Best Bagpipes to Evoke a True Great Highlands Atmosphere

38 Models Considered
53 Hours of Research
4 Experts Interviewed
285 Reviews Analyzed

Whether you are a beginner looking to learn how to play bagpipes, or a seasoned player who’s looking to expand their horizons, choosing a new set of bagpipes looks like a daunting task. Bagpipes may seem an unusual instrument to take up, but they can quickly become a new rewarding hobby, especially if you’re in love with all things Scottish. Moreover, bagpipes are not only for adults – you can find them in children’s sizes too, so your little one can start a hobby that will set them apart from their friends.

So, if you’re looking to buy the best bagpipes for your needs, we compiled a comprehensive buying guide by having a researching the most important features you should look for in this instrument. These include your playing level (beginner or professional) build and material, dimensions, weight, and more. We spent days trying out these instruments and looking at reviews from both professional musicians and regular users, to discover the pros and cons of each of the five instruments we picked as our top choices.

Top 5 Bagpipes Review 2018

Below you will find everything you need to choose the best bagpipes to start a hobby or go to the next level. Have a look at the comparison table that features our five choices, and don’t forget to read the reviews for each of them so you can make an informed decision. You’ll also find a buying guide at the end, with all the information you need to consider when buying this traditional Scottish instrument. Now let’s have a look at the reviews for the best bagpipes out there.

Name and Features Image Rating Price
1. AJW Bagpipes Set (Editor’s Choice)
A set that professionals and beginners will enjoy, with a design so traditional, you can almost smell the Highlands air
AJW-Bagpipes-Set
2. Grover Child Size Bagpipes (Budget Pick)
Get your little ones into playing the bagpipes, a great starter kit for small musicians
Grover-Child-Size-Bagpipes
3. Roosebeck Full Size Sheesham Bagpipe (Best for Professionals)
An exquisite set of bagpipes that you’ll enjoy looking at and playing, best for more advanced players
Roosebeck-Full-Size-Sheesham-Bagpipe
4. Dany's Great Highland Bagpipe (Best for Accessories)
Great value bagpipes that come with all the accessories you could possibly need to start playing
Danys-Great-Highland-Bagpipe
5. McWilliams Professional Scottish Highland Bagpipes (Best Tunable Bagpipes)
A set for beginners that are looking to continue playing and developing their skills, as well as having full control over the tuning of their bagpipes
McWilliams-PROFESSIONAL-SCOTTISH-HIGHLAND-BAGPIPE
Best Bagpipes to Evoke a True Great Highlands Atmosphere
Features
  • Instrument type: professional
  • Blowstick and tubes material: Rosewood
  • Dimensions: 40 x 20 inches
  • Weight: 5.5 lbs

Extra features: includes synthetic and cane drone reed sets, 2 cane pipe chanter reeds, practice сhanter & 2 practice reeds, carrying case, instructions

OVERALL RATING: 9.9 out of 10

Our best all-around choice, the AJW Bagpipes Set is a professional set of bagpipes that works well for aspiring musicians and professionals alike. One of the things we liked a lot about this set is that it comes with a tutor book that makes it very easy to learn how to play the instrument even if you’ve never touched a woodwind instrument before. This is a classic Great Highland Bagpipe set that comes complete with an elegant carry case and a full set of accessories that include two cane pipe chanter reeds and synthetic and cane drone reed sets.

The blowstick and tubes are made from rosewood and feature silver with nickel-plated mounts, while the bag is made from synthetic material and is covered with a traditional Scottish Mackenzie tartan cover. Users rave about how this set of bagpipes produces a powerful, impressive sound. The AJW Bagpipes Set made it to the top of our list because it is a complete kit that comes ready to play, with lots of accessories to suit just about any level.

The bagpipes come with a black carry bag so you can transport them easily, and two practice reeds are included as well. The above-mentioned tutor manual is one of the most comprehensive we have ever seen for a musical instrument, and users have often mentioned that the instructions are very clear to follow, no matter the level.

PROS:
  • Great tutor book for beginners
  • Solid construction
  • Looks great for a gift

CONS:
  • Bulky

Features
  • Instrument type: child/beginner
  • Blowstick and tubes material: Rosewood
  • Dimensions: 30 x 16 inches
  • Weight: not specified

Extra features: instruction sheet and reed included

OVERALL RATING: 9.7 out of 10

A perfect choice if you are looking for a bagpipe set to spark your little one’s interest in music, the Grover Child Size Bagpipes come with the authentic Scottish look at an affordable price. This set of bagpipes is also a good choice if you are interested in a novelty gift for someone who loves all things Scottish. This lightweight and compact set of bagpipes comes complete with an instruction sheet, so your little one can start practice immediately.

If you’re wondering what kind of sound might come out such an inexpensive model, you’ll be surprised to learn that users rave about its quality, often mentioning that the sound is comparable to that of much more expensive bagpipes. The cotton plaid cloth bag of the set is good quality as well, as mentioned by users, and the reed is included.

The nicely finished wood combined with the red cotton plaid give the Grover Child Bagpipes an authentic Scottish look. These bagpipes are suitable for children over 12 and could even be a good choice for a total beginner adult who would like to test the waters before spending more on a professional set.

PROS:
  • Inexpensive
  • Authentic “Scottish” look
  • Good sound for its size

CONS:
  • Small

Features
  • Instrument type: professional
  • Blowstick and tubes material: Rosewood
  • Dimensions: 40 x 20 inches
  • Weight: 5.7 lbs

Extra features: includes 2 cane pipe chanter reeds, 1 set of aluminum drone reeds with carbon fiber tongues and thread

OVERALL RATING: 9.3 out of 10

Available in multiple finishes, the Roosebeck Full Size Sheesham Bagpipe is our choice for professional players who want to update their instrument to a very high-quality one. This traditional bagpipe set can deliver amazing sounds when in the right hands. Made from premium materials and featuring rosewood blowstick and tubes, this instrument only weighs 5.7 lbs, which is lightweight enough for remaining comfortable even when you play for hours.

The Roosebeck Full Size Sheesham Bagpipe comes complete with two can pipe chanter reeds and a set of aluminum drone reeds that feature carbon fiber tongues for a professional sound. Users liked the black velvet cover and the bag that comes with the bagpipes for easy and safe transport. Others have praised the look of the pipes and the fact that they make a wonderful gift for someone in your family that you know is passionate about bagpipes.

Even though they are intended for professionals, these bagpipes come ready to play out of the box and contain all the instructions you need to get started, so they might be a good choice for those who are just starting but want an instrument they won’t outgrow too quickly.

PROS:
  • Lightweight
  • Stylish design
  • Multiple accessories and bag

CONS:
  • May take a while to master

Features
  • Instrument type: professional
  • Blowstick and tubes material: Rosewood
  • Dimensions: 40 x 20 inches
  • Weight: 8.8 lbs

Extra features: soft carrying case, practice chanter, 2 spare reeds & booklet

OVERALL RATING: 8.9 out of 10

A suitable choice for those who are just starting out, but also good for those who are looking to get professional someday, Dany’s Great Highland Bagpipe has received praise from users for the overall design and availability of accessories, as well as for the detailed instructions that come with it. This bagpipe set comes complete with a soft carrying case, two spare reeds,  a practice chanter and a booklet that will get you started straight out of the box.

The cover of this bagpipe set features an attractive red Royal Stewart Tartan, and the blowstick and tubes are made from quality rosewood. The learning method is written by Pipe Major R.T. Shepherd, one of the best instructors out there, and the hand-crafted quality of the instrument means that you will be able to enjoy it for the years to come.

This full-size rosewood bagpipe is not as lightweight as other similar instruments, weighing in at 8.8 lbs., but it’s still a comfortable choice for adults. While the initial tuning of the instrument may prove to be a bit complex for beginners and some users mentioned that the sounds can be a little bit high-pitched, this bagpipes set can be used both professionally and as a starter-kit for beginners.

PROS:
  • Quality rosewood build
  • Authentic designs
  • Numerous accessories

CONS:
  • Sounds can be high-pitched at times
  • A bit complex for beginners

Features
  • Instrument type: professional
  • Blowstick and tubes material: wood & FNS mounts
  • Dimensions: 40 x 20 inches
  • Weight: 6 lbs

Extra features: comes with reeds and bag

OVERALL RATING: 8.5 out of 10

Manufactured by well-known brand McWilliams, which has been producing traditional bagpipes for decades, this set of bagpipes is made from wood and FNS mounts for the blowstick and tubes, in a change from the omnipresent rosewood. The use of these mounts adds not only to sound quality, but also gives the bagpipes a distinctive look. Users liked that the pipes are completely tunable, something you don’t get with many sets.

The design is inspired from one of the most renowned Scottish infantry battalions, the Black Watch, hence the inclusion of “Highland” in the name. This makes this set of bagpipes ideal not only for those who want to learn how to play it, but also to showcase their appreciation for Scottish culture. Weighing in at 6 lbs., this is not one of the lightest bagpipes sets for adults out there, but users mentioned that they feel good and stable in the arms while playing.

The bagpipes arrive in a hard box for easy storage and transportation. Many users mentioned that even though these bagpipes are marketed for professionals, they may be better suited for beginners, because the sound may not satisfy well-trained ears completely. However, thanks to the possibility of tuning the pipes, they are also a good option for professionals on a budget.

PROS:
  • Design
  • Wood mounts and blowstick
  • Hard box included

CONS:
  • A bit heavy

Buying Guide

The process of selecting a new set of bagpipes takes quite a lot of time, mostly because there are multiple things to take into account. From the reasons you may need a new set of bagpipes to all the features you should consider when choosing bagpipes, you can find all the information you need in the buying guide below.

Reasons to own a set of bagpipes

A set of bagpipes is not just something you see played on every street corner in Scotland. They are also an instrument that has been gaining popularity with musicians around the world playing traditional Scottish, medieval music, or even as an addition to rock and roll tunes. Moreover, learning to play bagpipes can be a very rewarding hobby for adults and children alike. And, who knows, maybe one day your friends will ask you to play them at special events!

Features to consider when choosing bagpipes

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No matter the reason you may want to purchase a new set of bagpipes, you need to make sure you find an instrument that suits you. From the type of bagpipes to the dimensions and weight, there are multiple features to think about before parting with your money. Below are all the factors you should take into account when buying a new set.

Type of instrument

When you hear the term “bagpipes,” you might automatically think about the kind of bagpipes popularized in the movies, which are Great Highland bagpipes. Most commonly seen in bagpipe bands, at Scottish games, or in rock bands, these bagpipes are generally the type everyone wants to learn how to play. However, other types exist as well, such as the Uilleann bagpipes, which are the national bagpipe of Ireland. This type is inflated by a small bellow strapped around the right arm and the waist. Other types include Scottish small pipes, Border pipes, and Great Irish Warpipes.

Bagpipe construction materials

Bagpipes were traditionally crafted from animal pelts from sheep, goats, cows and even dogs, but these days, the materials used are most likely to be synthetic. Some models, such as Dany’s Great Highland Bagpipe or the AJW Bagpipes Set have rosewood blow sticks and tubes, while others such as the McWilliams Professional Scottish Highland Bagpipes have wood and FNS mounts.

Dimensions

Different brands of bagpipes have different dimensions, so you need to make sure the ones you choose are appropriate for the player’s body. Multiple size charts are available on the internet, but as a rule of thumb, you need to consider the height and length of the instrument, as well as the diameter of the bag. Some of the factors that affect the appropriate bag size include chest shape, overall arm length, and blowing technique. The bag size may affect the tone of the pipes, so it’s important to choose the right dimension based on your body and playing style.

Blowstick length

The length of the blowstick needs to be proportional to the height of the player to be comfortable.

If the blowstick is too long, the bag might start slipping and result in an awkward playing position and may even hit the roof of the mouth. A blowstick that is too short may also result in an awkward playing position with the head too far down.
Before buying the bagpipes, make sure the blowstick is proportional for the player by using various sizing charts available on the internet.

Extra accessories

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From extra reeds and valves to covers and practice chanters, there are multiple accessories available for your new set of bagpipes. Some models come complete with various accessories, such as Dany’s Great Highland Bagpipe, for example, but others you may need to purchase separately. A carrying bag is an essential accessory, because it allows you to store and transport the instrument safely, so make sure a quality one is provided with your new set or look to purchase a separate one to fit your instrument.

Weight

The weight of the bagpipes set you choose is important because it is related to comfort. You don’t want the set to be too heavy, so as not to make your arms hurt, but it shouldn’t be too light, because you need it to be stable when playing.

Cost

The initial cost of a set of bagpipes is a straightforward one, but there are other costs to think about as well when buying this type of instrument.

It goes without saying that a quality instrument retains its value best, so you can get most of your money back if it turns out that you don’t want to follow through with your hobby after all.
Moreover, you should think about the cost of any lessons you may want to take, as well as that of accessories, such as a storage bag and extra reeds.

FAQ

Taking care of bagpipes involves maintaining the air pressure in the bag to make sure no leaks occur, and make sure that all parts are clean at all times to avoid the collection of fungi that may be a health hazard. You should swab the chanter after every performance, especially if you live in a damp, cold climate, to avoid condensation. Finally, pick the right case for transportation so you don’t damage the instrument when traveling or storing it.

You can tune a set of bagpipes for better sound, but you need to keep in mind that not all models allow that. One of the sets that come with comprehensive tuning options is the McWilliams Professional Scottish Highland Bagpipes. As a rule of thumb, a set of Great Highland Bagpipes can play nine notes.

You can look for a local bagpipes course aimed at beginners, or use the instructions provided with the instrument to get you started. Keep in mind that if you’re serious about playing the bagpipes, you may need years of training and help from trained professionals who can teach you and correct your method.

Our Verdict

Our reviews and buying guide of the best bagpipes on the market can help you choose the set that best suits your needs. Whether you are a beginner or someone who has played the bagpipes before, our top choice, the AJW Bagpipes Set is an excellent choice because it offers a mix of high-quality materials and affordability. If you are interested in getting a set of bagpipes for your children so they can take up a new hobby, the Grover Child Size Bagpipes are the best choice out there. Finally, those looking for a professional set of bagpipes to improve their technique may like the Roosebeck Full Size Sheesham Bagpipes, which have been praised by professional players. No matter the reason for which you may want to purchase a set of bagpipes, make sure you consider the way you intend to use them and your level before making a decision.

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