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The chanter is the part of the bagpipe upon which the player creates the melody. It consists of a number of finger-holes, and in its simpler forms looks similar to a recorder. On more elaborate bagpipes, such as the Northumbrian bagpipes or the Uilleann pipes, it also may have a number of keys, to increase the instruments range and/or the number of keys (in the modal sense) it can play in.

Chanters come in two main divisions, parallel and non-parallel (although there is no clear dividing line between the two) bored. This refers to the shap of the internal bore of the chanter. On the Great Highland Bagpipe, the internal bore is very conical; it is this that gives the Highland pipes their exceptional volume. The Northumbrian pipes, on the other hand, have a parallel bore, giving them a much sweeter and quiter tone.

Chanters are most commonly made of wood, though plastic chanters are much used by pipe bands for their extra volume. Like the rest of the bagpipe, they are often decorated with a variety of substances, including metal (silver/nickel/gold/brass), bone, ivory, or plastic mountings.