Tyrone Heade celebrated 20 years of full-time Highland bagpiping as a guest soloist in 2014 with the Yakima Symphony Orchestra, Lawrence Golan, Conductor. Tyrone performed on his Grandfather’s Bagpipe, originally brought from Cty Louth, Ireland, in 1923. Tyrone set the instrument to concert pitch A440 for the performance (a 26 hour process). It was the first time the instrument was performed in it’s original sound and configuration since grandfather Nicholas Patrick Heade, Sr., had played it nearly 8o years prior. The pipe continues to be played at A440 today.
Modern Highland bagpipes are usually set to a self-tone a bit above Bb, where all four reeds work together with the strength of the piper to carry steady a steady, pleasant warm tone. To “play well with others”, pipers today often rely on mouth-blown or bellows-blown pipes designed with that in mind. These instruments include Small pipes — think of the round tones of Clarinet or Oboe — in keys of A, Bb, D, or sometimes C.
Reel Pipes, either blown or with bellows, offer a more prominent sound in A. The key of A is the most prominent key for Small pipes. Tyrone four different A instruments, each providing a different volume and timbre.
Concert pitch instruments, in order of volume:
Great Highland Bagpipe (1900 Lawrie drones & chanter), A440
Reel Pipe, bellows blown, A440 [drones A’, A, E/D alto]
Great Scottish Small pipe, A440 (video) [drones A’, A, E/D baritone]
Scottish Small pipe, A440 (video) [drones A’, A, F alto; or G’, G]
Scottish Small pipe, A440 mouthblown [drones A’, A, E baritone]
Scottish Small pipe, Bb [drones A’, A, E baritone]
Scottish Small pipe, Bb mouthblown [drones A’, A, E baritone]
Scottish Small pipe, D [drones A’, A, D baritone]