Reedpipes and Hornpipes

Download sound samples of the Reedpipe by clicking on this link:
Wav. audio file of David Marshall`s Reedpipe (213K - file name "rpipe.wav") The reedpipe plays the melody line.
Download a sound sample of the Large Hornpipe in A by clicking on this link:
Wav. audio file of David Marshall`s Hornpipe (787K - file name "hornpipe.wav")


Small Reedpipe in D - Length 11.5 inches
Large Reedpipe in G - Length 16 inches

Small Hornpipe in D - Length approx. 20 inches (inc. horn bell and reed cap)
Large Hornpipe in G - Length approx. 33 inches (inc. horn bell and reed cap)

Other keys / sizes available.

The above play the notes of the major scale on open fingering. All have a thumb hole. Accidentals are obtainable by using forked or cross-fingering.

Unlike most other Mediaeval reed instruments, reedpipes and hornpipes use Single reeds and have cylindrical bores. The former is played by taking the entire reed into the mouth and blowing with the lips pressed against the top of the instrument or a small pirouette for support. As the name implies, the Hornpipe is really a reedpipe with an open (horn) reedcap into which the player blows. A second animal horn on the lower end of the pipe serves as a bell for enlarging and projecting the sound.

playing the hornpipe  

large hornpipe in G

As with many early instruments, there can be variations on the theme!
7 hole reedpipe

Small Reedpipes in D & one with extra 7th hole(c sharp)
for the little finger. Both have a back thumbhole.

playing a reedpipe Playing the reedpipe with lips resting against pirouette for support.
The reed is not touched at all during playing. The length of this  7-holed pipe (yew) is 12.5 inches. The instrument plays - C (sharp)
D E F F (sharp) G A B (flat) B C c (sharp) and d, using the open fingering system. The other pipe (hawthorn) offers the same - but minus the lower C (sharp)

The instrument has 6 fingerholes and a rear thumbhole and is 15.5ins. in length(excluding reed).

Turned from English Yew, this larger, deeper-pitched version delivers a wonderfully rich, warm tone!
reedpipe in GREEDPIPE in HIGH G

This is a recent addition to the range (April 2002) pitched a fourth above my D reedpipe. It has a very clarinet-like tone and plays the scale of G major on open fingering. There are 6 front holes and an upper rear thumbhole.

As can you can see, it's a "pocket-sized" pipe (11ins. long) but one which can still deliver an attractively bright and punchy sound!

It comes as a result of the chanter developed for my PASTORAL BAGPIPE and (using a different arrangement of tones) my ASKAULES BAGPIPE.

There are sound samples (albeit with drone accompaniments) which will give a very good idea of the tone of the High G Reedpipe!

THE DOUBLE REEDPIPE shown here is a single reedpipe with an accompanying drone pipe joined to it. The melody pipe has seven holes and a back thumbhole and gives a scale on D, starting with the front six holes covered. The seventh hole (little finger) gives a lower C sharp.

IT PLAYS: Csharp - D - E - F - Fsharp - G - A - Bflat - B - C - upper Csharp & D (also available a tone lower in C - 6 holes covered)

The drone pipe can be tuned to various keynotes to suit the intended use.

FOR EXAMPLE: The instrument sounds very well playing a drone-based melody with a 5 finger keynote (E) and with the accompanying drone set to A below this note. Likewise, a 6 finger keynote (D) with the drone lowered to G gives a very pleasing result. The drone adjustment is made by plugging/unplugging certain holes in its length.

Double Reedpipe

Double Reedpipe

For those who find holding two reeds in the mouth cavity a little difficult, this reedcap version could be helpful. The cap is open-ended, turned from wood and very similar to the reedcaps used for hornpipes

Many people remark that the Double Reedpipe sounds just like a small bagpipe and has a bladder pipe warm and soothing sound! Sound sample on site in near future!

Both Reedpipes and Hornpipes have an ancient ancestry and there is ample evidence to confirm that they  were also widely used in the Middle Ages. A bladder was sometimes added to encompass the reed, the natural elasticity helping to create the necessary pressure. Air is now supplied to the reed by a small tube at the upper end of the bladder. This is fitted with a simple one-way valve (leather flap) as used for the bagpipe. The Bladderpipe is in fact a kind of bagpipe!

FOOTNOTE: Please don't ask me if the bladderpipe is "a swine to play" - I've heard it all before! Please also avoid equally bad pun - "it makes an offal noise!"

None are difficult to learn to play competently, especially if you already have some experience with other reed instruments. Used appropriately, they can bring a refreshing and unique timbre to Mediaeval Music-Making.

Finally, there are no prizes for guessing how I managed to turn a piece of pearwood using a bladder!


David Marshall, Spring 2002

Tudor Lodge, Pymoor Lane, Pymoor, Ely, Cambridgeshire. CB6 2EE. England.

To send me an E-Mail message :

Telephone : +44 (0) 1353 698084

Fax : 0871 277 2589

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