The shuttle-drone

This uniquely-shaped drone which is not found in other types of bagpipe, was probably invented in the 16th century, and many changes to it were made during the 17th century.
shuttle-drone is equipped with 4 (or 5) double reeds and can produce 4 (5) different tones at the same time. The end of the drone with the double reeds in it is set into the inside of the bag, so the reeds are not visible from the outside.


The shuttle-drone system of the musette is very unusual amongst the bagpipe family.
In the shutle-drone, a number of cylindrical tunnels ranging from approximately 3-5 mm in diameter are bored through the wooden block. The tunnel endings which are not fitted with reeds are corked up at both ends of the block, however, some of the tunnels are connected underneath the cork in order to obtain the necessary length of bore for the different pitches required for the drone-sound.
There are several grooves down the outside of the shuttle-drone, and one or more slits cut into the internal bore (tunnel) down each of the grooves.
A slider (or sometimes more than one slider), called a
layette is set into each groove. The position of the slider on the slit controls the intonation of the drone sound by making the tunnel longer or shorter. The slider can also cut off the drone sound by closing the slit completely.
The air from the bag enters via the reeds, passes through the tunnels and out through the portions of the slits on the side of the block which are not covered by the sliders.

The concept of the internal shuttle bore system was also used in the rackett (a double reed instrument in the renaissance and baroque periods). However, whereas the shuttle-drone of the musette has four cylindrical bores (as explained above), the rackett was made up of only one continuous conical bore.

The shuttle-drone of the musette in the first published method on this instrument "Traité de la musette" (Lyon, 1672)
(7) by Borjon has many sliders.
Sixty-six years later Hotteterre le Romain says in his method "Méthode pour la musette" (Paris, 1738)
(1)that he had once seen a drone which had nine grooves and twelve sliders (!) but that was an old-style type.

Hotteterre also explains how the old-style musette's drone could be set for the major/minor modes of C, G, D, A, B flat and F. (chapter XVI, p.74 (1)),

This "old-style" drone could therefore be set to play in a variety of different keys, however the musette has a crucial issue which is that the drone setting must be well suited to the tonality of the chanter.

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Copyright: Naoki Ueo 2000