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It has been said that the best way to imitate a piper is to put a cat under your arm, bite down on its tail, and then squeeze. While that's far from the truth, the fact is that an unskilled piper can produce a truly hideous sound without even trying. Most often associated with the Scots, the bagpipes are actually found the world over, and can be very rewarding to play if you're willing to put in the time and effort to learn.

Understanding the Pipes

Unlike other folk world wind instruments, the bagpipes don't rely on the piper to provide an airflow over the reed. Instead, the pipes rely on an airbag that supplies a continuous flow of air to the drones and chanter. Most pipes have three drones, each with a single reed, and a single chanter that one plays with both hands. There is a one-way valve on the mouthpiece to ensure all the air in the bag flows out past the reeds.

Beginner Instruments

Though it may sound counter-intuitive, the best thing to give someone who's never played and is lookng for beginner bagpipes is a chanter. That's because your first set of pipes is actually an intermediate instrument that you should wait to try until after you've learned the chanter. The chanter is the bottom pipe, the one that you play to produce the melody. Once you master the chanter, you know basically how to play, and you can then build up your wind for the pipes themselves.

Learning the Pipes

Once you have a chanter, it's time to begin learning the pipes. The most important thing to remember is that it takes time to develop the necessary skills to pick up your first set of bagpipes; some people practice with the chanter for months or even a year before they graduate to the pipes. Build the habit of regular practice and you will progress much more rapidly.

Other Folk Instruments

Few other folk instruments carry the same emotional weight as the pipes. People either love them or hate them. One of the few instruments of a similar age is the Pan flute, made popular by Zamfir.

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