LAUNCH – Scottish Drumming Certificate

cert7You can now gain qualifications in Scottish drumming through the official Pipe Band Drumming Certificate course. Starting from the very beginning, you will be guided through the online course with comprehensive work books – including practical and theory. Once you are ready, you will then sit your examination in person or via Skpe. You can go through each level as quickly or as leisurely as you choose, there are no time restraints whatsoever. If you would like more help then one-on-one Skype tuition is available – please just let us know.

If you want to ensure that you are learning correctly and to measure your progress then achieving a graded certificate will give you the depth of knowledge you require. Examiners will award a fail, pass, merit or excellence for each level based on your performance.

Simply purchase the level of certificate you would like to attain. You can purchase Levels 1 -5 individually, or as a package.  Once you purchase the Scottish Drumming Certificate you will receive an email with your download link providing you with instant access to the program.

Have an amazing Christmas and here’s to a great year in 2016.


A blast from the past …

ImageI totally believe in watching videos or listening to tracks that make you feel good or act as a source of inspiration.

A clip I go back to often is the 78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band – Walking the Plank medley, from the 1998 World Pipe Band Championships.

Musicality, excitement, innovation, tone … it has it all.


Pipe Band Drummers – Get REAL results in 2014.

Let’s face it – we all want to see positive results.

Make sure that you get a head start with the Worlds Best Selling Pipe Band Drumming book. Even better, set yourself the 30 day challenge and take your drumming to a whole new level. Simply drum for 30 minutes each day, focusing on sections of the Guide to Pipe Band Drumming.

Check out the Guide to Pipe Band Drumming, and join 1000’s of other drummers on the 30 day Challenge.



Strathspeys – a bagpiper’s point of view

Following on from the last blog post on Strathspey playing I have managed to get some great information from Richard Hawke, Pipe Major of Canterbury Caledonian Pipe Band and Gold Medallist.  He kindly passed on this information after discovering it some time ago – it was written by Lorne Cousin (Madonna’s Piper!) and Richard has re-worded it slightly to suit his style.

  • This article is written from the solo player’s perspective and is intended to assist the piper to bring out the musical and enhance his or her technique when performing this most classic idiom of bagpipe music. Generally speaking, the points will be relevant to pipe band playing although it should be noted that bands play Marches, Strathspeys and Reels at a faster tempo. This is not a criticism, merely an observation.

    Ceolas Tune index describes the Strathspey as “A tune, generally in 4/4 with considerable melodic content and highly irregular timing. It is considered characteristic of the Strathspey that a cut note often precedes a dotted one.” “Additional interest can be added by accenting particular notes, either by lengthening them (particularly when playing the pipes) or by playing them more loudly. The dotted notes in a strathspey, particularly those falling on the first and third beats of a measure are lengthened more than the single dot would suggest. Such dotted notes should be considered as double dotted.”

    In other words the Strathspey is unique to the Highland Bagpipe in the world of music in its rhythm and expression. It is in Common or 4/4 time. There are 4 quarter notes (or crotchets) to the bar and four beats to the bar. The dotted noted should be held and the cut notes cut quite markedly giving a bright, bouncy rhythm.

    The tempo amongst competitors varies from 114 to 120 BPM.

    To reiterate, the Strathspey is a dance tune and should be played as such. It is generally accepted that the accent should be “Strong, weak, medium, weak.” This however is very hard to produce in reality and the best course is perhaps to put the strongest emphasis on the first beat of each bar.

    The bouncing ball analogy is often used to highlight the lift or bounce that good strathspey rhythm should produce. A good method of improving your strathspey playing is to play for Highland dancers particularly experienced ones. A regular even beat is essential, and any expression should never compromise this.

    Special attention should be given to doublings in a strathspey particularly those preceding low A. Do not cut or snatch at these doublings too much and practice them by lifting the fingers higher for both G and D gracenotes in the doubling.”

    Some food for thought!!

Pipe Band Drumming – do we ever stop learning …

Pipe band drumming workshops and scottish drumming clinics are always a great source of inspiration for the attendees AND the instructors.  I have been fortunate enough to have been on both sides of the table.  I recall as a young pipe band drummer going along to scottish drumming schools or clinics.  It was the most amazing opportunity for me to pick the brains of the tutors and learn what I could to improve my playing.

As a young pipe band snare drummer, I didn’t have the most refined technique – in fact it was pretty average (actually it wasn’t pretty at all!!) and instead, I focussed on the pipe band drum scores.  At those initial workshops, I would simply want to collect as many scores as possible and play through Hornpipes, Jigs and Reels.  Little did I realise, that to get better at the “fun” stuff, I had to improve my technique.

What is technique? Well, it’s simple really.  It’s how you hold your scottish snare drum sticks, the position of them and the balance.  And it’s also how you propel and catch each and every stroke.  It sounds like something you can cover in a 30 minute session drumming lesson but in fact it’s something that pipe band drummers must continually work at.

I recall sitting down with pipe band drumming legend, Jim Kilpatrick, three years ago.  It was the very first time I had sat one-on-one with him and it was enlightening.  Within minutes I was fully aware that I was gripping the sticks too tightly, working too hard and generally being too tense.  Jim, in his relaxed and professional teaching approach, showed me some fantastic scottish drumming technique exercises.  He made it all look so simple.  I found it very difficult!  I have shared this story before, and many people have responded – “But you have won the world pipe band championships several times before, why change what you are doing?!”.  Well, simply – I want to learn and I want to improve.

All musicians (including bagpipers and scottish drummers) should be on a mission to constantly improve.  Once you lose your appetite to learn – you may as well give up.  This past weekend in New Zealand, Jim Kilpatrick taught at the World Masters Workshop for bagpipers and pipe band drummers.  I had the fortune to sit in on one of his technique classes.  I felt my technique was more relaxed and fluid than our session a few years ago. However, I also realised how far I have to go and Jim was able to challenge me on other areas – including mental strength whilst playing.  He also admitted to the class that he is on a relentless journey to learn and improve his technique and understanding of pipe band drumming.

My greatest joy in pipe band drumming is not competing.  It is teaching. Teaching pipe band drumming to enthusiastic students is the most rewarding part of my career.  For all you pipe band drummers out there who teach, I hope you are still passionate about learning – that way, you will be sure to pass on a solid and rounded approach to your pipe band drumming students.

The journey of learning pipe band drumming continues for me … almost 20 years on!

Do you want to learn pipe band drumming? Check out the Guide to Pipe Band Drumming Books.

10 Ways to Optimise your practice

I thought you all (bagpipers and drummers) might appreciate this – especially you pipe band folk from the northern hemisphere who are about to start the “off season”.  A great website called put this little blog together.  Check out their website!

  1. Find somewhere quiet. This seems too obvious for words, but not only will you be far less likely to succumb to all sorts of distractions, but entering a special practice area, whether it’s a certain room or just a corner of the living room, will help prepare you mentally for this very particular kind of work. Mindful intention is everything, and having the ritual of going to the same place every time can help set that intention.
  2. Have your supplies nearby. I really love cellist David Finckel’s“Cello Talks” 100-video series on YouTube; you don’t have to play cello to get a lot out of many of them. Some of what he covers seems like impossibly basic advice — as in the discussion (below) of his practice space. Part of his advice is to keep a pencil sharpener and a very clean eraser within arm’s reach, along with a pencil to mark up your music. Simple, right? But those little things are easy to forget, and if you have to go searching for them, add up to a big waste of time.
  3. Technology can be an amazing aid — as long as you don’t spend too much time futzing with it. Three free or low-cost apps I have on my phone and iPad: a metronome, a tuner and a timer, which are all essential tools for practicing. And I always have my phone with me (see above).
  4. Begin with the end in mind: Have a goal for each practice session before you start playing. Just playing through your music isn’t the same thing as practicing. Before you start, think: What do I want to accomplish today? If you’re not sure what you need to focus on, ask your teacher for a few concrete goals to work toward before the next lesson — and write them down so that you can refer to them during your practice sessions.
  5. Map a practice session out like a workout. Lots of musicians start with a few actual stretches and breathing exercises before they pick up their instruments. Even if you don’t go quite that far, a pretty common scenario is to start with scales as a warm-up, to loosen up your muscles and get your brain thinking about technique; move on to the “working” part where you analyze and try to solve problems; then cool down by improvising or revisiting some music you already know well.
  6. Practice smarter, not necessarily longer. You’ll probably accomplish a whole lot more in a short amount of time if you have a very focused objective — and science tells us that we have alimited amount of willpower to draw upon anyway. So make the most of the time you have. Say you are having trouble with two very tricky measures. Set your timer for a short period (like five or 10 minutes), and then work just on one problem in as many ways as you can — break it down into even smaller and more manageable bits, go super slow, try to play the passage backwards, change the rhythm, whatever. If that trouble spot is still giving you agita, then make yourself a mental note to come back to that section again tomorrow. Chances are it will be much, much easier the next time around.
  7. Don’t always start at the beginning every time. Remember what I said about maximizing your time and your willpower? This. It can feel really good to hear yourself playing the beginning of a piece beautifully, but you may wind up wasting the limited time and energy you have. (Also, it leads to performances that start strong and then, well, wilt.)
  8. Challenge yourself — physically. Especially if you’re trying to wrestle down an element that you find problematic, scientific researchers say that if you add a physical challenge to the difficult task, such as trying to play that part while standing on one leg or while walking, your brain is likely to start carving out new neural pathways — and the original task will be easier when you return to just doing that.
  9. Practice away from your instrument. Many musicians use visualization in the same way that athletes do: They run through their music without touching their instruments. Try bringing your music along with you (either on paper or a mobile device) when you know you’ll have some downtime, such as a car or train ride, and read through the piece silently.
  10. Reward hard work — in positive ways — to help your brain automate good habits. That sounds like out-and-out bribery, but again, science!