The Northumbrian Small Pipes produce a sweet mellow sound the volume of which is about the same as a violin and are the traditional instrument of the North East of England. Although Northumbria, in its historical sense, covers the region; North of the Humber to the Border Region of South East Scotland to Edinburgh, in modern times, it as become synonymous with the area now known as Northumberland, Durham and Cleveland.
Tutor Illustration
Illustration from The Northumbrian Small Pipes Tutor

The Bag made of leather, acts as a reservoir for air so that a continuous supply is available to the chanter and drones. The Bag is placed under the left arm, air is blown from the bellows into the bag.

The Bellows strapped to the waist and worn under the right arm are used to blow air into the bag through a small tube called a blow-pipe. As the Northumbrian Pipes are bellows blown and not mouth blown the reeds remain dry, hence, last for years, 20-30 years is not uncommon.

The Chanter produces the melody. It consists of a hollow cylindrical tube, about 24 cm in length, into which holes are drilled to produce individual notes. The most common chanter is one consisting of eight finger holes and 7-keys.

Chanters can be made with extra keys, 9, 11 and 17 are the most frequently produced combinations with the 17-keyed chanter producing a chromatic two-octave range.

The commonly used F-chanter is so-called because the finger holes produce the scale of F-Major. For such a set of pipes, music is normally written in the keys of G, D and A-major and E and A-minor. In all cases each of the keys mentioned being transposed down one whole tone. (In musical terminology the pipes are a B-flat instrument.). Chanters of different pitches can be produced, C, D and G-chanters are commonly seen and heard. They are so called because the notes produced by the finger holes produce the respective keys of C, D and G-Major. To accommodate the change in pitch the dones are likewise adjusted in length to produce the appropriate harmony. The overall effect is that the pipes can be played in an impressive range of musical keys.

The Drones produce the background harmony. A combination of notes of the tonic and dominant are used. Usually, tonic, dominant and octave-tonic.