Pipes

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These are the most widespread instruments in Romania with seventeen different types. Many of these designs of pipe are common throughout the Balkans, with Romania having the greatest variety. Instruments are made by the players and by peasant makers, on the days that working in the fields is not possible. The wandering "Vlach" shepherds are known to have sold pipes across Hungary.

The pipes can be sub-divided to some extent by their design. The tube can be either closed or open at the lower end, producing different ranges of notes. Some pipes are known as "end blown flutes" where the air stream is directed at the sharp rim of the upper end of the pipe; others have a simple block in the top with a hole cut just below (similar to an upside-down recorder). Generally if the pipe has six finger holes these are equispaced for small pipes, and in two sets of three for larger pipes. This gives rise to a diatonic scale not conforming to the western tempered scale, but which sounds correct when playing the traditional tunes.

I have categorised the various pipes by construction similarities not including the blowing technique as I suspect that the progression from end blown to block flutes is historical.

The older style of playing uses a guttural singing into the pipe to increase the strength of the sound. This is combined with sharp dynamics and tonguing, to provide a strong rhythm for dancing. Older players play sections of melodic phrases, apparently not to a continuous rhythm, but which are perfectly danceable. Nowadays the preferred sound is a clear melody with clean tonguing of the notes.

With the exception of the nai, the various pipes are generally played by Romanians and are not part of the gypsy taraf.

© Eliznik2005, First issue 2002, Last updated Mar-07