Category Archives: Hornpipes



Name: Pibgorn.
Type: Aerophones > Reeds > Hornpipes.
Hornbostel Sachs No#: 422.211.2
Country: Whales.
Region: Western Europe.

Description: The pibgorn is a Welsh heteroglot reed idiophone. The name translates literally as “pipe-horn”. It is also historically known as cornicyll and pib-corn. It utilizes a single reed [Welsh: “cal”, or “calaf”] cut from elder [Sambucus nigra] or reed [Arundo phragmites], like that found in the drone of a bagpipe, which is an early form of the modern clarinet reed.

Early History: The pipes in Wales, of which the pibgorn is a class, are mentioned in the laws of Hywel Dda [d. 949–50]. The earliest transcription of these dates from 1250 and specify that “the King should recognize the status of a Pencerdd.

The second in importance of the three court musicians, namely; Bardd Teulu, Pencerdd and Cerddor in his service by giving him an appropriate instrument – either Harp, Crwth or Pipes.” In modern Welsh orthography these three instruments are called telyn, crwth and pibau. Peniarth 20 [Brut y Tywysogion] c 1330, states that there are three types of wind instrument: “Organ, a Phibeu a Cherd y got”, “organ, and pipes and bag music”.

However, the instrument itself is older than these references, and is part of a pattern of distribution of similar idioglot reed-pipes, hornpipes and bag-hornpipes throughout Asia, Europe and North Africa that includes the “Old British pibgorn or hornpipe” alboka, arghul, boha and others.

William Morris writes in a letter to his brother the folklorist Richard Morris in 1759: “[Translated]How pleasing it was to see the young farmworkers with their pibau cyrn [horn pipes] under their arms….gathering the cows and piping ‘Mwynen Mai’ and ‘Meillionnen’.

According to Daines Barrington, who presented the pibgorn specimen shown at the Museum of Welsh life to Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries of London, an Anglesey landowner called Mr Wynn of Penhesgedd, offered an annual prize for pibgorn playing towards the end of the eighteenth century.

One such competition at Castellior Farm attracted 200 players. There is a further description by Siôn Wiliam Prichard [1749-1829] of Christmas celebrations on the Castellior farm where the pibgorn and other instruments were played. Barrington described the tone of the instrument as played to him: “by one of the lads [who had obtained the prize]… considering the materials of which the pibgorn is composed is really very tolerable”

David Griffith Clwydfardd [D. 1894] recalls his father telling him that “playing the Pibgorn was a common thing in those days in the South and that farmers’ servant men were in the habit of carrying them with them when driving cattle to the fairs.”

Construction: The single chambered body of the elder pipe has a naturally occurring parallel bore, into which are drilled six small finger-holes and a thumb-hole giving a diatonic compass of an octave. The body of the instrument is traditionally carved from a single piece of wood or bone. Playable, extant historical examples in the Museum of Welsh Life have bodies cut and shaped of elder. Another, unplayable instrument at the Museum, possibly of a later date, is made from the leg bone of an unspecified ungulate.

Contemporary instruments are turned and bored from a variety of fruitwoods, or exotic hardwoods; or turned from, or moulded in plastics. The reed is protected by a reed-cap or stock of cow-horn. The bell is shaped from a section of cow-horn which serves to amplify the sound. The pibgorn may be attached to a bag, with the additional possibility of a drone, which is then called pibau cwd; or played directly with the mouth via the reed-cap.

Citations: Bibliography: Bagpipes by Anthony Baines. Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, Occasional papers on technology series, 9 ISBN 0-902793-10-1 ; The Old British “Pibcorn” or “Hornpipe” and its affinities. By Henry Balfour, Esq., M.A., F.Z.S © 1891 Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland ; Harper, Sally. “Instrumental Music in Medieval Wales.” North American Journal of Welsh Studies, Vol. 3, no. 1. Flint, MI: North American Association for the Study of Welsh Culture and History, 2004 ; Websites:


Name: Zhaleika.
Type: Aerophones > Reeds > Hornpipes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 422.211.2
Country: Russian Federation.
Region: Eastern Europe.

Description: The zhaleika [in Russian: Жалейка zhaleika] other names are as брёлка or bryolka, Zhalomeika, sopel’, pishchelka, fletnya, duda. It is a single reed instrument belonging to the same family as the crumhorn. There is a single and double pipe variety of zhaleika. Although the double pipe zhaleika is mainly found.

Etymology: The word zhaleika [in Russian: Жалейка] is derived from Slavonic zhal, which may translate as ‘sad, sorrowful and mournful, also the root of zhalnik [‘a grave’]. Inhabitants of northern Belarus remember that the zhaleika could be heard during burial ceremonies in the 1930s.

The term golos [‘voice’] as applied to Belarusian instruments is related to the belief that some instruments arose from trees growing on the graves of murdered children. The soul and voice of the child were thought to move first into a sacred tree, then into the instruments made from its wood. Thus, an instrument with an extraordinary and distinctive voice is an integral feature of ancient Belarusian burial rituals.

History: The zhaleika was a shepherd’s instrument used to perform solos, duets or ensemble pieces. The earliest single-reed pipe instruments date back to about 2700 BCE in Egypt, where most of these instruments most commonly had double pipes and used idioglot reeds. The earliest evidence of the zhaleika was in A. Tuchkov’s notes dating back to the late 18th Century.

The zhaleika was widely spread in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Lithuania but now can only be seen in folk music orchestras. In 1900, V. V. Andreyev incorporated a modified zhaleika – called bryolka – into orchestras. It consisted of a double-reed oboe type with additional finger holes and vents for chromatic scale.

Tuning: The zhaleika has diatonic tuning and comes in various keys [G / A / D or sometimes C / E / F ]. It has a natural or “normal” soprano voice, but can perform in alto or piccolo forms. It is tuned by adjusting the reed and can be turned to the major scale or mixolydian mode with flattened 7th note. Only an octave’s worth of notes can be played. Its timbre is described as “piercing and nasal, sad and compassionate”.

Construction: The zhaleika consists of a single reed that can be covered by a mouthpiece [or “wind cap”]. Consisting of a wooden tube with finger holes and a flared bell that can be made of either natural from wood, horn, cane or goose feather or man-made materials. The single pipe zhaleika is about 10 cm 20 cm long with a reed made out of either cane or goose feather with an end bell; it is made of cow horn or birch bark with 3 to 7 finger holes.

Citations: Bibliography: O Kroll, 1968 – The Clarinet. New York, NY: Taplinger Publishing Company ; Websites: article by Inna D. Nazina Zhaleika ~ Grove Dictionary Of Music ;


Name: Alboka.
Type: Aerophones > Reeds > Hornpipes.
Hornbostel Sachs No#: 422.211.2
Country: Basque.
Region: Iberian Peninsula & Western Europe.

Description: The Basque alboka is a single-reed woodwind instrument consisting of a single reed, two small diameter melody pipes with finger holes and a bell traditionally made from animal horn. Additionally, a reed cap of animal horn is placed around the reed to contain the breath and allow circular breathing for constant play. In basque language alboka player have the name albokari.

Although native to the Basque region, similar instruments can be found around Spain including Madrid [gaita serrana], Asturias [turullu] and Castile and Andalusia [gaita gastorena]. But in those cases they only have a single pipe. The name is derived from the Arabic “al-bûq” [البوق], which means “the trumpet” or “the horn”.

The alboka was established in Spain by the end of the 13th-century. Representations of it can be found in the “Poema de Alexandre” and surviving medieval sculptural church decorations

Construction: The alboka has two cane pipes, a wood handle, and a horn at each end. It may be descended from the Moroccan double hornpipe, which has two cane pipes, each cane pipe is fitted with a cow horn.

Citations: Bibliography: Websites: