Bulgarian Bagpipe – Bulgarian Folk Instruments
One of the best-known Bulgarian folk instruments is the Gaida or the Bulgarian bagpipe.
In fact, it’s rare to see a traditional wedding ceremony that doesn’t include this instrument.
Shepherds used to keep these instruments with them as they tended their herd.
Today, the Gaida bagpipe is usually played solo or alongside a big drum.
It’s also common to see the instrument featured in smaller village-based orchestras.
As is the case with every Bulgarian folk instrument, there are a lot of regional variations of the Gaida.
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The Regional Variations of the Gaida – Bulgarian Bagpipe
These instruments have their own unique style.
Still, they all have a few things in common: a drone, a chanter, a blowpipe, and a white bag made from kidskin.
Not all Gaida sound the same.
Pipes that come from the western Slope region tend to have a low pitch, while pipes from eastern regions like Dobrudja and Thrace are usually fairly high.
Original Picture by Kaba-Gaida.
In the Rhodope region within the south Bulgarian mountains, Gaida features massive goatskin bags.
These Bulgarian bagpipes have a very low pitch.
It’s common to see people playing these pipes in groups, whether the group is a duo, a trio, or slightly larger.
One well-known ensemble in this region is “Sto Gaidi.”
Their name translates to “One Hundred Gaidas.”
Typically, a modern Gaida would include two drones and three chanters.
With an instrument like this, a player should be able to perform music from every Bulgarian region.
Bulgarian Bagpipes’ Chanter – “Gaidunitsa”
The thing that sets this instrument apart is the chanter, which is known as the “gaidunitsa.”
These chanters have the range of a full chromatic scale.
It can change in seven subtle ways.
It is comfortable to hold and grip thanks to the curved tone holes.
One of the unique details this instrument has is the tiny metal pipe that sits at the top of the bore.
This is referred to as the “flea hole.”
This is the reason the instrument has such an impressive range.
It’s common to see these pipes trimmed with a material like metal or ox horn.
They may also feature some intricate combing or grooving.
The south Bulgarian Kaba-gaida is absolutely massive.
It has just one drone, and that drone spans more than four feet.
The tone of this Gaida is deep and rich.
The gaidanitsa is usually round, but in this case, it is hexagonal. It also features rich ornamentation.
The Bulgarian Folk Instruments – Gadulka
Today, it’s hard to name a folk instrument that’s as popular as the gadulka.
It’s a very loud instrument, but its tone is fairly warm, giving it a soothing sound.
Singers are often accompanied by this instrument.
It’s also common to see it played in smaller orchestras.
It’s common for folk musicians to craft their own instruments.
Musicians typically follow the practices of their region when making an instrument.
With that said, there are also professional instrument makers that are very well known.
Most musicians play one of two types of gadulkas.
In both cases, the instruments are made using a single block of hardwood.
The large blocks are hollowed out into a pear-like shape.
From there, they are carved and then covered with faces made from softwood.
The more common type of gadulka features three strings.
It is tuned A’EA. There are approximately 12 additional strings on the instrument.
The less common type is only played in the Dobrudjan region of Bulgaria, which is near the Black Sea.
This small gadulka has three strings, which are typically tuned to EAA’.
Gadulkas are tucked into a belt or shoulder strap when they are played.
They are bowed horizontally, not vertically.
The Bulgarian Folk Instruments – Tambura
Another popular Bulgarian folk instrument is the Tambura.
It’s similar to the gadulka in a lot of ways.
For example, they are both curved and pear-shaped.
However, unlike the gadulka, this instrument has a very bright tone.
It’s been compared to the sound of a banjo.
It’s often used to play melodies but is also used for chords.
Like a mandolin, this instrument has double-coursed strings.
However, the way the strings are tuned is more similar to a guitar.
The Bulgarian Folk Instruments – Kaval
Another shepherd’s instrument that is popular in Bulgaria is the Kaval.
This instrument is an end-blown flute that frequently accompanies singers.
The instrument is also played in both small and larger orchestras.
It’s popular all across Bulgaria.
Varieties of playing techniques are used.
In the east, it’s common to see players use an ornamented style.
In the West, a staccato style is more common.