There are five separate parts for a sack pipe. This is the bag, the chanter, the blowpipe and three drones. The drones are divided into bass and tenor drones.
The bag is traditionally made of animal skin, depending on the climate in which the instrument is played. Sheepskin is used in humid, cooler climates, such as the United Kingdom. In drier United States, moose or cow dung is sometimes used, and Australians use kangaroo skin. Gortex is an artificial material that is sometimes used to make the bag. All bags must be sealed.
Pipes are made of hard woods. Originally, most Scottish pipes were made of moss, but when trade took tropical hardwoods in Europe, African ebony and Brazilian rosewood were used.
Water pipes have long been used for bagpipes. PVC reeds and brass iron have also become available.
While ivory was the most common material for decorative milling on bagpipes, moose and moose wings are used as a substitute. Many decorations are now made of plastic. Bags are usually covered with velvet with silk or wool ribbons and tassels. The earliest written references to bagpipes occur in Alexandria, Egypt in about 100 BC, although unsubstantiated references to bagpipes may have originated as early as 5,000 BC in ancient China.
Greeks and Romans had bagpipes around 100 AD From there they spread across Europe in the 9th century. In modern times, they are most often associated with Scotland.