Folk & Traditional Instruments

Sounding Off with Gusto – Choosing the Best Bagpipes

When you think of bagpipes, you want the best instrument out there. But unfortunately, there are no producers of bagpipes in the U.S. It took a check overseas to create this list. There are a lot of producers of bagpipes from Scotland to Sweden, so making this list meant going over them all. Choosing the best bagpipes is important because they are an investment in your musical future.

The best are the bagpipes Dave Shaw of Scotland creates. Why Dave Shaw? Dave Shaw has been creating bagpipes for over 25 years. He has also has been playing them for 25 years. Over those years, Dave Shaw has perfected his bagpipe-making skills to serve his customers better.

After going through pages of bagpipe creators, emails from experts and teachers, and 50 hours of research, the bagpipes created by Dave Shaw are clearly the best. Dave Shaw has painstakingly crafted and individually designed them, so they are the number one pick.

Choosing the Best Bagpipes: Things to Know Before You Buy

There are a few questions you have to ask yourself before you choosing the best bagpipes. First, why do you want to play the bagpipes? If your answer is, “Because they look like fun and are easy to play,” the bagpipes are not for you. The pipes are fun to play, but not easy. In fact, the bagpipes are one of the hardest instruments to play.

You must be able to keep a steady amount of air in the bellows. You also need to be able to place your fingers on the pipes accordingly. The next questions you need to ask is, “Do I know how to play the bagpipes?” If the answer to this is, “no,” get some lessons before you buy your bagpipes.

Buying bagpipes before you know how to play them is wasting your money. Chances are, you could get your new pipes and try to play something, only to find that it sounds terrible. That’s not a good way to spend your hard-earned cash. If your answer to this question is “Yes,” then do your research. This article will help you find the best set of pipes because there is a lot to know.

You have to know what type of bagpipe you are looking for first.  Are you looking for a Northumbrian Smallpipe or a Scottish Smallpipe? Or, perhaps you are looking for a Shuttle Pipe or a set of Irish Pipes? Whichever type of bagpipes you are looking for, here are some general guidelines to follow.

What to Look When Choosing Bagpipes

When choosing your bagpipes, it is best to know what to look for first. According to Dan Sheppard, a Pipe Major and teacher of the pipes, there are lots to think about before purchasing. One of the first things you have to consider is if you have time to practice the bagpipes like you should. Read on to learn other considerations to think about before purchasing your set of pipes.

Quality

“You get what you pay for,” is what Dan Sheppard says to anyone who asks him what the best pipes are. Most bagpipes on Amazon or eBay are plastic with fabric covering the bellows. This means easily broken pipes or warped pipes due to extreme heat and easily-ripped bellow coverings. Dave Shaw bagpipes are made from hardwoods and leather, which makes them very durable.

Sound

The best quality means getting the best sound from your bagpipes. You might think all bagpipes sound the same, but that is not the case. Each bagpipe has a unique sound that comes from the length of the pipes and the flaring of the ends of the pipes. Also, the covering on the bellows should keep its shape and strength. Like leather, the air in the bellows will last longer. This means a better sounding set of pipes for a longer length of time.

Price

Like most people, when choosing the best bagpipes possible, you probably look at the price of something first. Then, you decide whether to buy it or not according to the amount of money you have in your budget. With bagpipes, look at the quality and sound. The better they both are, the more expensive the set of pipes will be. You get what you pay for, so why not pay for the best.

The Top Pick: Dave Shaw Bagpipes

After researching many different producers of bagpipes, one went goes beyond the expectations. The top bagpipe on this list is the bagpipes Dave Shaw creates. For over 25 years, Dave Shaw has lovingly labored to create the best possible bagpipes for your money. He strives to give his customers the most beautiful sounding pipes there are. Dave uses his many years of creating pipes and playing them to produce a quality product.

Dave Shaw makes all of his pipes to the specifications of his buyers. He creates all his bagpipes by hand, carving and boring each piece separately. Dave uses traditional hardwoods like African Blackwood and Boxwood.  He also uses naturally finished leather he hand-stitches over the bellows to make the bellow covers.

With all this hand-crafting, the only downfall with this producer is the wait-time for the pipes. On average, you may have to wait two to three months for your bagpipes to arrive. However, their quality makes them worth the wait. All of Dave Shaw’s bagpipes have hand forged brass keys and brass fittings with imitation ivory trims. He uses imitation ivory because real ivory is expensive.

He fits all keywork with superb balanced springing. Dave also skillfully tunes each set of pipes to suit the characteristics of that particular instrument. This ensures that the sound quality is the best available. In fact, the Bagpipe Society, an organization dedicated to preserving bagpipe crafting, has recognized Dave Shaw Bagpipes. In fact, here is what the Society and others have said about Dave Shaw’s pipes:

  • “Unique sound and masterly crafted.” – The Bagpipe Society
  • “Pipes with a reputation for elegance.” – Hayzee’s Guide: Folk Instrument Makers of the World
  • “Quality pipes.” – Dan Sheppard, Pipe Major

Dave Shaw bagpipes range from 600 British pounds or $748 U.S. dollars to 4,360 British Pounds or $5,440 U.S. dollars, depending on which set of pipes you want to order. And they make all of Dave Shaw bagpipes to order. Dave Shaw bagpipes are the best for the money.  If you want the bagpipes of a lifetime, Dave Shaw bagpipes are your choice in bagpipes. If you are not sure, you can check it out for yourself.

Honorable Mentions

Like we have stated earlier, we researched many different makers of bagpipes. There were some close contenders for choosing the best bagpipes. Listed below, in no particular order, are some good bagpipe producers.

Iveran

Iveran Bagpipes are good quality, but not the best. The prices are a little steeper, too. A set of bagpipes will cost you well over $8, 000 U.S. Dollars. You can check them out here.

Ian Murray

Ian Murray produces quality pipes with hardwoods and brass fittings. However, they do not make these pipes to customer’s specifications. Instead, they make them the same way over and over again. Check them out here.

MacMurchie

The reasons this producer is not the best is because wait-times are over six months. Also, the production of the pipes is slower than average. View them here.

Hamish Moore

Hamish Moore is a good pipe manufacturer and will sell to those outside of Scotland. However, they prefer to keep their business local. If you want a set of their bagpipes, be prepared to pay for them. Check them out here.

Magnus Hogfeldt

Magnus Hogfeldt is the last manufacturer on this list. Their own website states, “Simplest – both in construction and playing.” And they were correct. They construct these bagpipes from “polypenco,” which is a term to describe instrument grade plastic. However, plastic can warp, crack and break easily.

Also, these bagpipes only have one drone or pipe, and they set them to the same note as the chanter. So, you have one drone and one chanter. This means you get just one sound. If you are choosing the best bagpipes, these are not worth the money. You can visit them, if you wish, here.

In Conclusion

Was this information helpful? Hopefully, it will help you with your decision in choosing the best bagpipes. Consider how much you want to play the bagpipes and also your budget. Be sure to do the research, so that you are better prepared when choosing your set of bagpipes. Many of these bagpipes came close to being the best, but some fell short. Some bagpipes never made this list.

The Dave Shaw Bagpipes were the top pick due to the quality of design and construction. They also provide a top quality sound. Although they are expensive, they were not as expensive as others of lesser quality. However, in the end, the ultimate decision is yours.

Sources

• Bagpipe Society. Retrieved from
http://www.bagppipesociety.org.uk
• “Hayzee’s Guide: Folk Instrument Makers of the World.” (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.hayzee.com
• Sheppard, Dan. (n.d.). “Before You Buy a Set of Bagpipes.” (n.d.). Retrieved from https://ccbagpiper.com

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