Border pipes are bellows blown, have three drones in a common stock, and a conical bore chanter. They keep a lot of the characteristic vibrant tone of the Highland pipes, but at a lower volume. Although they are not as well known as the Highland pipes, they have a history on both sides of the Border and in the Scottish Lowlands which goes back some years. The popularity of these pipes has increased over the last dozen years or so, as the standard of the pipes available has improved, and a growing number of pipers have appreciated their particular musical qualities. One way in which the Border pipes are more versatile than the Highland pipes or the Scottish smallpipes, is that in addition to the standard scale, the chanters can give accurately pitched cross fingered accidentals. After many years work we developed, in the early 's, a border pipe chanter which was fully chromatic by cross fingering, giving a good minor third, minor sixth, major seventh, sharp fourth, and minor second, without altering the standard fingering of the normal pipe scale. Our chanters have gained a reputation for the accuracy of the pitch of their accidental notes.
Scottish Smallpipes and Border pipes
Pipes & Pipers
Several of the fingerholes on the original chanter have been greatly enlarged - especially the C hole. It was hard to assess what actual pitch it originally played at; my approach was to modify my design so that it would play in concert A using a special reed that I have developed, using fingering similar to the Highland pipes. Though somewhat quieter than its Highland cousin it has a loud bright tone, as one might expect for a pipe designed for outdoor playing, such as Ritchie would need on his morning and evening rounds of the town. It plays a 'Scottish' scale with flattened top and bottom leading notes. The original pipes have the splendid combination of one bass drone and two tenors, set in their common stock. I am prepared to discuss fitting a baritone or alto drone instead of one of the tenors. The chanter and drone ends are of boxwood and the drone mounts are of brass; horn mounts and ferrules can be fitted as an extra. I have put a great deal of care and attention into the design and construction of the bellows, based on many of the better Scottish bellows I have measured in the collections. The boards have a solid- drawn hinge, which gives a much more positive action than the simpler and more commonly employed system of using leather as a hinge. For more information, visit my bellows page.
They are bellows blown, have three drones issuing from a common stock and have a conical bored chanter in contrast to the parallel bore of the small pipes, thus allowing the pipes to play an octave higher than the quieter and more mellow small pipes. The drone arrangement is A bass, A tenor and high E alto. The key of the chanter is A, and as well as the normal mixolydian scale, there are four semitones available, namely B flat, C natural, E flat and F natural. These are achieved only in conical chanters and by the use of a system of cross-fingering. The wood of choice for these pipes is either Boxwood, which is grown high in the Pyrenees Mountains or local Yew.
The border pipes are a type of bagpipe related to the Scottish Great Highland Bagpipe. It is perhaps confusable with the Scottish smallpipe , although it is a quite different and much older instrument. Although most modern Border pipes are closely modelled on similar historic instruments, the modern Scottish smallpipes are a modern reinvention, inspired by historic instruments but largely based on Northumbrian smallpipes in their construction. The name, which is modern, refers to Scotland's border country , where the instrument was once common, so much so that many towns there used to maintain a piper. The instrument was found much more widely than this, however; it was noted as far north as Aberdeenshire , south of the Border in Northumbria and elsewhere in the north of England. Indeed, some late 17th-century paintings, such as a tavern scene by Egbert van Heemskerck , probably from south-eastern England, show musicians playing such instruments. Other names have been used for the instrument: Lowland pipes and reel pipes in Scotland, and half-long pipes in Northumbria. However, the term reel pipes historically refers to instruments similar to Highland pipes, but primarily intended for indoor use. While the instrument had been widespread in the 18th century, by the late 19th century it was no longer played.