Bagpipes – Emotional Hijackers!

What is it about these bags and pipes that have such an emotional impact on us? I know the mythology that surrounds the instrument, the images of foggy hills with brave highlanders. But it seems there is some hard science behind its emotional power. (Link below.)

Why am I bringing up bagpipes, you might ask? Well, I happen to live across the street from a Catholic Church where bagpipes are a frequent part of the funeral services. So, I can be happily going about my work when – suddenly – my emotions get hijacked! There is no defense. I have to open my window and share in the moment. I have to walk around with these feelings of sadness and melancholy and appreciation – and awe. How does one continue with other activities when dealing with these overwhelming feelings? One doesn’t. One reflects – and feels … feels …. the total sweetness and sadness of life – of bravery in a different suit.

A personal experience: Many years ago when I was working at a performing arts center in Maine, I was standing in the narthex (I had to look the word up. It’s the area after you come through the front door and before you go into the church.) with 8 pipers keeping their bagpipes ‘ready’ for a grand entrance. The low drony sound, the quiet puffing and wheezing, the smell – it felt like I was in the belly of a big creature – like an intimate experience with the instrument. 

Some bagpipe reading and viewing for your enjoyment.

Scotland procession – so familiar – so moving. I honestly don’t know if I could survive this huge event. My emotions would be like a popped balloon when it was over.

Amazing Grace – Bagpipe Master

Here’s the Scientific Reason Outlander’s Bagpipes Make You Sad


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  1. Amy Saunders says:

    Hi there. After watching the recent funeral ceremony of Queen Elizabeth II, my husband’s uncle is considering having something similar for his own burial when the time has come (at a much smaller scale, of course). I found it quite fascinating to learn that the sound of bagpipes could actually spark a particular emotion to those who hear it. I’ll find someone on his behalf to provide the right music for the occasion some time later.

    1. SusanAdam says:

      Hi Amy,

      i live across the street from a church – and soooo often I hear bagpipes – and INSTANTLY – I feel sad or at least melancholy.