Many diverse shapes and sizes

The bagpipe chanter (conical bore and double reed) appeared around 1300. Contrary to popular belief he instrument was not imported from the east. In fact the double reed, known from ancient times, was abandonned in western Europe by the Romans but later returned via the Italian ports and the Mediterranean commercial routes.

The precedence of Arabian/Muslim sources permits the supposition of an oriental origin for the double reed and conical bore. The double reed reappeared in the west, and by diverse experimentation it was adapted to instruments of different form.

A medieval bagpipe turned from boxwood is shown above; it has a simple form similar to many instruments illustrated during the late middle ages. The air reservoir is formed of a sack of leather, often goat skin. Many illustrations show the bagpipe fitted with a carved head that is used to hold the chanter.

In Brittany the word "binioù kozh" means "old bagpipe". The "binioù kozh" (in blue above) is without doubt the instrument the most traditional for the region and the most popular in Basse-Bretagne. It existed at the end of the 18th century and probably much earlier too. The early illustrations of the "binioù kozh" show the instrument with a much larger lévriad (chanter), indicating that at one time it played at the same pitch as the bombardes.

Veuze de Bretagne Cornemuse de Northumbria

This little bagpipe (in blue, on the right) is a Northumbrian Smallpipe; an instrument found in the north east of England. It is a very sophisticated instrument made from blackwood and ivory, with many chromatic keys and four adjustable drones. However, in spite of all the refinements the instrument is used only for traditional music. It has a soft gentle sound and is played using a small bellows pumped by the right arm to fill the bag with air.

On the left, another bagpipe from Brittany; the veuze. Like the binioù kozh, this bagpipe retains the same form as the instruments of the 13th century. The veuze is much larger than the binioù kozh. This instrument is turned in rosewood and decorated with incrustations of tin.

The cabrette (below) is a bagpipe found in the Auvergne region of France. It is a bellows blown bagpipe made in many different sizes to accomodate all the different musical keys. It is still a popular instrument for traditional dance music.
Below, a cabrette size 39 (G/C) made from plum wood (stained black) and boxwood.