A Scottish bagpipe band is a group of musicians who play Scottish bagpipes, along with bass and snare drummers, usually in a marching procession. Most Scottish bagpipe bands consist of several pipers, some side drummers, and bass and tenor drummers. The person leading the general procession is called the drum major or main pipe. Bagpipe bands commonly perform during parades, funerals, military parades, and Scottish Highland Games festivals.
Bagpipe bands can range in size from just 10 players to a maximum of 45 musicians playing at a time. Pipers have a long tradition in Scottish culture. The history of the bagpipe band is steeped in military tradition, and it continues to play an important musical role in the military to this day.
The pipers are the most important element of this type of band, as they develop the harmony and melody of the song. Secondary drummers playing the drums provide the rhythm, and tenor and bass drummers maintain a steady beat out loud for the rest of the band.
Scottish bagpipe bands require all pipers to play in unison, but drone pipes may play only occasionally to give a deeper tone. In general, two-thirds of the pipers play the melody, and one third is responsible for the harmony. Modern bagpipe band arrangements sometimes use a counter-melody, which closely blends the melody and harmony together.
The drummers in a Scottish bagpipe band are also important. Drums are traditionally made from knitted Kevlar, which provides a great deal of tension and a loud crunching noise. Drummers are expected to play complicated rhythms in time with the pipers. Usually, a lead battery creates the overall beat, and the section is expected to follow in response.
Lastly, the brass section of the Scottish tube band must support the entire band with a constant, even rhythm. You can also add some dynamic rhythms or beats to add interest to the arrangement. Tenor drums are a modern addition to these types of bands. Not only do they play the drums, but they also often entertain the crowd by swinging their drumsticks in unison.
Scottish pipe band competitions are a popular pastime in many countries. During spring through early fall, bands from around the world come together to compete, usually at Highland Games festivals. The highest award is the “world champion”. Pipers must perform several series, most of which are chosen by the judges. Grades are generally administered in eight categories, with “Grade One” being the best and “Novice Junior” being the lowest.