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P I P E S   A N D   D R U M S


Why does listening to Pipe Band music want to make you tap your foot and start dancing or stand up and start marching along? Pipe Bands play tunes from a variety of genres of pipe music that differ in speed, technique and mood.

Light Music (Ceol Beag)

This is the type music usually heard in bands and popular recordings

• Marches: 2/4 March, 4/4 March, or 6/8 March

• Airs: Slow Air, Waltz, or Retreat-slower moving marches.

Dance Music

This is the type of music usually heard for Highland Dancing or at Ceilidh gatherings. Some tunes in this category originated as fiddle tunes and were transposed to pipe music.

Piobaireachd (Ceol Mohr)

Piobaireachd, pronounced "peeb-roch" (almost rhyming with "rock") is the traditional form of pipe music that has been around for hundreds of years. It is also called "Ceol Mohr" or great music.

Piobaireachd is different from light music (ceol beag) in several ways. A Piobaireachd has a theme with variations on the theme. There is no steady rhythm and is purely expressive. Usually played by a solo piper, these tunes have an historical background honoring an event or person. "Lament for Mary MacLeod" is an example of a Piobaireachd.

Learning How to Play Bagpipes

The Scottish Highland Bagpipe is a wonderful instrument that brings the piper into a unique world of music, history, and travel. It gives one an experience that will become a valued part of your life!

However, learning how to play the Scottish Highland Bagpipe is a bit of a challenge. First, you need to blow up your bag and get the four reeds sounding with a steady tone. Next you need to play your tunes, correctly from memory. And, oh yes, your timing must be accurate especially if you are playing with others.

Dividing the process down into manageable goals is necessary. For new learners, trying to pick up a bagpipe and play it with no help, would be similar to picking up a vacuum cleaner and trying to play a tune on it.

This is why good pipers start on the Practice Chanter, a recorder-like instrument that allows the student to master the unique finger movements as they build up their lungs, become familiar with the tunes and the timing, and learn more about what is involved with be coming a piper.

As you can guess, this is not an instrument to learn on your own. With Crow Creek Pipes and Drums, we have teachers available to instruct new students. Students will need to purchase a Practice Chanter and the National Piping Centre's Highland Bagpipe Tutor Book 1.

• The Piper's Hut: www.thepipershut.com
• Pipers' Dojo: www.pipersdojo.com
• Hendersons: www.hendersonsgroupltd.com

These suppliers currently have the best prices and chanters available in both adult and child sizes. For the beginner, a plastic chanter is best. Do not purchase a Pakistani chanter because it cracks easily.

Group lessons are offered on Saturdays, 12pm -1pm. For those interested in receiving private lessons, many band members teach at other times during the week. Click here for more information on group lessons.

Learning How to Play Drums

The Drum Corps is an integral part of the Pipe Band. A Pipe Band usually has three types of drums which includes the Bass Drum, the Tenor Drum, and the Side (Snare) Drum. Drums provide the rhythm, beat, and musical dynamics that the Pipe Corps cannot provide. A Pipe Band Drum Corps is designed to provide these components of a performance and complement the Pipe Band sound and melody. These music scores are arranged into parts and sections that fit the tune that is being performed. To provide the excitement and to enhance the dynamics, the scores have areas that allow the music to move back and forth between the entire Drum Corps playing to only the lead drummer playing.

• Strathspey: A dance tune in 4/4 time. The music has a “swing” to it.
  The “Highland Fling” is an example of a Strathspey

• Reel: The fastest of pipe tunes played in 2/2 or 2/4 time.

• Hornpipe: A dance tune in 4/4 time. “The Sailor’s Hornpipe” is an example
  of a Hornpipe.

• Jig: A dance tune in 6/8 time. “The Irish Jig” is an example of a jig.
Courtesy Bob White

Scottish Side (Snare) Drum
These drums provide the crisp, sharp drumming sound that is prevalent in pipe bands. This crisp sound is a result of having extremely tightly wound Kevlar heads and a double snare, one on the top head and one on the bottom. These high tension heads and snares allows very intricate and complex rhythms to be played while complimenting the pipe tune. Execution, technique, and unison is of the utmost importance to snare drummers as they provide quite a dramatic and complex drum component to the pipe band sound. Much like the bass drum, snares help provide a steady beat and pulse. Side (snare) drummers begin drumming on a "practice pad" and with Scottish snare drumming sticks. The student will have to learn many of the techniques and mechanics of the music before becoming fluent in playing the scores. For drummers with previous experience, Scottish snares demand excellent snare drumming technique and require drummers to play in the "traditional drumstick grip".

Tenor Drum
The tenor drum provides rhythm and helps support both the bass and the snare line. A large responsibility of the tenor drummer is to provide a visual component to the pipe band. This is done by "flourishing" which is accomplished through high-speed twirling of tenor mallets. Originally used as visual signals in military bands, flourishing has become a highly specialized art form allowing midsections to add a visual representation of the music while helping accent the snare line. These mallets often come with tassels and colors, which really help accentuate the visual effect. Flourishing styles can vary between pipe bands. Each tenor drum is tuned to a different pitch on the pipe chanter to create harmonic and melodic accompaniment along with the bass. Students will need tenor mallets and will spend time learning how to properly hold the mallets while developing proper flourishing technique in order to provide the musical and visual effect that is provided by the tenor drummers.

Bass Drum
The bass drum provides the "heartbeat" of the pipe band. It is a very crucial part of the pipe band as it provides the beat in which the entire pipe band and the drum corps builds its music around. As such, the musical demands of the bass drum are of extreme importance. The bass drummers have to provide a steady, reliable beat throughout performances. The bass drum is also part of the midsection which includes the tenor drums. The bass drum is generally tuned to the bagpipe's drones allowing it to create voiced interplay between the pipes, tenors, and snares. Bass drummers are expected to march in time and provide a beat while carrying the heaviest instrument of the band. Bass drum students will need bass drum mallets to begin. From there they will spend much time developing a sense of good timing. They will also need to understand the desired pipe band effects within the music before becoming a performer.