At least in the Great Highland Bagpipes, the drones use single reeds while the chanter uses double reeds. What is the reason for this, and would the bagpipes still work if the chanter had single reeds and/or the drones had double reeds?

  • Single vs. double reed will sound a bit different. So it's either to improve sonority or it's an accident of history Mar 6, 2020 at 15:06

1 Answer 1


The drone reeds are typically of the cyclindrical shape with a little vibrating tongue. This is a much more robust mechanical construction than the oboe-like chanter-reed, which eases the handling. If I remember correctly, it also has a positive effect on life time of the reed. (I try to get this confirmed by a player and will update the answer.)

Given that the single reeds are considerably cheaper and just a single pitch (i. e. single resonating frequency) is required, it seems reasonable to restrict the investment to the essential minimum.

  • 1
    FTR, the drones are not exactly single frequency either (like free reeds in e.g. an accordion). They do still use the pipes as the oscillator, and can (must!) thus be tuned by adjusting the length. Mar 11, 2020 at 6:47
  • Interesting that a single reed is more robust. Why not use it for the chanter reed too then?
    – axelotl
    Mar 11, 2020 at 11:56
  • @AlexLee: Because they won't be flexible enough for the whole range of more than an octave range required for the chanter.
    – guidot
    Mar 11, 2020 at 12:14

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