About Pipe Bands

Everything you need to know about Pipe Bands

Are you new to the world of Scottish Pipe Bands? Want to learn more about Pipe Bands? Get ready to enter into a lively, social, creative, challenging, supportive and rewarding new universe! As you journey deeper into the world that is Scottish Pipe Bands you will meet inspirational people from all over the world. You will create new friendships that last a lifetime, and develop skills you never even knew you had. Welcome and come on in!


One of the best things about pipe bands is becoming part of the Pipe Band community. It is like extending your family. You will make friends for life, coming across people you possibly never would have crossed paths with otherwise. – Dean J. Hall.

On this page you will find a general overview of information about pipe bands. This information has been collected with the aim of providing an introduction to fast-track your entry into the wonderful world that is Scottish Pipe bands.



So what is a Scottish Pipe Band Anyway?

You may have seen a pipe band march past you in a parade, performing at a festival, or playing at a wedding or a funeral. Alternatively, you may have seen them in another traditional setting of a Highland Games event or gathering. There are many events that often call for a pipe band to be present, if not the main event. The sound of the pipes and drums travelling on the wind often evokes strong emotions in those who hear them.

The Typical Composition of a Scottish Pipe Band

Pipe bands as we know them today, typically consist of the following:


The size of a band can vary greatly and members sometimes play or guest play with more than one band. On average, it is widely followed that there should be two Pipers for every one Snare drummer. While the majority of bands have one bass player, two or even three is not unheard of. The tenor drummers are usually one or more per band.

The band and pipers are directed and lead by the Pipe Major of the band. The Drum Corps, which consist of all drummers – snare, tenor and bass – is lead by the Drum Sergeant. The Drum Sergeant works with the Pipe Major to bring out the best in the band as a whole.

See the Roles and Responsibilities tab for more information on the make-up of a pipe band.


A Brief Overview of the History of Pipe Bands

The pipe bands we know today, trace their lineage back to their presence in the military. Here drumming was used to signal tactical movements and to help the soldiers keep time while marching. While drumming has been around since ancient times as a means of communication, the presence of the bagpipes in the military traces their origin back only to the 17th century. (Original source)

It is believed the traditional Scottish Pipe band modelled itself off the Fife and Drums bands which originated in Switzerland in the 15th century.

While the first civilian organisations to start up Pipe Bands were the Police and Fire Brigade.

The music performed by Pipe Bands varies from traditional Scottish and Irish folk tunes and dances, to Western music that has been adapted for pipes and drums. The music is continually evolving, with bands like The Red Hot Chilli Pipers bringing pipe band music into mainstream with adaptations of chart-topping songs and providing the music for the soundtrack of Disney’s movie Brave.



Pipe bands sometimes provide a twist to the traditional music by bringing other instruments such as keyboards, drum kits and string instruments into the mix, usually for special performances and concerts.




Roles and Responsibilities within a Pipe Band

Just like any organised group or activity, Pipe bands require a management structure to be implemented in order to ensure the band is run effectively and efficiently.

The most common model of management structure implemented by Pipe Bands is based upon the hierarchy system used by the military. Other positions within a band are created and allocated on a need by need basis and often reflect positions found in many organisations such as President, Secretary and Treasurer.

Other common roles include: