Pipe Band Drumming Music – and why it’s so important to be unique.

Have you ever wished you could just get a pipe band drum setting for a pipe tune your band is playing? Or have you ever hoped you could get your hands on a pipe band drum score for a cool solo tune you want to perform at a highland games?

Well, like the rest of us pipe band drummers, you are in the same boat as us. It seems that being a bagpiper is easy – after all, they have a plethora of music books to choose great music from : Old and New!  However, being a pipe band drummer comes as a challenge. Each leading drummer likes to establish his or her own “Style” of drumming, and likes to stamp their authority on it musically and technically. This means they have to take the time to compose a finely crafted drum setting to compliment the bagpipe tune.

Often, bagpipers will ask me, why do drummers not just have a “set” pipe band drum setting? Well, it’s a great question. It really would be fantastic if we had a generic pipe band drum score for every scottish bagpipe tune. However, it would really smother the creativity and passion of pipe band drumming music.

Each Scottish snare drummer is able to express their interpretation of the bagpipe melody.  Many drummers are territorial when it comes to their music, their style and ultimately their scottish snare drum score. Around the highland games, and pipe band contests I have often overheard drummers criticising or bashing other pipe band drum scores. To be honest, I think it is really important to embrace the individuality of each pipe band drummer and their chosen style.

For example, I personally love listening to SFU pipe band, Shotts and Dykehead, Field Marshall Montgomery and St Laurence O’Toole. However, each of these pipe band drumming styles is EXTREMELY different. Jim Kilpatrick, Reid Maxwell, Keith Orr and Stephen Creighton all have unique musical styles and drum settings. However, they are all equally interesting and refreshing. How boring would it be if we all had to play one style?

It would be fair to say that Pipe band drumming music has been shaped by a handful “pipe band legends” over the past 100 years. Alex Duthart, John Seton, Alex McCormick, Bert Barr, Bobby Rea, Paul Turner, Harold Gillespie, Jim Kilpatrick, Reid Maxwell, John Scullion and Joe Noble to name a few. All of these pipe band snare drummers have influenced todays style. I would have to say that my own pipe band drumming “style” is heavily influenced by a mixture of drumming mentors.  I thoroughly enjoyed listening to many of the Worlds best pipe band drummers as a youngster. Little did I know at that age, that I was absorbing their style and expression into my subconscious memory. Today, I often get remarks from listeners that my drum scores remind them of one drummer, and another bystander will say they get flashbacks of a totally different drummer from years past.

Many people contact me asking for pipe band drum scores for settings. I have managed to build up a very extensive pipe band drum score collection throughout the years. I also get many people asking me to transcribe scores from a top band that they heard on a CD – I really enjoy composing – it’s almost therapeutic!

Nowadays, pipe band drummers have lots of great tools at their fingertips. You should check out the amazing pipe band drum scores with the links below.

Whatever you do – embrace all of the pipe band drumming styles and enjoy them for what they are.

The Pipe Band Drum Score Collection for Grade 4

The Royal Ulster Constabulary Drum Scores

The Alex Duthart Pipe Band Drumming Books

Learn Pipe Band Drumming Collection

8 thoughts on “Pipe Band Drumming Music – and why it’s so important to be unique.

  1. Good blog there and a good opportunity to join in and share with the broader readership.

    As a drummer, i have played in corps led by many “greats” Joe Noble, Jim Kilpatrick, Tom Brown and Gordon Brown. All World champions.

    The blog makes mention of pipe band drumming legends and Wilson Youngs book has them all listed cover 100 years. Its a good buy for anyones collection.

    One true legend as confined by many of these greats is Tom Brown. Tom has won every major drumming title into double figures and is best known for teaching method and ability.

    To name a few, Tom has taught his son Gordon Brown and nephew Jim Kilpatrick – both multi winning world champions. Tom has also taught more other winners of major titles than any other. In fact we heard Paul Turner at a recent wolds week concert confirm this. Bert Barr a close friend of Toms claims Brown as a legend in producing so many players that have picked up world titles at the world solo events- no less than 15 different people has been mentioned.

    The blog refers to the many available resources. Great signposting here and i see drumming on demand carries the work of the current world solo champion- Steven McWhirter and the current world and champion of champion drum corps led by Gordon Brown.

    There is so much out there and i would recommend to people to access all the resources available and tutors.

  2. Stevie

    Thanks very much for your comments. I have to totally agree with you on all fronts. Tom Brown is an outright living legend of the pipe band drumming world. I recall listening to his scores as a kid – and loved them. Tom has ALWAYS made time for youngsters – showing them the ropes and guiding them in the right direction.

    Pipe Band drumming should be very thankful for Tom and Gordon Brown.

    People should check out the Boghall and Bathgate Pipe Band Website


    • Yes Doug. There are scores written for these “massed pipe band tunes”. I think having these pipe band drum scores in generic form are great as it allows many pipe band drummers to perform together at a highland games or pipe band event.

      • I know this is a little off topic, but I think our massed band scores are too settled into tradition. It is necessary to have generic drum scores for massed performance to simplify the logistics of putting on a massed presentation; but I think the most commonly used massed band scores are much too difficult to present a massed and musical presence for the audience. In fact, here in Ontario the society has put out a message stating that massed band scores are too difficult for Grade 5 competition, but we require the bands to play them when participating in massed bands where unison playing is at its most difficult. Why are we so care free about our musicality on the largest stages we perform.
        I understand that getting all the bands around the world to change their massed scores would be an incredible undertaking, but it seems necessary to show musical respect to our audience and dispel the general idea that pipe bands are just fancy marching groups.

      • Eric – i have to agree in a lot of ways with you. I personally have made the pipe band massed band scores a little easier. I also have some VERY simple generic scottish snare scores to get my kids going.

        It would be great to see associations around the World making the massed band drum scores much easier.

      • I would also like to see simple, standardized tenor swings for massed performance. I know that societies have attempted this before, but there seems to be some inability to enforce the scores.

  3. I’ve always been of the opinion that the drumming scores give a band a particular sound. I enjoy writing scores for the challenge of bringing out the pipe tune with my settings. Standardization would certainly make for a boring world.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s