Musette as first instrument.
This page will discuss those pieces that list

the Musette ahead of the Vielle.


For the time being I would refer the reader to the extensive list of repertoire contained in Robert A. Green's excellent book 'The Hurdy-Gurdy in Eighteenth Century France'. The list is much more extended than that for the Vielle and is of just as great an interest, many of the pieces being highly suitable for our instrument.



It may be worth mentioning here that one of the most well known Baroque pieces in the drone instrument repertoire was written for Musette. The work that I am referring to is 'Il Pastor Fido' op.13, believed for centuries to have been composed by Vivaldi and only relatively recently discovered to have been a deliberate fraud perpetrated by Nicholas Chedeville: probably in order to raise the profile of his instrument. For me, this work was my first exposure to the Baroque Vielle in an Archiv recording of 1972 ( Archiv 2533 117) featuring highly satisfying playing in some movements from Rene Zosso.



The musette or court bagpipe is a small but complex instrument. It is animated by means of an under-arm bellows; has a complex and adjustable shuttle drone system that allows choice of drone notes and tuning adjustment; and has a double chanter (melody pipe) in order to provide all the necessary notes of its scale. If anything there are fewer people playing baroque music on this instrument even than those playing the vielle and this is a shame. In principle the combination of vielle and musette is as highly desirable today as it was in the eighteenth-century. I shall again say that I treasure the hope in due course of giving the musette equal status on this website. In the meantime I intend soon to give the reader some idea of what it sounds like by recording Northumbrian small-pipes and vielle together in a duet. Keep an eye on the jukebox.


Since last writing I have met and played with a good musette de cour  player: his instrument being made by Remy Dubois. We played through a variety of pieces by Chedeville and Michon. The well blended sound of the two instruments received a large number of compliments for how well they go together. However, this with the caveat that I had to play with only one chanterelle in order to avoid being too loud and this despite playing at 415hz where the vielle is operating generally quieter. More extensive trials will be required but given that the instrument was made by Dubois I am inclined to consider its volume output as a benchmark against which vielle volume can be measured.



Three interesting technical points emerged.


  1. The low drones on the musette sound much fuller on my recordings than the bourdon on the vielle.
  2. N. said that his teachers and other players ignore musical rests unless they extend for more than one bar. I am inclined to infer from this that whilst observation of rests is possible on the vielle they should not be made if overall musical result becomes unpleasant in consequence.
  3. That by playing the musette with the bell momentarily pressed against the knee one can acquire an effective dynamic reduction. This being particularly useful for echo passages.