The torupill is a type of bagpipe
Bagpipes are a class of musical instrument, aerophones, using enclosed reeds fed from a constant reservoir of air in the form of a bag. Though the Scottish Great Highland Bagpipe and Irish uilleann pipes have the greatest international visibility, bagpipes of many different types come from...

 from Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...


Place in Estonian folk music

It is not clear when the bagpipe became established in Estonia. It may have arrived with the Germans, but an analysis of the bagpipe tunes in West and North Estonia also show a strong Swedish influence.

The instrument was known throughout Estonia. The bagpipe tradition was longest preserved in West and North Estonia where folk music
Folk music
Folk music is an English term encompassing both traditional folk music and contemporary folk music. The term originated in the 19th century. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted by mouth, as music of the lower classes, and as music with unknown composers....

 retained archaic characteristics for a longer time.
Later when the fiddle
The term fiddle may refer to any bowed string musical instrument, most often the violin. It is also a colloquial term for the instrument used by players in all genres, including classical music...

 was taking over folk music a lot of bagpipe tunes were transcribed for it.

Very often the bagpipe was used for playing dance music; other instruments served this purpose only in the absence of the bagpipe. Some old ceremonial dances, such as the Round Dance (Voortants) and the Tail Dance (Sabatants) were performed together with a bagpiper who walked at the head of the column. Ceremonial music took an important place in the bagpipers' repertoires in the 17th c., as seen from the literary sources of that time. For instance, the presence of a bagpiper was considered essential during weddings, where he had to take part in certain ceremonies. There were special tunes, marches
A march or mark refers to a border region similar to a frontier, such as the Welsh Marches, the borderland between England and Wales. During the Frankish Carolingian Dynasty, the word spread throughout Europe....

 or riding melodies that were performed in the wedding procession, etc. The bagpiper was an indispensable participant in dances and social gatherings. He accompanied minstrel
A minstrel was a medieval European bard who performed songs whose lyrics told stories of distant places or of existing or imaginary historical events. Although minstrels created their own tales, often they would memorize and embellish the works of others. Frequently they were retained by royalty...

s during Martinmas and Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

. No pub could manage without a good musician.

One of the most popular players in history has been considered Juhan Maaker
Juhan Maaker
Juhan Maaker niknamed Torupilli-Juss was an Estonian folk musician, a player of the Estonian bagpipe. He was considered one of the most popular players at the time called the king of bagpipe players....

 (1845 - 1930) at the time called the king of bagpipe players in Estonia. Another notable players include Juhan Maaker's nephew Aleksander Maaker
Aleksander Maaker
Aleksander Maaker , nicknamed Torupilli-Sass was a folk musician, a player of the traditional torupill, the Estonian bagpipe. Maaker was from the Estonian island of Hiiumaa...

 (1890-1968). After his death there was only one surviving bagpipe player alive in Estonia: Olev Roomet
Olev Roomet
Olev Roomet was an Estonian musician, a violin player, a player of the torupill and a singer in the State Academic Male Choir of Estonia. He became interested in the Estonian bagpipe in his 50s...

 who became the revivalist of bagpipe in the country by training 25 new players in 1970's.
In modern times bagpipe playing is a part of the curriculum
See also Syllabus.In formal education, a curriculum is the set of courses, and their content, offered at a school or university. As an idea, curriculum stems from the Latin word for race course, referring to the course of deeds and experiences through which children grow to become mature adults...

 at University of Tartu Viljandi Culture Academy's Traditional Music faculty and in a number of regular music schools around the country.


The Estonian bagpipe has a bag, a mouth-pipe (blow-pipe) for inflating the bag, a melody-pipe (chanter
The chanter is the part of the bagpipe upon which the player creates the melody. It consists of a number of finger-holes, and in its simpler forms looks similar to a recorder...

) and 1 or 2, rarely 3, drones.


The bag ("tuulekott", "magu", "kott", "loots", etc.) was usually made of the stomach of a grey seal
Grey Seal
The grey seal is found on both shores of the North Atlantic Ocean. It is a large seal of the family Phocidae or "true seals". It is the only species classified in the genus Halichoerus...

 in the western and northern parts of Estonia and on the islands. Most valued were the stomachs of large old seals. The bag that was made of a seal's stomach, was not spoilt either by aridity or by humidity. A bagpiper of the Hiiu island is known to have said that if his bagpipe (made of a seal's stomach) became wet, it sounded richer because the seal is a sea animal.

The bags were also made of the stomach of an ox, cow, elk
The Elk is the large deer, also called Cervus canadensis or wapiti, of North America and eastern Asia.Elk may also refer to:Other antlered mammals:...

 or dog, but sometimes they were sewn of the skin of a dog, cat, goat or seal (with the fur outward) or even of the skin of a Lynx
A lynx is any of the four Lynx genus species of medium-sized wildcats. The name "lynx" originated in Middle English via Latin from Greek word "λύγξ", derived from the Indo-European root "*leuk-", meaning "light, brightness", in reference to the luminescence of its reflective eyes...


In bag-making certain superstitions were observed. In South Estonia, for example, some thought that the more a dog howled when being hanged, the better the sound of the bagpipe later.

Blow pipe

The blow pipe ("puhumispulk", "naput", "naba", "puhknapp", "napp") was made of wood.


The chanter ("sõrmiline", "putk", "esimik", etc.) was made of juniper
Junipers are coniferous plants in the genus Juniperus of the cypress family Cupressaceae. Depending on taxonomic viewpoint, there are between 50-67 species of juniper, widely distributed throughout the northern hemisphere, from the Arctic, south to tropical Africa in the Old World, and to the...

, pine
Pines are trees in the genus Pinus ,in the family Pinaceae. They make up the monotypic subfamily Pinoideae. There are about 115 species of pine, although different authorities accept between 105 and 125 species.-Etymology:...

, ash or, more seldom, of a tube of cane. It had 5-6 holes. The chanter was single-reeded, generally with a parallel rather than conical bore.

The bottom end of the chanter sometimes had 1 - 2 holes in the side bored obliquely into the pipe, so that some straws or twigs could be put in to control the pitch.

The chanter was placed in an oval wooden stock ("kibu", "kloba", "torupakk", "käsilise pakk").
The stock-end of the chanter contained a reed ("piuk", "keel", "roog", "raag", "vile").


The drones ("passitoru", "pass", "kai", "tori", "pill", "pulk", "toro") were made of wooden pipes, different in shape and diameter.
The number of pipes determined their length. If there is only one, it is quite long, if two, they are both shorter. In some rare cases bagpipes with 3 drones could be found.
The drone consists of 2 - 3 separate joints. In the lower end there is a wooden bell. The joints can be pulled out in order to tune the drone. The drone is placed in an oval or round stock.

Bagpipe tunes

Although they can be quite long sometimes (with 3 passages or more), they remain simple in their structure.

The music for the bagpipe has much in common with the melodies of old Estonian so-called runic songs. A number of tunes, like the instrument itself, are of foreign origin. Supposedly they chiefly derive from Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

. The Swedish influence is suggested by the texts of dance songs for the bagpipe, and the dances themselves also seem to come from Sweden.

From the English translation (by Kustas Tiivas ) of Igor Tõnurist's texts.

Notable players

  • Cätlin Jaago
  • Jaakko Lemmetty
    Korpiklaani is a folk metal band from Finland who were formerly known as Shaman.-Biography:While other folk metal bands began with metal before adding folk music, Korpiklaani started with folk music before turning metal...

  • Lauri Õunapuu
  • Sandra Sillamaa


External links

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