Where can I buy a bagpipe?
Buying a bagpipe should be done only through a knowledgeable vendor who plays the instrument.
Here's a sad story that has been repeated several times during the 19 years that I lived in Kalamazoo, MI:
A generous individual comes to the musical instrument store with the idea of buying a pipe for a dear relative who "likes" bagpipes. The manager shows them pipes in a catalog and urges them to purchase the "top of the line" pipe. He tells them that this is a superior instrument and they'll be very happy with it. A few weeks later, the pipes arrive in a box and the customer pays $400. When the customer asks for help to get them going, they are told that the store only sell the instruments and that the customer should contact a local piper - frequently it is me that gets the call. I listen to the story and cringe, but offer to try to help the customer.
The instruments are inevitably of very poor quality and unplayable in their present shape or in any future shape without extensive remanufacturing of the bores, new bag, new drone reeds, new flapper valve, new chanter, and a new chanter reed. I usually recommend that they return them to the store, request a refund and spend the money on a practice chanter and a years worth of lessons with a good instructor. However, I've never seen anyone return the instrument.
After a few times I've asked why not? It turns out that the store tells the customer up front that it is a non-refundable special order. The customer has no choice but to eat the financial loss. I've pleaded with the manager to stop this practice as it is harming the long term future of piping and turns off potential pipers, but to no avail. The store continues to hand out my name to clean up after their messes.
If you really want to get someone involved in piping, rather than buy someone an worthless piece of wood shaped like a bagpipe, please spend the money on a practice chanter and a years worth of lessons with a good instructor. You'll spend less and provide a lifetime of memories.
If the store you enter doesn't have at least one set of pipes in stock, or has a set, but doesn't have someone who can play it for you right then and there, you should leave.
The webpage for the Kalamamazoo Pipe Band lists many knowledgeable vendors on their "links pages".Copyright S.K. MacLeod 1996-2013