 regulators.
What price range should I be looking into investing in a beginner instrument?
On average I would recommend spending at least $1000 in order to get an instrument of average quality. Most instruments going for less and new online will be badly manufactured in a factory by people who are making pipes without knowing what it is supposed to sound like. Try to get a set by a reputable maker or by someone you can have direct contact with so they can help you with any maintenance.
Can I buy a left-handed set of pipes?
Yes left-handed sets are available but a little harder to come by and can be slightly more expensive. As a beginner, I’d advise learning on a right-handed set to make your life easier in the long run.
What key are the uilleann pipes in?
A concert pitch of pipes (the most commonly used types) are in the key of D and will allow you to play in D, G, Em, Am and Bm comfortably (perfect for Irish Music). It is the standard key.
What is a flat set?
A flat set of pipes refers to any type of pipes that are not in the key of D. Typically they would be lower such as C#, C, B and Bb.