Bill Pook 


 Mike Billington 

 Poetry & Lyrics 








 · ·  Bagpipes 
 · ·  Hurdy Gurdy 
 · ·  Folk Shawms and Hornpipes 
 · ·  Ghatam 
 · ·  Indian Harmonium 
 · ·  Recorders and Flutes 
 · ·  Appalachian Dulcimer 
 · ·  Bowed Psaltery 
 · ·  Shawm, Rauschpfeife and Curtal 
 · ·  Exotica 




Djura Gaida

Unlike most bagpipes, which are played exclusively against drones and can only play in one mode, the Bulgarian gaida in its homeland is often heard in ensembles with the kaval (an end blown flute), gadulka (a folk fiddle) and drums. And even when played solo it will often change key against its own drone. The bag is a whole goat, carefully skinned in one piece (more peeled than skinned) with the chanter (gaidunica) tied into the neck hole, the blow-pipe and drone (ruchilo) tied into the foreleg holes and the back end tied off. It is known as a dry bag, meaning the leather isn't tanned, but simply turned inside out with the fur on the inside handling the moisture, and only seasoned occasionally on the outside with lanolin.

The instrument pictured is of the djura gaida variety (see below for the other variety, the kaba) and the maker in unknown but probably from the town of Bourgas on the Black sea. The chanter is most probably of dryan wood (Eastern European dogwood; a dense, fine grained wood) and the drone, blowpipe and stocks of plum wood. Many thanks to Radoslav Paskalev for identifying the wood. Radoslav also made my kaval.

Another interesting feature it shares with other East European bagpipes is the single reed chanter. All Western bagpipes have a double reed, much like a primitive oboe reed, but Eastern bagpipes tend to have a single reed tied to a wooden stock, a little like a mini clarinet or saxophone mouthpiece. It is, quite simply, a small tubular length of cane with a tongue cut downwards to produce a sliver of cane which vibrates to create the sound. This gives it a more plaintive wailing tone, compared to the courser Western bagpipes. It also makes the high notes the strong notes, unlike the Highland pipes which are notoriously weak when they reach up to their top note.

Some people believe the bagpipe originated in India and then slowly moved first North into Europe, then both East and West spreading as far afield as Russia and Tunisia, Scotland and Spain, evolving as it went; first with a single reed chanter and then, later, a double reed chanter. If this is the case then the gaida is one of the most subtley sophisticated of the older, more primitive single reed pipes, still associated with a goatskin rather than the more elegant stitched leather bags of Western Europe.

I bought my set from the late master Bulgarian piper Kostadin Varimetzov when he was in England touring with Balkana and the Trio Bulgarka. The bag is of goatskin and the wood is possibly of cornel wood. Mike plays them on Searching for lambs/Dance of the crippled goat which will be on his second solo album.

Kaba Gaida

The kaba gaida is the deeper sounding of the Bulgarian bagpipes. It is characterized by a larger bag than the djura gaida with a long reverse conically bored chanter (gaidunitsa) which has a full chromatic scale and a single drone (ruchilo) which is made in three parts. The chanter is cylindrical or hexagonal with a slight curve at its lower end. The bag is inflated via a blowpipe (duhalo).

The region where the kaba comes from is the Rhodope mountains as opposed to the djura gaida which is from the valleys - Trace, Dobrudja and the Danube valleys. The most common key is in E.

According to tradition, the wooden parts are made of plum tree, whereas the reeds (piskuni) are of willow. The chanter is connected to the bag by a cow horn stock; the bag is made of the skin of a young goat. Both chanter and drone use single reeds are tuned to the same note. The kaba gaida comes in a variety of keys including F, E and D.

My kaba was made for me in Bulgaria in 2015 by Nicolay Belyashkey. Nikolay Belyashki is one of the very few and probably the youngest among the makers of kaba gaida and was born in 1983. He has played the gaida since childhood and started to make gaidas during his teen ages. He keeps the traditional way of making bagpipes using once-piece elder reeds and natural materials. Nikolay believes that this way of making the gaidas make them alive and gives that special sound that touches the soul. His gaidas are available for sale on with a year support, a free online lesson and huge amount of free online training materials. Here is a video of Nikolay making the gaidas:

Magic sound *in* magic soul from Emanuil Emanuilov on Vimeo.

Gaita Gallega

The Galician gaita has a conical chanter and a bass drone (ronco) with a second octave. It may have one or two additional drones playing the tonic and dominant notes. Three keys are traditional: D (gaita grileira, lit. "cricket bagpipe"), C, and Bb. Galician pipe bands playing these instruments have become popular in recent years.The playing of close harmony (thirds and sixths) with two gaitas of the same key is a typical Galician gaita style. The term gaita may refer to a variety of different pipes, shawms, recorders, flutes and clarinets in different areas of Spain and Portugal.

The instrument was common and popular by the 15th century, followed by a decline until the 19th century renaissance of the instrument. The early 20th century saw another decline. Then, beginning in around the 1970s, a roots revival heralded another upsurge in popularity, popularised in no slight degree by the well loved Carlos Nunes.

Traditional use of the pipes include both solo performances or with a snare-drum known as tamboril (a wooden natural-skinned drum with gut snares), and the bombo, a bass drum.

Galician bagpipes come in three main varieties, though there are exceptions and unique instruments. These include the tumbal (B-flat), grileira (D) and redonda (C).

The player inflates the bag, today made of leather or gortex, using his mouth through a tube fitted with a non-return valve. Air is driven into the chanter (Galician: punteiro) with the left arm controlling the pressure inside the bag. The chanter has a double reed similar to a shawm or oboe, and a conical bore with seven finger-holes on the front. The bass drone (ronco or roncon) is situated on the player's left shoulder and is pitched two octaves below the key note of the chanter; it has a single reed. Some bagpipes have up to two more drones, including the ronquillo or ronquilla, which sticks out from the bag and plays an octave above the ronco, or the smaller chilln. These two extra drones are located next to the right arm of the player.

The finger-holes include three for the left hand and four for the right, as well as one at the back for the left thumb. The chanter's tonic is played with the top six holes and the thumb hole covered by fingers. Starting at the bottom and (in the Galician fingering pattern) progressively opening holes creates the diatonic scale. Using techniques like cross-fingering and half-holding, the chromatic scale can be created. With extra pressure on the bag, the reed can be played in a second octave, thus giving range of an octave and a half from tonic to top note. It is also possible to close the tone hole with the little finger of the right hand, thus creating a semitone below the tonic.

My first two sets of gaitas were made from boxwood with the traditional bag cover in the national colours of red and yellow. This is not an authentic design as it was General Franco who insisted on the red and yellow bag to emphasize the instrument's nationality. These types of gaita with rubber bags and red and yellow covers are factory made and sold to tourists in music shops. They can vary in quality quite substantially.

My current gaita was made by the master gaita maker Anton Varela of Ferrol in A Corunna. They are made from African blackwood with boxwood rings. The bag is made from gortex and they are very responsive to play. The chanter reed is made from cane and the three done reeds from plastic to aid stability. This set was made in 2014 and has three drones, the bass drone (ronco) and two smaller drones (ronqueta and chillon).

Please see Anton's website for more details about the varity of gaita and other instruments he makes.

Highland bagpipes

The Great Highland Bagpipe (Gaelic: A' Phìob Mhòr,) is a type of bagpipe native to Scotland, which has achieved widespread recognition through its usage in the British military and in pipe bands throughout the world. Though widely famous for its role in military and civilian pipe bands, the Great Highland Bagpipe is also used for a solo virtuosic style called piobaireachd or pibroch.

The first reference to the pipes in Scotland dates from around 1400 whereas other bagpipes can be dated from considerably earlier. The earliest references to Scottish bagpipes are in a military context, and it is in that context that the Great Highland Bagpipe became established in the British military and achieved the widespread prominence it enjoys today, whereas other bagpipe traditions throughout Europe, ranging from Spain to Russia, almost universally went into decline by the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many European bagpipes have, however, experienced something of a renaissance with the folk revival.

Though popular belief sets varying dates for the introduction of bagpipes to Scotland, concrete evidence is limited until approximately the 15th Century. The Clan Menzies still owns a remnant of a set of bagpipes said to have been carried at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, though the veracity of this claim is debated. Textual evidence for Scottish bagpipes is more definite in 1396, when records of the Battle of the North Inch of Perth refer to "warpipes" being carried into battle. Reference can also be traced to the bagpipes in a poem of 1598 The Complaynt of Scotland which refers to several types of pipe.

The Great Highland Bagpipe is classified as a woodwind instrument, like the bassoon, oboe or clarinet. Although it is classified as a double reed instrument, the reeds are all closed inside the wooden stocks which are bound into the bag, instead of being played directly by mouth as other woodwinds are. The Highland pipes actually has four reeds; the chanter reed (double), two tenor drone reeds (single), and one bass drone reed (single). The final pipe is the blow pipe through which the piper keeps the bag inflated.

Modern developments have included reliable synthetic drone reeds, and synthetic bags that deal with moisture arguably better than hide bags. My set are of such a type and are made by R T Shepherd and Sons Ltd of Cardenden, Fife just north of Edinburgh.

Schaper Pfeiff

This set of pipes is based on the bagpipes as illustrated by Michael Praetorious in his Syntagma Musicum of 1619. Like the Scottish bagpipes, they have a conical chanter with a double reed and drones with single reeds although there are two drones as opposed to the three on the highland pipes.

Hungarian Bagpipes (Magyar duda)

The Hungarian bagpipes, known in Hungary as the Magyar duda is the traditional bagpipe of Hungary.

The Hungarian bagpipe has a diple (i.e. twin-bore) chanter, one bore of which gives a variable drone, the bag pipe having a bass drone in addition. The most characteristic feature of the magyar duda, as stated, is the double-bored chanter which has a carved animal head stock, usually that of a goat as the bag is traditionally made from goat skin although earlier bags are said to have been made from dog skin. One chanter bore, the dallamsip, or melody pipe plays the melody within an octave range. The second chanter, the kontrasip or kontra has a single finger hole and sounds either the lowest note on the melody pipe or drops to the dominant.

Hungarian piping is characterized by use of the kontra to provide rhythmic accompaniment and to vary the drone sound. The melody pipe has a "flea hole", a common feature in Eastern bagpipes: the top hole on the chanter is very small and uncovering it raises the pitch of any other note by approximately a semitone, making the Hungarian pipe largely chromatic over its range.

Up until the 1920s the duda was the preferred instrument at celebrations in much of Hungary. As the Hungarian economy improved and the pastoral lifestyle declined in importance, the lone piper at a country ball or wedding was increasingly replaced by professional Gypsy bands (ciganyzenekar) that played an urban repertoire on more complex and capable instruments. The Hungarian bagpipe was essentially extinct except in small pockets by the 1950s but was rescued as part of the Hungarian folk revival, and is today a very popular instrument among Hungarian folk bands such as Muszikas, Karikas and Teka and soloists such as Balasz Szokolay, Balasz Istvanfi, Andor Vegh and Sandor Csoori.

My set in Bb is made from African blackwood and was made in 2010 by Istvanfi Balazs in Zebegeny, just north of Budapest. My A set was made by Andor Vegh especially for me in 2018. It is more traditional looking and is made from plum wood with pewter inlays. He lives and works in Pecs.

English Smallpipes

These pipes have a sweet tone and, along with the dudy, are the quietest of my collection. They are in the key of D with a range of just one octave. The chanter is made of yew and the single drone of cherry. They are also known as the Leicestershire smallpipes due to the fact that the maker, Julian Goodacre, hails from that part of the country originally before he moved to Peebles, Scotland some years ago.

There is nothing historically to suggest that this particular design of bagpipes was played in Leicestershire although there is evidence to suggest that some type of bagpipes where indeed played in the area. Julian is waiting for some church carving to come to light showing his design and thereby retrospectively linking the smallpipes to the county.

Border pipes in G

This set of student border pipes in G were made in 2012 by the renowned bagpipe maker, Jon Swayne. Jon has an excellent reputation as a musician and as a maker of bagpipes, flutes and whistles and has played with the band Blowzabella for many years.

These bagpipes have two drones, a tenor and a bass, both tuned to D and are made from apple wood with hide bag and horn tipped blowpipe. The wood was sourced from an orchard in Herefordshire.

Border pipes were played in the north of England and southern Scotland from the late 17th to the early 19th century. The chanter has a range of one and a half octaves from the seven finger note giving a whole tone below the tonic to the three finger note in the second octave. The drone stock of the one drone set is positioned so that the drones can lie either accross the chest or over the left shoulder but the two drone set is more comfortable played over the shoulder. The instrument can also be played with bellows but I prefer the mouth blown variety and these pipes are just about the most responsive in my collection. Jon also makes this set in the keys of high D, high C, Bb, A, G, F, low D and low C. Jon does not have a website but can be contacted at

Italian Zampogna

The zampogna is the Italian bagpipe and differs from most bagpipes in that it has double reeds in all the pipes and all pipes hang down in front of the player. The two chanters and drone are fixed into a single round stock that the bag is attached to. Each chanter is tuned differently, according to the tradition it represents, and there are dozens.

There is a soprano chanter on the right and a bass chanter on the left (called, respectively, "ritta" and "manga", meaning 'right' and 'left' although Mike asked for his to be reversed. His set is in the key of G. The traditional reeds are made from stalks of the giant reed called arundo donax, called "canna marina" in Italian. The double reed versions may also be made from plastic.

Traditionally the bags are made from goat hides that are removed from the slaughtered animal in one piece, cured, turned inside out, then tied off just in front of the rear legs, one of the front legs serving to house the blow pipe with its simple leather valve (soffietto), and the other tied off. The typical round stock into which both chanters and drones are fixed goes into the neck of the skin. The hair is left on, and is contained in the inside of the bag (otre). Today, however, some pipers are substituting the traditional goat and sheep hide bags with a rubber inner tube or gortex which is covered with an artificial fleece.

The double reeded version of the zampogna is generally played with the piffero (called "biffera" in the Ciociaria, or "ciaramella" or "pipita" in other regions; a shawm, or folk oboe), which plays the melody and the zampogna provides chord changes. Mike's ciaramella was made by Gino Luigi Carini.

The word "zampogna" is etymologically related to the Greek simponia, the plural of "simponi" meaning single beating reed; also to the Greek island bagpipe "tsampouna" (see above). Its Romanian counterpart is cimpoi, which means "symphony" or "many sounds played together". The pipes are related to the Sardinian launnedas a single reed "triple clarinet" comprising two chanters and a drone and played in the mouth by circular breathing.

My zampogna was made by Marco Cianciaruso and are made of plum wood (the chanters) with the stock and bells made from cherry wood. They have a gortex bag and plastic reeds.


The dudy was one of the illustrations made by Michael Praetorious in the 17th century. This set of pipes was made by Sean Jones, who lives and workd on Biddulph Moor, during the months from August to October 2013 and his design also borrows from the Scottish smallpipes. Sean makes pipes from a variety of woods and these set are made from laburnum and the colour will darken with time. He also uses apple, damson, plum and bubinga wood. The dudy comes with either open or closed fingering and this set uses the former. The sound is gentle and not unlike that of the Northumbrian smallpipes.

The leading note (lowest) is C but can be C# depending on whether the chanter plug is in or out: an ingenious feature.

The three drones are in a common stock with bass and tenor sounding D and the baritone sounding A.

The chanter is of the cylindrical variety as opposed to the conical chanter of many other pipes. The bag is hide with a horn tipped blowpipe.

See the border pipes in D below for Sean's website.

Border Pipes in D

Border pipes are the design of bagpipes that were played on the borders of England and Scotland from the late 17th to early 19th centuries.

As with the dudy, these pipes were made by Sean Jones in 2013 and also, as with the dudy, from laburnum. They also have a hide bag and horn tipped blowpipe. The pipes are in the key of D with a conical chanter and three drones tuned to D.

Sean's website can be seen at

Bock Dudy

Variants of the bock, a type of bagpipe, were played in Central Europe in what are now Austria, Germany, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic in the south Bohemian region. The tradition of playing the instrument endured into the 20th century, primarily in the Blata, Chodsko, and Egerland regions of Bohemia, and among the Sorbs of Saxony.

The German name Bock (German for buck, i.e. male goat) refers to the use of a goatskin in constructing the bag, similar to the common use of other goat-terms for bagpipes in other nations, such as the French cabrette. The bag is inflated in many cases by means of a bellows which the piper operates under the arm. This feeds to the bag under the arm.

The drone of the Bock is usually pitched one octave below the tonic of the chanter. The single drone and single chanter have cylindrical bores and employ single reeds. The current variant of the Bock is generally bellows-blown, which has the advantage of allowing the piper to sing along with his playing. These bellows-blown bagpipes are believed to have made their way into southern and western Bohemia in the first half of the 19th century.

The chanter and drone end in bells of horn often tipped with brass or tin, angled upwards. These are to aid amplification. The top end of the chanter is often shaped in the form of a goat-head. In some cases, the drone hangs downward from the bag, (eg. Egerland-style instruments) whereas in the otgher (eg. the Bohemian style as in the photo) variant, the drone extends backwards over the player's shoulder.

The tradition of this type of instrument is well kept in the Czech Republic, particularly South Bohemia in Strakonice and in western Bohemia around the town of Domalice in the region known as Chodsko whilst the number of players and groups has been increasing also in Germany and Austria since the "bagpipe revival".

My bagpipes are made by Toru Sonoda who works and lives in Wartenberg, Germany. He also makes the German Hummelchen, the Spanish gaita gallega, schaferpfeife, Scottish smallpipes and the sackpipa from Sweden. Thanks to Toru for proofreading this text and offering revisions.

Bock Dudy
Bock Dudy


One of the sets of pipes described and depicted by the Renaissance organologist, Michael Praetorius, is the Hummelchen. (or bumblebee pipes) These German smallpipes are made and modernised by several of today's bespoke makers and have been reconstructed in a variety of styles based loosly from these original drawings. Some makers have chosen to reinterpret the drawing by varying the number of drones and the shapes of the pipes themselves and Mike's set are made by Toru Sonoda ( who also made his Bock Dudy. My hummelchen has wide bells and three drones. The wood used is checker tree wood and the bag of cowhide.

The hummelchen is, in many cases, mouth-blow usually with one or two drones, a nine-note scale and holes within easy reach. The recorder like open fingering, almost fully chromatic, is more or less standard in German speaking countries though half closed fingered instruments are also available. My set have an additional drone making three in all (tenor, baritone and bass) and are essentially in C although the chanter and drones can be switched to enable the instrument to play in different keys. They have a sweet, rustic sound, as befits their name, and are particularly suitable for playing Early Music.

Thanks again to Toru Sonoda for proofreading the text and offering suggestions for revision. He makes a variety of bagpipes including Swedish sackpfifa, Scottish smallpipes, Spanish gaita gallega and Praetorius dudy and schaper pfeife. Visit his website at


Medieval Bagpipes

To bagpipers it is a common remark from many people that they think that Scotland is the home of bagpipes. In Scotland there are fewer than 10 depictions of pipers that date from before the beginning of the 18th century; in England no-one has yet counted how many there are and new ones are uncovered every year; the total number so far is probably around 100 if not more.

So, bagpipes have been played for centuries all over the British Isles including places such as Cornwall, Worcestershire, Lancashire, Cheshire, Lincolnshire, and so on, as well as Northumberland, the only area where indigenous piping survived. And these bagpipes came in many different designs, none of which look anything like the familiar Highland bagpipe. The first mention of a bagpipiper in Britain is in the court accounts of Edward II in 1286 - and a couple of centuries later Henry VIII had at least three sets of bagpipes in his inventory.

Medieval Bagpipes

"A baggepype wel coude he blowe and sowne, And therewithal he broghte us out of towne." This is part of the description of the miller from Chaucer's Prologue to the Canterbury Tales (c1390) An illustration of the miller appears in the margin of an early manuscript of the tales and, like the other two aforementioned illustrations, shows characteristically prominent flared bell ends to the drone and chanter. Most medieval depictions show a single drone but some show a second drone as in the Cantigas de Santa Maria and the Maastrict hours. The bagpiper was a familiar sight at festivals and holy days in the English countryside for "common dancing" until the middle of the 18th century.

My set of medieval pipes were made by Jon Swayne in 2014. The wood used is plum wood sourced from an orchard in Herefordshire and are in the key of D with two drones. The design has been modelled on various depictions from paintings such as the piper in the 14th century Luttrell psalter and the late 13th century painting in Montpellier, France. Also, there are many wooden (misericordes) and stone sculptures in churches and cathedrals in England and Europe showing similar constructions.

Swedish Sackpipa

Though this is perhaps not common knowledge, even among Swedes, bagpiping has a long history in Sweden. There are several images of bagpipes and bagpipers in Swedish churches from the 14th century onwards. So, at least the instrument has been known for a long time. There is hardly any evidence that the bagpipes were also played in Sweden in the middle ages, but there is little reason to doubt it - Sweden was under heavy cultural influence from central and western Europe at the time.

Swedish Sackpipa Swedish Sackpipa

In western Dalarna, bagpipes were still common in the 19th century, and the last traditional piper was heard playing the pipes as late as in the 1940s. Gudmunds Nils Larsson (1892-1949) knew only a handful of tunes, but, being the last known piper, he became an essential link to the past. A handful of instruments were built in the 50s, 60s and 70s, but it was not until 1981, when Gunnar Ternhag at Dalarna's museum asked Leif Eriksson (a saw-mill worker and cabinet-maker) and Per Gudmundson (a fiddler) to develop a reliable instrument and Eriksson started to produce them in larger quantities that the revival really started. The revived instrument was a compromise between the dozenor so preserved bagpipes in Swedish museums, and the need for a bagpipe that goes well together with other instruments.

Bagpipe courses and festivals were held regularly in Dalarna throughout the 80s, and other instrument makers started to make Swedish bagpipes - Alban Faust, Bors Anders, hman and Bengt Sundberg being the most well known makers after Eriksson.

Today, one will also find Swedish bagpipes with more drones, bellows blown instruments, and chanters in D/G and C/F. Many modifications and extensions have been made to the basic scale. The most common extension is an extra finger hole just above the c'' hole, sounding c#''. The chanter can now be played in A-major.

The sackpipa has a cyllindrical chanter and single drone and the traditional method of inflating the bag is through the blowpipe.The reeds in both chanter and drone are of the single reed variety. The only suitable form of cane growing in Sweden is Pragmites australis (common reed, "bladvass" in Swedish). However, Phragmites is fragile and sensitive to humidity, so many pipers prefer the kind of cane most other instrument reeds are made from - arundo donax.

A distinct feature of the Swedish bagpipe chanter is that there is a deep depression for each finger, making it almost impossible to miss a finger hole. A recent innovation, as mentioned above, has been the development of the bellows to inflate the bag. Swedish bagpipes in particular have only been made this way since the 1980s and are still not very common. Vicki Swan, who herself has Swedish heritage, favours the bellows for her sackpipa.The main reason for having bellows is that it keeps the reeds dry, and thereby easier to keep in tune. Another advantage is that it makes it possible to sing whilst playing. Much of this information I have researched from the website of Olle Gallmo, a well respected player of the sackpipa.

My sackpipa is in D/G and is made by Alban Faust who lives and works in Dalsland, Mellerud, Sweden. They are made from curly birch with African blackwood and reindeer antler rings. The reindeer antlers are shed naturally. I have another chanter, in A/E made by him.

My second sackpipa was made by Alexander Khudolev who lives and works in Sochi, Russia. These pipes are made from ebony with boxwood rings. Instead of natural cane the reeds are made from carbon. As with the Faust sackpipa, I have chanters in D/G and A/E.

Tunisian Mizwad Bagpipes

The mizwad (mezoued, mizwid; Arabic: مِزْود; plural مَزاود mazāwid, literally "sack," bag, or food pouch) is a type of bagpipes played in Tunisia. The instrument consists of a skin bag, made from ewe or goat, with a joined double-chanter, terminating in two cow horns, similar to a hornpipe.The instrument is played with a single-reed.

The mizwad is similar to the Libyan zukra. There is also an instrument known as a zokra which is an instrument without a bag. The instrument consists of two connically bored chanters made of cane. The reeds are not one piece with the chanters but are set in with wax, though some of this pipe's obvious ancestors are made that way - with the chanter being nothing more than a reed with a long body pierced by fingerholes. The disk-like stock, grooved on its edge, is tied into the neck of the goatskin bag. If the reeds need attention, the entire unit must be untied and removed from the bag.


The mizwad is considered a nomad instrument. It exist in many countries; Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine where it is known as the mezwej and Turkey where it is called the tulum.
There is no real history available since nomads do not document.

My mizwad was made in by Hassan Ghodhbane in Sidi Bouzid which is a region in central Tunisia.

Greek tsabouna

The tsabouna (or tsambouna; Greek: τσαμπούνα) is a Greek folk instrument of the bagpipe family. It is a double-chantered bagpipe, with no drone, and is inflated by blowing by mouth into a goatskin bag. The two chanters end in a single horn. The instrument is widespread in the Greek islands.The tsambouna is made entirely of natural materials, with the least possible processing. The bag is the skin of a whole goat, the chanters are of natural cane, the blowpipe is a bone or another piece of cane, the bell an entire cow horn. Beeswax is used as a glue, natural fibres or leather strips for bindings. Tuning is adjusted with a hair or thread in the reed, or with a straw inside the bore of the pipes.

Tsabounas are traditionally constructed not by specialised instrument makers but by the players themselves. Construction, just as playing, is learned empirically, with no theory or any organised learning system. The secrets of this art, varying from island to island, are orally transmitted or "stolen." All the materials and tools needed for construction are to be readily found in the piper's immediate environment, either in nature or in the traditional household.

Tsabounas are played nowadays on most islands of the Cyclades, some of the Dodecanese, in the Northern �gean (Samos, Icaria, Chios) and in Crete. In each of these places the local tsambouna has some peculiarities, so that every island has its own unique variant of the instrument. Outside the islands, the tsambouna is also played in the Pontic (Black Sea refugee) communities of Northern Greece and the Athens area. Since the revival, it is also being played by a handful of musicians without origin from any of the above places, who may reside anywhere (mostly in Athens).

(Thanks to Yannis Pantazis' website for this information, much of which was written by Pericles Schinas.)


My tsabouna was made for me in 2015 by Yannis Pantazis who lives and works in Akrotiri on the Greek island of Santorini.
This is a section from Yannis' website....... "Ι was born and raised in Grevena, a city located in Northern Greece, in a family of musicians where I first heard and learned to play various wind instruments. It was then that I was introduced to the sound of the Tsabouna from a national television broadcast. The sound of this ecstatic Dionysian instrument swept my mind and still today transports me through time to the customs of the Aegean culture. A sound that is synonymous with the sea, the sun and it's people".

Russian Volynka

The volynka (Ukrainian: волинка, Russian: волынка, Crimean Tatar: tulup zurna � see also duda, koza, and kobza) is a Slavic bagpipe. Its etymology comes from the region Volyn, Ukraine, where it was borrowed from Romania.


The volynka is constructed around a goat skin air reservoir into which air is blown through a pipe with a valve to stop air escaping. (Modern concert instruments often have a reservoir made from a basketball bladder). A number of playing pipes [two to four] extend from the reservoir holding the air. The main playing pipe on which the melody is played has five to seven, sometimes eight finger holes. The other pipes produce a drone. This is usually either a single tonic note or a perfect fifth. Each of these playing pipes has a single reed usually made from a goose quill or, more recently, some other plastic material. In the 20th century this instrument has lost the popularity it had previously, and is rarely used today in an authentic context. Traditionally the volynka was played in the Smolensk,Tver and Vologda regions and part of the Volga region.

My volynka was made by Alexander Khudolev who lives and works in Sochi, Russia.

Belarussian/Lithuanian Duda

The dud�, a kind of bagpipe, was extremely well known and wide spread in the territories we now call Belarusian at least in the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. Almost forgotten since WWII, it has been brought to live again from 1980s.

The term �Belarusian bagpipe� denotes bagpipes similar in construction over the areas covered by Belarus and the neighbouring regions of Lithuania (Vilnius region), Southern Latvia and Western parts of Russia. These areas have constituted the medieval state known as the Great Duchy of Lithuania, Ruthenia and Samogitia (GDL) and a strong Belarusian impact could be still traced in these territories. The Belarusian Duda has existed through centuries. It was common in the historical zone of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania, including the regions of Minsk, Grodno, Vitebsk, in the western part of Smolensk region, and in the province of Vilno. In the ancient Belarusian tradition, the Duda is an instrument for rites. The Duda consists of a bag, a blowpipe (soska) and a chanter (perabor) and it has one drone (gook). Both the chanter and the drone have a bell; each one curved. The Duda is traditionally played with closed fingering. The keynote is in approximately the middle of the chanter�s scale.

Reeds for the Belarusian Duda are made from Spanish cane (Arundo Donax) and from carbon in my workshop.

Two general types of bagpipes were known in these territories: in the Middle Ages these were so called �medieval bagpipes�, spread all over the Europe at the time and disappeared together with a chivalric culture. But later on, in ethnographic period we find another type of bagpipes, even several of them. These are a single-drone bagpipe with wooden carved horns on thea chanter and the drone (the most famous nowadays), a two-drones bagpipe (not too much is known about it) and dud�-maci�nka with at least three drones and no horns.

The word duda is known since the 15th century, although the first uniquivocal evidences about bagpipes in the GDL could be found in Latin texts from the 16th century. Sources from the 16th and 17th centuries mention the instrument's usage both among peasantry and in court/military circles. In the mid 19th century and the beginning of of the 20th century, almost every ethnographer or traveller who has written about Belarusians have mentioned the bagpipe as their favourite instrument. A bagpipe and a bagpiper were seen by Belarusian intellectuals as a national symbol during the period of national romanticism and even by Communists in the 1920s. But industrialization, WWII and urbanization have almost destroyed the bagpipes in Belarus, as well as the whole traditional culture.

However, people�s reminiscences about bagpipers could be still found in villages in Central and Northern Belarus. This, combined with more than a dozen instruments stored in museums and lots of descriptions from the 19th and 20th centuries have provided an exhaustive basis for the revival movement which was started by enthusiasts in the 1980s. Today we have an association called Dudarski klub (Bagpiping Club), an international festival, a conference, regular dance parties, about 6 professional instrument makers, a dozen of music bands and about a hundred bagpipers who plas Belarusian bagpipes in Belarus and neighboring countries.

Belarussian Duda

My duda, as with my volynka and two zhaleikas, were made by Alexandr Khudolev who lives and makes instruments in Sochi, Russia. His instruments and how to contact him can be found at

Medieval Dudelsack

This bagpipe, with two drones, is in A/G and made from maple with the chanters ( in major and minor keys) made from Madagascan and Brazilian rosewood. The reeds are made from plastic and the sound is very full and loud.

The dudelsack would have been played in Germany during medieval times and are similar in design to those in the famous etching by Albrecht Durer of a bagpiper leaning against a tree and dated 1514.

As with my volynka and Belarussian/Lithuanian duda, my dudelsack was made in 2016 by Alexandr Khudolev who lives and makes instruments in Sochi, Russia. His instruments and how to contact him can be found at

Serbian gajde

The Serbian gajde is played in the southern regions of the country and is similar to the Macedonian gaida. The instrument has a blow pipe, chanter and single drone, all made from boxwood and tied into a goatskin bag.

My gajde is in the key of B and was made in 2016 by Nebojsa Milosevic who lives and works in Knjazevac, south east Serbia.

Nebojsa's gajdes can be ordered from

Serbian Gajde

Croatian Diple

The diple (pronounced dip-lay) is a variety of double chantered, droneless bagpipe from the Balkans. My diple is native to the Lika region in Croatia.

The diple is an untempered instrument, meaning the scale it plays does not fit to standard equal temperament. It is common for individual diplari - diple players - to have their own distinct manner of playing. The diple is made from goat skin with wild boar tusks for decoration. There are two single cane reeds in the chanter which is made from walnut. Walnut is a Slavic magic wood and a symbol of fertilty and birth. When the first son is born the father plants a walnut tree. My instrument was made in 2016 by Milan Vasalic who lives and works in Kikinda province, North East Serbia.

Serbian Gajde