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The zampogna is a bagpipe found in mountainous regions across Central and Southern Italy, including Sicily. It varies in size, tuning style, and local repertoire but always features two unequal divergent melodic pipes (Baines 1963:95) tuned in either octaves or thirds, and depending on region, anywhere from zero to three drones, most commonly having two drones playing octaves of the dominant (fifth) note of the scale. Melodic pipes are conical and drones consist of two cylindrical parts, the lower of which is wider than the higher section. The melodic pipes and drones are traditionally fitted with double reeds. The surdulina, found in northern Calabria and southern Basilicata, has a slightly different sent up with cylindrical bores and the use of single reeds. Each chanter is played by one hand, with the bass chanter creating a rhythmic/bass accompaniment to the more melodic fingering of the melody chanter. The name ‘zampogna’ most likely derives from the Latin ‘symphonia’ and became a standard name for the bagpipes in Italy from the 15th century onward (Vereno 2022:74).

The zampogna was traditionally played by shepherds and is still used for a variety of cultural practices, devotional and secular. In the Lucania region and parts of Calabria and the Abbruzzi they are often played in a duo formation with a ciaramella/piffero, a double reeded shawm. This duo has become emblematic of the Christmas season, where traditionally dressed pipers walk from village to village playing the ‘novena’, a form of devotional music (Scaldaferri 2022). Zampogna players have secular and religious repertoires. The former is used for the novena and devotional processions, while the latter are used to accompany dancing and singing.

This large zampogna ‘a chiave’ (keyed bagpipe) is most likely from the Lazio or Campania region. According to contemporary zampogna makers such as Sergio di Giorgio, Gianluca Zammarelli, and Marco Tomassi, the instrument is of high quality and extremely well made. The wood turnings, made on a pedal lathe, were fashioned with great care. The bottom of the large bell is covered with metal, to protect the wood from any stress caused by the instrument touching the ground. Overall, this is an important instrument, a fine example of early making techniques.

Zampogna player Tommas Sollazzo from Southern Campania thinks this is a ‘cinque palmi’ (five palm, a form of measurement used for Lucanian bagpipes) in B or Bflat. He notes that the proportions of the instrument place it in the early 1800s. The right semi-melodic pipe is separated, as commonly found on the zampogna, into two pieces: the bell which screws onto the thin body of the bass chanter, also known as the ‘fuso’. In this case, the long, tapered bell of the bass chanter measures 48cm, and the fuso ca. 81cm. As such, the bell is longer than half the length of the fuso, i.e.:

These proportions were common on older instruments. From the mid-18th century onwards, this changed, and the bell measured half the length of the fuso.

Other clues point to the instrument’s old age. The shape of the bell is pear-shaped, as found on early 1800 instruments. Additionally, traces of paint are found all over the instrument: the bells and stock were painted in colored red and black bands, as was common in the 1800s in the Campania area. Another such painted instrument can be found at the Germanisches National Museum (#MIR493). The bass chanter features a key, covered by a piastina, a pierced wooden barrel. The key and key system, however, are original. The key seems to be in the shape of a double-headed animal, possibly an eagle.

(David Marker and Cassandre Balosso-Bardin, 2023)

Technical description

2 separate conical chanters (bass and melody) with flaring semi-closed bells, dark red wood: R 723 mm, 5/1 holes, L 1252 mm, 3/0 holes with 1 rectangular brass key covered with perforated barrel, cane double reed on long lapped iron staple extant in small chanter;
2 drones both in two sections, aesthetically flared, but internally cylindrical bells, cylindrical bores – the top section has a narrower cylindrical bore than the lower section, 274 mm and 722 mm, cane double reeds;
Cylindrical blowpipe 157 mm with leather valve; goatskin bag without cover;
Cylindrical blowpipe stock of light wood stained dark;
Large conical stock and all pipes with turned grooving in various patterns, bells originally colored;
Large chanter with metal reinforcement on end of bell, small chanter with horn mount at joint;
Brass swallowtail key decorated with round indentation.


Baines, Anthony, 1960. Bagpipes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Scaldaferri, Nicola, 2022. ‘The Bagpipes in the Mount Pollino Area (Southern Italy): Morphology and Musical Repertoires.’ In Playing Multipart Music: Solo and Ensemble Traditions in Europe: European Voices IV. Vienna: Böhlau Verlag. pp. 71-93.

Vereno, Michael Peter, 2021. The Voice of the Wind: A Linguistic History of Bagpipes. Lincoln: International Bagpipe Organisation.

Zampogna, Wood, goatskin, metal, Italian

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