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How much do things cost?

“Bless me bagpipes, how much is this going to cost me?!?!”

—Scrooge McDuck

Money, money, money.

Yeah, I get it … it concerns me too. No matter what though, if we have enough of a passion for something then we tend to “find the money” to subsidize it from somewhere. =) Quality of life is a thing, afterall.

But still, it’s good to have an idea where things might go, and the money that’s associated with it. So, how much does this “bagpiping thing” cost?

Well, starting out, not so much. That’s the good news. As time goes forward though, chances are you’ll need to think about grabbing some more stuff along the way.

Keep in mind, you do NOT need to grab all this stuff at once. Get things when you need them, as you need them. And as you would with anything else, shop around for the best price/option for you.

Ok, so … let’s get to it.

More on specific items
and their costs:

Highland Pipes
More on the pipes themselves

Pipe Bags
Bags don’t last forever, sadly … and they’re essential

The vibrating bits that make all sound from the pipes possible

Moisture Control
Things get wet … this stuff helps you deal with it

Misc. Accessories
All the “little things”

Highland Attire
Sometimes you need to look the part

Practice Chanter: Starts at ~$75

As I discuss on the How To Get Started page, all one really needs to get going are Regular Lessons and a practice chanter (which usually costs less than $100).

This is sufficient for most folks through their first 6-12 months. After that, things do start to pick up.

Eventually anyone who really wants to progress will be looking at picking up their first full set of pipes. There’s not only the pipes themselves, but also an assortment of maintenance and upkeep items to think about as well.

Moving on from the practice chanter

In this section of pages I’ll get into some details on the various things any/every piper will have to consider purchasing at some point. The devil’s in the details, so I didn’t want to just rattle off a bunch of figures without explaining.

So here’s a summary below for an overall breakdown, with links going directly to individual pages with more details:

  • Highland pipes (w/ pipe chanter)
    ~$1,000 – $2,000
    Note, this often includes a first bag, especially if buying a set that’s brand new from a retailer.
  • Pipe Bag
    ~$200 – $400
    Lots of different types out there. Most people need to replace once every 2-3 years.
  • Reeds
    ~$15 each for chanter reeds
    ~$100 – $200 per set of 3 drone reeds

    Many people need a new chanter reed every 2-3 months, especially beginners. Others can go between 6 months to a year (or more) without replacing it. With drone reeds, there are lots and lots of different options, though most sets of drone reeds don’t cost much more than $150. These can last for many years with proper care.
  • Moisture control
    ~$50 – $300
    Also lots of options, though most are often a one-time purchase.
  • Misc. accessories
    $250 – $300
    Things such as a case for your pipes, maintenance items, etc. The above is an approximate total of little here-and-there purchases you’ll need to make from time to time.
  • Highland attire
    ~$400 – $750
    Things like kilt, sporran, hose, flashes, ghillies, glengarry, belt, vest. Obviously the price can really vary depending on how much you shop around, and the options you choose. With good care, most of these will normally be a one-time purchase.
A standard, long form practice chanter. This one is made by Gibson Bagpipes.

A full set of Highland pipes made by Murray Huggins of Colin Kyo Bagpipes. Image: ckpipes.com

Chanter reeds as they appear when seated in the chanter. These reeds are made by reed maker David Caldwell. 
Image: caldwellreeds.com

What about smallpipes and border pipes?

Right … the above strictly relates to Highland Pipes.

Smallpipes are a separate issue altogether. Given there are only so many quality makers out there, demand for their pipes tends to be so high that most will have a waiting list of at least a year—and the price tag seems to average around $2,000 to start.

Border pipes are usually even pricier, as there seem to be far fewer makers around who are actively taking orders.

What often seems to happen is those few makers will become slammed with a backlog of orders—eventually the waiting list gets to such a lengthy extent that it’s simply irresponsible to take more orders, and “presto“—the order books are closed.

Me enjoying some tunes on the border pipes during the New England Folk Festival.
Photo: Arthur Ferguson

Consequently, among the best things to do with small/border pipes is to simply keep your eyes out for if/when someone decides to part with a set they no longer play. It happens all the time.

A view of my set of smallpipes, made by Nate Banton. This is a dual A/D set, so there are two chanters, ‘A’ and ‘D’ … and there are four drones.
Image: bantonwoodson.com

My smallpipes came from a fellow up in Alaska who just couldn’t get around to playing them, and listed them online. They were precisely the same sort of set I was prepared to order new, from Banton/Woodson—so I got pretty lucky. Not only did I manage to get a really nice set for a little bit less, but I also didn’t have to wait another two years for my turn on the waiting list.

As I work to get this site loaded with information, I’ll be getting around to adding in a page relating to costs/options for Scottish bellows pipes. In the meantime, if you’re looking for some insight in this area, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

This isn’t the best method to fund your piping pursuits. =)
Image: Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson