File:Gaiteiros em romaria galega.jpg

The (Galician) gaita or gaita de foles is a traditional bagpipe used in Galicia, and Portugal.

The name gaita is used in Galician, Spanish, Leonese and Portuguese as a generic term for "bagpipe".

Just like "Northumbrian smallpipe"' or "Great Highland Bagpipe", each country and region attributes its toponym to the respective gaita name: gaita galega (Galicia), gaita transmontana (Trás-os-Montes), gaita asturiana (Asturias), gaita sanabresa (Sanabria), sac de gemecs (Catalonia), gaita de boto or gaita aragonesa (Aragón), etc. Most of them have a conical chanter with a partial second octave, obtained by overblowing, in the same way as e.g. the Eastern European gaida. Folk groups playing these instruments have become popular in recent years, and pipe bands for some models.

It is possible that the name originates with the ghaita (also spelled rhaita in Morocco and algaita in Niger) a North African oboe similar to the zurna whose name derives from an Arabic word meaning "farm,", and/or the Eastern European bagpipes bearing similar names, such as gaida, gajda, and gajdy, but the linguistic relationship, if any, between these instruments is still unclear.

The word gaita might also be derived, according to Joan Corominas, from a Gothic root meaning goat (gait or gata), as the bag is a whole, case-skinned goat hide; Gothic was spoken in Spain as late as the eighth century due to Visigothic invasions.

The instrument Edit

The Galician gaita has a conical chanter and a bass drone (ronco) with a second octave. It may have one or two additional drones playing the tonic and dominant notes. Three keys are traditional: D (gaita grileira, lit. "cricket bagpipe"), C, and Bb. Galician pipe bands playing these instruments have become popular in recent years.

The playing of close harmony (thirds and sixths) with two gaitas of the same key is a typical Galician gaita style. Though bagpipes are associated to the traditions of Scotland, they are actually found throughout Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and India, including Aragon, Catalonia, León, Majorca, Zamora and Portuguese Minho, Trás-os-Montes and Extremadura. The term gaita may refer to a variety of different pipes, shawms, recorders, flutes and clarinets in different areas of Spain and Portugal.

The instrument was common and popular by the 15th century, followed by a decline until the 19th century renaissance of the instrument. The early 20th century saw another decline. Then, beginning in about the 1970s, a roots revival heralded another rebirth. The folk revival may have peaked in the late 1990s, with the release of acclaimed albums by Galician Carlos Núñez (A Irmandade Das Estrelas).

Traditional use include both solo performances or with a snare-drum known as tamboril (a wooden natural-skinned drum with gut snares), and the bombo, a bass drum.

Galician bagpipes come in three main varieties, though there are exceptions and unique instruments. These include the tumbal (B-flat), grileira (D) and redonda (C).


The player inflates the bag using his mouth through a tube fitted with a non-return valve. Air is driven into the chanter (Galician: punteiro) with the left arm controlling the pressure inside the bag. The chanter has a double reed similar to a shawm or oboe, and a conical bore with seven finger-holes on the front. The bass drone (ronco or roncón) is situated on the player's left shoulder and is pitched two octaves below the key note of the chanter; it has a single reed. Some bagpipes have up to two more drones, including the ronquillo or ronquilla, which sticks out from the bag and plays an octave above the ronco, or the smaller chillón. These two extra drones are located next to the right arm of the player.

The finger-holes include three for the left hand and four for the right, as well as one at the back for the left thumb. The chanter's tonic is played with the top six holes and the thumb hole covered by fingers. Starting at the bottom and (in the Galician fingering pattern) progressively opening holes creates the diatonic scale. Using techniques like cross-fingering and half-holding, the chromatic scale can be created. With extra pressure on the bag, the reed can be played in a second octave, thus giving range of an octave and a half from tonic to top note. It is also possible to close the tone hole with the little finger of the right hand, thus creating a semitone below the tonic.


Tunes using the gaita are usually songs, with the voice either accompanying the instrumentation or taking turns with it.

The most common type is the muiñeira, a sprightly 6/8 rhythm. Other 6/8 Galician tunes use different steps; they include the carballesa, ribeirana, redonda, chouteira and contrapaso.

Alborada, usually-instrumental tune, most often in 2/4, though sometimes 3/4, and is characterized by a series of descending turning phrases. It is used to begin a day's celebrations, and is played at sunrise.

The foliada is a joyful 3/4 jota-type song, often played at romarías (community gatherings at a local shrine).

Famous gaita players Edit

Galicia Edit

Asturias Edit

See alsoEdit

ca:Gaita de:Dudelsack fr:Gaita gl:Gaita galega it:Gaita galiziana ja:バグパイプ lb:Dudelsak nl:Doedelzak pt:Gaita Galega sl:Dude sv:Säckpipa wa:Pupsak