I do a lot of specialized instrumental work, and so have created this specification sheet to give to composers, arrangers, and record producers. This sheet contains technical information not included below.

Photos and sound clips for many instruments are below.

Bagpipes


Northumbrian smallpipes, D set
Northumbrian smallpipes, F set
Medieval Greatpipes
Great Highland pipes
Reel pipes
Swedish bagpipes





Recorders & Whistles


Recorders
Low whistle
Seljefløyte
Gemshorn

Other Fun Stuff


Beyaw
Launeddas
Pibgorn

Bagpipes

Dick playing Northumbrian pipes
Northumbrian smallpipes

Northumbrian smallpipes, D set

The timbre is dark and mellow, sort of like a cross between a clarinet and an English horn.  Volume is about 80 decibels.  The chanter is stopped, so it plays rests and articulates like any other wind instrument, and it has a 2-octave (nearly) chromatic range from g-g”.  Principal keys are all modes of D and A, G major/ mixolydian/ dorian, E dorian/ mixolydian/ aeolian.  For more details, see specification sheet. 

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Northumbrian smallpipes, F set

This is the traditional pitch and sound of the Northumbrian smallpipes—a bright, chirpy sound slightly louder than the D set. It has a 2-octave range from b-flat to b-flat”.  Principal keys: All modes of F, C major and minor, B-flat major, all modes of G.

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Medieval Greatpipes

This instrument has a high, loud (108 decibels), full and bright tone. Made by Julian Goodacre, it is a reproduction based on the drawing of the Miller in the Ellsmere manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.  Principal keys are all modes of D and G major.

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Dick playing Medieval Greatpipes
Medieval Greatpipes

Scottish Highland Bagpipe

This is the most familiar kind of bagpipe, so it’s not pictured here. Plays in A mixolydian, D, and B aeolian (concert pitch B-flat mix, E-flat and F aeolian).  And it is very loud.


reel pipe
Scottish Reel pipe

Scottish Reel pipe

Similar to the Highland pipe in playing style and repertoire, this pipe is a bit quieter and has a rounder, darker tone. Plays at concert pitch in in A mixolydian, D, and B aeolian.


Swedish Säckpipa

This ancient instrument is so simple it can be made with a pocket knife and an iron rod, which, when heated, can be used to burn out the bore and fingerholes. Its 8-note range is tuned to a minor scale ideal for old Swedish tunes.

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swedish pipes
Swedish Säckpipa


Recorders and Whistles

dh on stage
Alto recorder, showing left-hand-actuated bell key which extends range to a’’’
tenor recorder
Tenor recorder detail, showing chin-key mechanism

Soprano, Alto and Tenor Recorder

Another instrument that needs no introduction. My tenor (an Adriana Breukink slide tenor) has dynamic capabilities that also give it a range of timbre from rich and reedy to thin and wispy.  This is controlled by a chin-key, pictured below.


Whistles

Low Whistle in D: Low whistles are soft, sweet, breathy, and mellow, and are currently very popular in Irish music circles. Practical in the keys of D, G, and their modal relations.

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Standard D pennywhistle has the same scale, but sounds an octave higher than the low whistle, and most other traditional instruments for that matter.  I also have standard whistles in the keys of B-flat, C, E-flat, and F.

low whistle
Low Whistle

seljefloyte
Seljefløyte

Seljefløyte

The seljefløyte, which means “willow flute” in Norwegian, is the traditional Norwegian shepherd's flute.  It only plays notes in the natural overtone series, and is very soft, but evocative, and carries surprisingly well.  I have heard that instruments like this have been found in archeological digs all over the world, but that only Norway has a surviving traditional repertoire.

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Gemshorn

A kind of medieval recorder made from a cow's horn. The sound is soft, like a cross between a wooden flute and an ocarina.  These died out in perhaps the 16th century, but the name (and sound) persists as an organ stop.  They have been revived based on descriptions and pictures published in the 16th century.

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gemshorn photo
Gemshorn
Photo by Nick Lethert


Other Fun Stuff

beyaw
Beyaw

Beyaw

This instrument is traditionally only used in Cambodian weddings.  The buzzy sound is created by a vibration panel near the top of the instrument.  The large double reed makes tuning very flexible—you can transpose up to a minor 3rd just by moving the reed in or out of your mouth.  The sound sample is from a live performance of Light from Heaven; the beyaw is joined here by tro sau, tro u, and hand drum.

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Launeddas

This is a very rare Sardinian instrument, of which there are very few expert performers (I’m definitely not one of them) outside of the Italian Island of Sardinia.  It is a traditional survival of the ancient Greek aulos (as seen pictured on various Grecian urns), and the Sardinian players play it with amazing rhythmic virtuosity.  The three single-beating reeds are taken entirely into the mouth and the instrument is played with circular breathing.  People are amazed at the sound you can get out of what looks like a bunch of garden stakes.

launeddas
Launeddas

pibgorn
Pibgorn

Pibgorn

Another ancient instrument, this was widely dispersed until the middle ages, and survived in Wales till perhaps the 19th century.  It has a single reed like the launeddas and the Swedish bagpipe.  The sound sample is a medieval dance.

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  All content © copyright 2008 by Dick Hensold.