The Complete Guide To MIDI Bagpipes; Covering Practice Pipes, Robotic Bagpipers & The Frankenpipe

Fagerstrom makes several pipe-style MIDI controllers, including the Technochanter and the Technopipes.

Technopipes Features:

  • Highly portable. Fits in your pocket: only Ø16 x 249 mm (Ø5/8″ x 10″)
  • Contains all the electronics as well as the battery: no extra box to plug in.
  • Uses standard Ø3.5 mm stereo earphones (not included): perfect to play on buses, trains etc. Ideal for the commuter.
  • Unforgiving at detecting crossing noise.
  • Authentic bagpipes sounds.
  • Drones sound with different drone configurations.
  • Built-in metronome.
  • Adjustable contact sensitivity.
  • Pitch adjustable within a two octave range.
  • Recording capabilities, with variable playback speed.
  • MIDI output (cable included).
  • Runs on one standard AAA 1.5V alkaline battery or one AAA 1.2V NiMH rechargeable battery (not included). Runs for approx. 10 hours on a 1000mAh rechargeable NiMH battery.
  • Touch controls for all settings.
  • Please note that battery, case, and earphones are not included.
  • 1 year warranty.

And then there’s there weird stuff….

McBlare, above, is a robotic bagpipe player developed by the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University (pdf). McBlare plays a standard set of bagpipes, using a custom air compressor to supply air and electromechanical “fingers” to control the chanter.

McBlare is MIDI controlled, allowing for simple interfacing to a keyboard, computer, or hardware sequencer. The control mechanism exceeds the measured speed of expert human performers. On the other hand, human performers surpass McBlare in their ability to compensate for limitations and imperfections in reeds, and we discuss future enhancements to address these problems.

McBlare has been used to perform traditional bagpipe music as well as experimental computer generated music.

The FrankenPipe project (pdf) is an attempt to convert a traditional Highland Bagpipe into a controller capable of driving both real-time synthesis on a laptop – as well as a radio-controlled (RC) car.

The chanter is outfitted with photoresistors (CdS photoconductive cells) underneath each hole, allowing a full range of MIDI values to be produced with each finger and giving the player a natural feel. An air-pressure sensor is also deployed in the bag to provide another element of control while capturing a fundamental element of bagpipe performance.

According to its creators, the FrankenPipe “navigates the realm of both musical instrument and toy, allowing the performer to create a novel yet rich performance experience for the audience.”

While the FrankenPipe apparently excels at all the usual musical tasks, it also can control a radio-controlled (RC) car.

The broader concept of the MIDI-controlled car was inspired by the fact that a performance can be supplemented by anything that reacts to a musical instrument. (Some drummers employ lights
that are triggered when they hit their drums, for example.)

By incorporating an RC controller into the bagpipes, music can be generated by the performer during the process of attempting to drive the car through a maze.

Equipping the FrankenPipe with radio-frequency (RF) control of an RC car was straightforward. The transmitter of an RC car was disassembled, and it was discovered that only four different contacts needed to be grounded to move the car forward or backward, or to turn the front wheels left or right.

These four circuits create seven possibilities of motion: forward and left, forward only, forward and right, no movement, reverse and left, reverse only, and reverse and right.

To incorporate the capabilities of the RC Car into the bagpipe design, notes of the bagpipe were mapped to move the car in one of the seven basic ways. According to the creators “amusing results were easily produced.”

MIDI Bagpipe Video Demos

Here are some demos videos showing MIDI bagpipes in action:

Midi pipes & synthesizer

MIDI Bagpipe Electric Guitar

Shirtless MIDI Bagpipes

Cillian Vallely playing the vPipes

Bagpipe MIDI Music

Finally, if you ended up at this page simply because you were looking for bagpipe music in MIDI format, check out the massive list at The Whistle.


7 thoughts on “The Complete Guide To MIDI Bagpipes; Covering Practice Pipes, Robotic Bagpipers & The Frankenpipe

  1. Thanks for this presentation. I’ve been wavering between electronic pipes and a set of good, old-fashioned practice pipes. I think I’ll go with the non-electronic version, but the MIDI pipes are certainly interesting. Thanks for your help.

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  2. Hi, yes great presentation ideed. I noticed the site does not mention the midi bagpipes by alberto arias. Before the relase of the vpipes, which promise to be the best on the market so far, the pipes by alberto (with samples made by hevia who co developped the pipes) were by fare the most developed and best sounding midi bagepipes! I own a set since 8 years and use it not as a practice set, nor as a replacement for real bagpipe, but as an instrement of its own kind. Anyhow I believ Alberto Arias should not be left out on this blog. There is not much info about it on the web. here are some pics and also videos of myself performing with it:
    http://www.cyberpiper.com/

    hope to hear from you:)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  3. Hi, yes great presentation ideed. I noticed the site does not mention the midi bagpipes by alberto arias. Before the relase of the vpipes, which promise to be the best on the market so far, the pipes by alberto (with samples made by hevia who co developped the pipes) were by fare the most developed and best sounding midi bagepipes! I own a set since 8 years and use it not as a practice set, nor as a replacement for real bagpipe, but as an instrement of its own kind. Anyhow I believ Alberto Arias should not be left out on this blog. There is not much info about it on the web. here are some pics and also videos of myself performing with it:
    http://www.cyberpiper.com/

    hope to hear from you:)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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