About bagpipe / gaita







Gaitas are musical instruments which, in their simplest form, consist of a conical tube with holes, a chanter using enclosed reeds, fed from a constant reservoir of air from a bag. The bagpiper blows air into the bag through an additional hollow tube called a blowpipe or blowstick. The blowpipe is provided with a one-way valve which prevents the air in the bag from escaping back up the blowstick to the piper’s mouth. The bag is an airtight reservoir that holds air. The bagpiper regulates its flow out of the bag by 1. keeping it inflated by blowing into it or pumping with a bellows, and 2. pressing against the bag with the left arm. This enables the player to maintain a continuous sound for as long as desired.

Nowadays, all bagpipes have evolved from this simple form. But, while some have reached a high level of acoustic perfection, others have remained in this primitive stage. The first step in the evolution of the simple form of the Galician bagpipe, called a gaita, was the addition of another hollow tube which produces a continuous sound and is now one of the main characteristics of all bagpipes. This is the drone and you will see gaitas with 1-6 drones.Chanter, drones and blowpipes are firmly and tightly inserted into the bag, using short wooden tubes called stocks. The stocks also have the function of protecting the reeds inserted in the chanter and drones.

The first bags consisted of the complete skin of a small animal such as a goat, a sheep or the stomach of a bigger animal. This type of bagpipe is still seen in many countries. If we think of the whole animal as a gaita then the chanter is placed in the neck, while the drone(s) and blow-stick are placed in the front legs.

Modern gaita have bags made of tanned sheep skin, cut in a special way and then sewn together. In other cases, synthetic materials are preferred for the bag. The best sheep skin comes from Iceland because it absorbs the condensation of the player’s breath. Rubber bags are not advisable since they do not absorb moisture. Some pipers prefer newer materials such as synthetic fabrics of micro-porous expanded membrane known commercially as “gore-tex” ®. There are several other brands of similar characteristics on the market. Air can be introduced into the bag either through the blowpipe or by using a bellows. Although, using bellows with Galician bagpipes is quite unusual.

The gaita is considered a popular folk instrument. It is seen and enjoyed in many social activities like festivals, parades, masses, funerals…

The bagpipe is a traditional folk instrument found in many different countries around the world including the Scandinavian peninsulas, the British Isles, the Netherlands, the Iberian Peninsulas, the Italian Peninsula, the Balkans, Estonia, Russia, North Africa, Turkey and the Middle East.  Although possible literary references exist in Latin texts, the first European representations go back to the Early Middle Ages.