Secrets of the piper’s work – ram or goat bagpipes

Pipers usually made their own instruments, but sometimes they bought elements that were harder to make (e.g., drone or head) from the Slovakian Liptov. Bagpipes could also be ordered from specialised manufacturers.
These instruments were made of easily accessible materials. The bellows were usually made of uncut ram or goat skin in full that was not tanned, but only cleared of the hair covering it. To make the bag waterproof, the inside was covered with tar. The hind legs were cut and the bag was sewn together, and the holes after the forelegs were used to insert the duhac (right leg) and drone (left leg). In the place of the animal’s neck, a wooden head was attached in order to place a gajdzica there. The instrument’s head was made of the yew tree, sycamore maple or ash tree, and the gnarl tree deformations were commonly used for this purpose. Adolf Chybiński also mentions that in the past the element that connected the air reservoir with the melody pipe could have been made from the animal’s natural head (Adolf Chybiński, Instrumenty muzyczne ludu polskiego na Podhalu [Musical Instruments of the Polish People in Podhale], Kraków, 1924). The gajdzica was made of metal, yew or spruce wood. Reeds, the so-called trestki, were fitted in its three ducts.
The duhac was made from a yew-tree, sycamore maple or bone. The drone comprising several parts with reeds inside was made of both yew tree and sycamore maple. The head of the bagpipes and the drone were adorned with tin and horn incrustations, and brass plates. Often the unused items present in the household were applied to make metal decorations, hence the metal rings for the bagpipes frequently featured some “mysterious“ inscriptions and symbols.

Elaborated by Anna Kozak (The Dr. Tytus Chałubiński Tatra Museum in Zakopane), © all rights reserved

See bagpipes from the Tatra Museum in the collection from Małopolska’s Virtual Museums.
Read about bagpipes used by Podhale shepherds while tending sheep as well as during family celebrations.