This article is from the Bagpipe FAQ, by Denise McNickle email@example.com with numerous contributions by others.
The first thing you'll want to do is get a practice chanter, as you'll
put in a fair amount of time on it before you move on to the pipes. You'll
also use it throughout your piping life, so it may be best to get a good one
right at the start. The practice chanter is just that - a pipe chanter which
is used for practice. It consists of a chanter body, a mouthpiece, and a reed.
Practice chanters come in "short" and "long" sizes, where "long" practice
chanters are those which approximate the size of the real pipe chanter. Many
people advocate the use of a long practice chanter, claiming that it's easier
to transition to the pipe chanter.