Together with the drum and the harp, the Great Highland Bagpipe shares a claim to be one of the world's oldest instruments. It is not purely Scottish in origin with many lowland European countries having a form of bagpipe.
The Bagpipe developed to its present form about 1650 A.D. - three drones (two tenors and a bass) spread out fan-wise with the bass tuned a full octave below the tenors. It has remained unchanged in general characteristics and appearance since this time. Today, the pitch is higher, and the tone has improved markedly so that the bagpipe is an advanced and harmonious instrument - when tuned and played well. The advent of drone reeds and bags made from synthetic materials has greatly assisted this. It must be remembered however, that an instrument that stays in tune will not necessarily produce the full harmonic value possible - masters of the instrument are in constant pursuit of superior tone, harmonics, and of course an instrument that stays in tune for the duration of a performance and beyond.
More detail on the history of the Great Highland Bagpipe can be found at this link.
New Zealand has an enviable reputation for producing world class pipers. This is in no small measure due to active organisations that brought international masters to this country for teaching and recital tours, and the sheer drive and enthusiasm of New Zealand pipers travelling to Scotland to further their piping knowledge and skill. In the days before reliable international air travel, this was invariably via a 6 week sea voyage.
Piping in New Zealand
The Piping and Dancing Association of New Zealand (Inc) focuses on solo piping as opposed to pipe bands. The Royal New Zealand Pipe Bands Association governs the pipe band scene, and indeed New Zealand boasts at least four international standard Grade 1 bands. Information on pipe bands in New Zealand can be found at www.nzpipebands.org.nz.
Solo pipers have a range of performance opportunities. The most common of these is in solo piping competitions, but also includes recitals, performing with other instruments (folk groups), and informal gatherings. Further information on solo piping competitions in New Zealand can be found here.