The Pipe Bag is the Speaker of the Bagpipe!
More About Pipe Bags
When I started playing the pipes in the early 1970’s there were basically 2 types of pipe bags that you could buy - a sheepskin bag or an elk hide bag. When you bought one, you received an hourglass- shaped piece of leather, folded in half and stitched all around. I learned how to “tie in a bag” by myself. I used the Bagpipe Tutor #2 by Seumas McNeil. He had a pretty thorough explanation of how to measure, cut the holes and then tie the stocks to the bag. When that step was completed, we corked all of the stocks and poured a goopy product called “seasoning” into the bag. What a mess! Back then, we were playing cane drone reeds and the premise was that everything had to be moist. I tell people that you really had to love this instrument to put up with what it took to keep it in good working condition.
Today, things are different. Not only do we have plastic drone reeds that are immune to moisture problems, but we also have bags that are made of synthetic and synthetic/hide combinations. The latter are called hybrid bags. Today’s pipe bags are a joy to install and use. While you can still buy the traditional Elk or sheepskin Bag, why would you? The new bags are pre-cut with grommets installed as sleeves to receive the stocks. Today, we can push the stock from the inside out and secure it with electrical tape!
If you like a bag that is light in weight, a synthetic bag is the way to go. Canmore and Banatyne have great synthetic bags. If you’d like a more traditional feel, the “hybrid bag” might be for you. They all come in a variety of sizes. The best way to buy a pipe bag is to ask your pipe major or instructor about their favorite bag.
In the last 20 years, I have used a few of these different products. I believe that they are all good, but there are a number of factors to consider when choosing a pipe bag. All of my students take my recommendation when buying a bag. I usually sell them the type that I am currently using. Doesn’t that make sense? If it is good enough for me, it is good enough for them. The only way that you will become an expert on pipe bags is by using them. Bags last 2 to 5 years depending on how much they get used. I have tried to make sure that I buy something different each time so that I have experience with a variety of products.
If you have any questions about pipe bags, please feel free to email me.