Thursday, September 16, 2010


Having played in Pipe Bands for over 34 years, with almost 20 of those as a Pipe Major, it strikes me that there is a very different art form to playing in a band, than being in a role that involves conducting and driving a performance.


Having recently played in a pipers role, it was essential that I attended practice with a bagpipe set up as the band wanted and in perfect condition. Why should the Pipe major spend time working with my instrument when obviously there are more pressing issues. Before each practice my instrument was given a short blow just to ensure it was sounding at its best and steady.

Personal practice.

Working on the tunes at home is important to ensure that band practice becomes a musical rehearsal and not a private lesson for one or two individuals. I do not know of any musicians who do not do private practice and still adequately perform at rehearsals.


When the band is playing, spending your time watching the Pipe Major (who is conducting the band) is essential. Instead of just standing and playing the tunes, it is important to watch the Pipe Major's hands and try to play as closely as possible to his style and example. This way you improve at a rehearsal without someone having to intervene.


Next it is important to use your ears. Listen to the sound of your instrument and compare it to the sound of the band overall and also to the musicians on each side of you. You need to blend as closely as possible with both. If there is an issue around you, it will be your experience and listening to the overall sound that will guide you and ensure that you contribute to the sound and not detract from it.

Be an anchor.

You must also contribute to the musical performance. watching the Pipe Major will help, but there are times when bands increase tempo and rush to the ends of parts or tunes. The experienced player will not be dragged along, but will hold back, still ensuring that they do not stand out as an individual in the performance.

Attacks and finishes.

Attacks and finished are all important. These are learnt through drilling and discipline. You should practice them and try to improve them every time they are undertaken. Good instrument maintenance, knowledge and understanding help tremendously.

Attend regularly.

Without all members present practices are difficult. It is not just you that is practicing, but the whole team that is learning to perform together. You would be surprised how ineffective a practice is in reality with one or two players missing.


Most bands struggle to raise money and attract new members. You should realise as a member of a band it is you that "owns" the band and as such you can contribute to recruiting, fundraising and the overall impression the band leaves on outsiders.

Enjoy the privilege.

playing in a band is a privilege. The senior members of bands put in huge efforts and sacrifice a lot to make the bands a success. Ensure that you contribute and you will enjoy your involvement and success of the band.


  1. Well said Brett. I'll print out some copies for the band!

  2. Good article Brett, I have referred them here

  3. Excellent Brett. Thank you.

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