The price range for bagpipes can vary immensely depending on several variables. Like many consumables, new pipes typically cost more than used pipes, but we will have to compare apples to apples. If you’re not familiar with bagpipes, you should study the parts on the bagpipes to really understand what you are looking for.
If the price is cheap – be cautious!
If there is one word of advice that you should take to heart, do not buy a set of bagpipes if the price is too good to be true. There are a number of so called bagpipes out there that can only be called replicas and they would only be good enough to mount on your wall. Don’t be fooled. If you need help to determine if the pipes are good, feel free to reach out to us.
Great Highland Bagpipes of Scotland
This particular article will focus on the Great Highland Bagpipes (GHB) and it is important that you know what type of instrument you are looking at. Read on if you already are familiar with the highland bagpipes. The GHB all look very similar, with three drones a blow pipe and a chanter.
Drones are typically made of wood, but sometimes made of plastic. Tonally, most would say that wood is superior, and visually wood typically looks nicer and feels warm to the touch.
First off, the chanter often doesn’t match the drones, so don’t assume that seeing Hardie engraved on the chanter makes the whole set from that manufacturer. Another point is that the chanter may not add too much value to your complete set of pipes if you plan to play in a band. Most bands replace their chanters regularly as the pitch continues to get sharper and sharper since the mid 1980’s. In the end, both plastic and wood present great sound qualities.
- Plastic – these days most chanters are made of plastic for the simple fact that they are easier to replicate that way and they sound great – so don’t be disappointed if there is a plastic chanter with the pipes you are looking at. Just keep in mind that you may not play this chanter when you start playing with others.
- Wood – While vintage chanters are all made of wood, some high-end pipe chanters are still made from wood to this day.
Obviously the blowpipe is critical to keep the bag inflated. There are different materials used for blowpipes, some better than others:
Wood– most bagpipes have wooden blowpipes, but if you find one with a metal sleeve on the inside, you have a winner. Wood can swell and crack while the metal sleeve protects the wood from our damp breath. Not to say that wood blowpipes are a bad thing, they’ve been made this way for hundreds of years.
Plastic -Another more current option is a plastic blowpipe. Plastic is a great option because it is not affected by moisture, and in fact some blowpipes like the Airstream allows greater airflow making it easier to blow your pipes. More recently Flux Solutions introduced a new blowpipe that has moisture control built right in.
Pipe bags come in different sizes and configurations. The list below is only a highlight to the subject. There are two categories for pipe bags (plus moisture control)
- Leather – Sheep skin, goat skin and cow leather are all options for pipe bags these days. If the pipes have not been played in over a year, we recommend that the leather bag is replaced before they are used again because the leather has likely dried out beyond use and will not hold air.
- Synthetic – A number of man made pipe bags are available including Canmore (Gortex), Ross, Bannatyne and others. These pipe bags tend to last a very long time and the only thing you’ll have to worry about is if they have a hole or the grommets for the stocks have sprung a leak.
- Moisture Control Systems – this is not a pipe bag, but you may find this inside the bag. It is used to reduce the excess moisture from wet blowers. This will add a small amount of value to the pipes, but will need to be sanitized if you plan to buy a set of used pipes.
Decoration is a key factor!
The one thing that will make the greatest difference in price is the amount of decoration on the pipes called Ferrule and Mounts. Silver costs a lot, especially if it is hand engraved – and remember that there are different grades of silver so it’s not always simple. Then there are mounts made of ivory, nickel, aluminum and more. Clearly there are some challenges with transporting ivory from one country to another, so the value of pipes with Ivory can be worth more to a buyer within the same country as the seller.
New or Used
Some think only new bagpipes are best, while others feel that used pipes have the best tonal quality. Some think that vintage pipes are worth a fortune, and to a collector they certainly are, but to a new piper those vintage pipes would not likely be a good investment.
So how much will a set of used bagpipes cost?
If we had to put a number on it, you should plan to spend anywhere from $600 USD for a used set of pipes, all the way to $8000 for a set of new or a vintage collectable full silver engraved pipes. You will find many sets of pipes listed on our website to choose from and surely, you’ll find what you’re looking for.
Are you a beginner?
Just remember one thing – you will not learn to play the bagpipes on a set of bagpipes. Weird isn’t it? Well not exactly because you will actually start to learn to play on a practice chanter. We have plenty of practice chanters on Bagpipe Central, so start by looking for a practice chanter first.
This subject will be discussed in another blog post, but if you are interested to take up bagpiping and you want to know how much to spend, we would suggest that you reach out to a knowledgeable piper that you know and trust to guide you to buy your first set of bagpipes. If you don’t know a piper, feel free to contact us.
Buy a Practice Chanter
For a beginner, you’ll need a practice chanter for sure. How much will one cost you? Expect to spend $25 – $75 USD on a good practice chanter, but like stated above, the price varies greatly depending on decoration of the instrument. Here are some hints:
- Plastic – Most chanters that were made within the past 20 years are made of plastic and are great instruments for beginners or experienced pipers.
- Wood – If you have a wooden practice chanter, be sure that it is in good condition. Sometimes they get cracked due to high moisture and typically it is not worth repairing them.
If you have specific questions, please contact us for more information. We have years of experience playing and buying bagpipes.