Judges, Pipe Majors, Leading Drummers …

Whether you are a pipe major, a leading drummer, a corps member or an adjudicator I think you should take two minutes to check this out. I recently caught up with Andrew Womersley from Melbourne, Australia who shared an incredible document that he helped to create. This document is a blueprint for Grade 4 pipe bands (and arguably a lot of it is applicable to ALL grades) on how to present ensemble – the do’s and the don’t so to speak.

I hope this is the start of a new trend – a trend where the adjudicators and the associations share with the members what they are looking for when judging a band. It can only lead to greater understanding among bands and judges and open up new possibilities for the development of playing standards worldwide.

A massive thanks to Andrew Womersley, Scott Nicholson and the BC Pipers Association for making this happen.

Hats off to you all.

James

Here’s the link : Grade-4-Competition-Ensemble-Expectations

Advertisements

Every drum score for free ..

Ok drummers, I need your input and help with this one. I’m pretty convinced that I want to make all of my drum scores available for free. The pipe band drumming world has done so many positive things for me and my family and I feel it would be a small thank you to share my music for those who want to play it.

1) Do you think this is a good idea?

2) What would be the best platform to make them available?

Thanks in advance.

James

Some thoughts on preparing tunes

BLOGMany students often ask me what new tunes they will be learning for solo competitions each year.  They are generally quite keen to learn a new set each year, to keep it interesting. To be honest, I often try to discourage them from changing solos sets too much. What is the point in changing for changing’s sake? If the tunes are working well then I would be asking the student to hold onto them as a set and develop them. After all, it does take months, often years, to fully develop the musical style of a tune. If you listen to some of the all-time greats like Andrew Scullion and Jim Kilpatrick you will hear Donald Cameron and Highland Wedding being played for years and decades at a time. The tunes are fantastic, so there is no need to keep changing them up.

I do believe in keeping it interesting though, but that’s where concerts and performances come in handy. You can develop sets to play at other events, outside of your solo competition sets. Learning lots of tunes can be a great way to expose yourself to lots of different pipe band drumming styles. I recall as a young drummer listening to (on repeat!) – Victoria Police Pipe Band, 78TH Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band, the RUC Pipe Band, SFU Pipe Band, FMM Pipe Band, Shotts, Jim Kilpatrick, Andrew Scullion and so many more. I would try mimic or copy what I heard (not very accurately of course!) and it has really influenced my style of music today.  Honing in on one style as a learner has its pros, but it also has its cons. The more varied styles you can listen to, and appreciate, the more rounded your ear will be and it will give you a broader platform to start from. Obviously you will work out what your own unique style is in the end, but always keep an open ear. I still listen to bands now to see what I can learn from them. Every band always has some quality that is appealing, no matter what the grade.

Back to getting tunes prepared for solo performance. I dislike when a student picks a new tune 4 weeks before a contest and is adamant that they will learn it “in time”. In recent years I have been a lot firmer with my students and will not encourage them to play a tune in solos that they haven’t had prepared for six months or more. By “prepared” I mean – memorized, polished and up on the instrument. Getting a tune ready for competition is a process – a long one at that. When the pressure of competing goes on, you need to know you can fall back on thorough preparation. Last minute attempts simply will not work on a consistent basis.

If you have a solo set, try keeping it for two full seasons. During that time ensure you record practice sessions, and actual solo events. Spend the time after each recording to write a few notes on your performance. A few simple headings could be : Accuracy, Flow, Dynamic Range, Musicality, Expression and Phrasing (there are lots of others but these are a good starting point). Give the tunes a chance to develop and mature. If you aren’t getting the results you want, or a judge suggests you change tunes, take a breath and give it some time. If every judge suggests you change the tune then listen up and act quickly! Another option would be to send some of those recordings to someone and ask them for a professional opinion.

It is St Patricks Day and so a little Irish Quote is appropriate and applicable to your drumming.  “ Like a pint of Guinness … Good things take time”.

James

More drum scores added to the Library

My large compilation of drum scores has just gotten a little larger. I have added another 20 compositions to my www.come2drum.com library and will continue to add further scores in the New Year. Come on over and check out the scores.

Newest scores added this month include :

King George V’s Army

Colonel McLeod

The Hills of Argyll

The High Road to Linton

Mrs MacLeod of Raasay

Rocking the Baby

The Caledonian Canal

The Pikemans March

The Crusaders March

Pay the Piper

Mozart on the Rampage

Captain Horne

Molly Connell

The Old Rustic Bridge

The Dunkirk Boatmen

The Campbelltown Kiltie Ball

Hag at the Churn

Corkhill

Maids of the Black Glen

The Famous Ballymote

Electric Chopsticks

 

I hope you enjoy the scores.

James

 

A pipe band adjudicator’s sheet

We have all signed up for a hobby that is subjective, we perform in front of a judge and accept their decision on our placement in a contest. All too often I hear people complain about the result – but at the end of the day the judge’s job is to pick the prize winners and place the other competitors based on their experience whilst listening to your performance. Of course, we all hope that no political or tutoring bias weighs on the judges decision, and this aspect is of course a grey area and something that we are discouraged from dwelling on or discussing.

Let’s delve into the adjudication sheets.  Some sheets provide generic observations and others go into part by part detailed analysis of the performance from a technical standpoint.  What is right and what is wrong?

So, what is the adjudicators key role?  To decide on the positioning of the competitors? I feel that competitors often look to the sheets to see why they have placed where they have placed. “A great sheet, all mostly positive, great tone – 7th place!?!”. Honestly I hear this so many times from competitors and even from some parents! Reading into the sheets to try and justify the position you received is probably not the best approach.

What is the best way to create an adjudication sheet? Should it detail each part with the rights and wrongs from a technical aspect?  To me, this is more of an instructional lesson than an adjudicator’s sheet. When a soloist competes (at any level), they shouldn’t necessarily expect a sheet detailing how a flam should be played, or how to orchestrate a throw on D. Naturally at the lower levels, it can be valuable to offer up some advice to the rookies if they aren’t getting the instruction from a tutor. But generally, it becomes a tedious task for the judge to write notes on every aspect of every part that goes right or wrong. They would spend so much time focusing on parts and keeping track of errors that they would potentially lose the opportunity to enjoy the big picture.  Honing in on the small detail in my mind may be more of a coaching role (at a practice or rehearsal) rather than a judging role? Again, this is just totally my perspective and I’m all ears if anyone else feels otherwise.

Some of the best sheets I have read are the ones that address tone, depth, colour, dynamic presentation, execution, clarity, composition, integration, phrasing and musicality.  The sheet usually overviews the performance relating back to most of the key headings above. Often if something terrible happens (like a major fault or breakdown), the judge may note that a slip occurred. But honestly, I think these type of sheets are the best. They really make you think as a competitor – “what does he/she mean by that? I wonder where exactly in the performance is that happening? “.  To me, this should inspire the performer to approach the judge respectfully after the contest and ask if they can expand on their comments to help develop any personal weaker areas. The judges have so much value to offer, and a ton of experience. It seems a wasted opportunity not to reach out afterwards (it doesn’t need to be straight after the results either, it could be a few weeks later) and seek some feedback. I know some people feel that asking the judge why they placed in a specific position is not “the done thing”. Some people feel that it may appear that you are questioning the judges decision or his/her integrity. But I think there is a way to approach that situation and if you handle it correctly it can be a great learning experience for the competitor.

I see adjudication sheets vary in style and approach from country to country. This can be good and bad. But at the end of the day, I think a measured, consistent approach to adjudication is key for the pipe band fraternity. The RSPBA has an extensive training program for judges and you can see this in their sheet-writing. However, some other countries have their own processes for electing judges and they don’t always seem to have the same depth of training as the Scottish system. I really think this is an area that could help strengthen our competitions worldwide – a centralised adjudication training and appointment system can only be a good thing.

A big thank you to the judges out there who put their pens to paper, listen to all of our performances and make the tough decision to place the competitors as they see fit. It’s a tough job, and often only one person or band is going to be happy at the end of the day.

All I ask is that we all look at our current education programs and appointment processes for adjudication around the World.

James

Want to learn from a structured guide to pipe band drumming? Check out the digital version today!

Is competition healthy within a pipe band?

I look at some of the most successful teams around the world, whether it be rugby, soccer, AFL or NBA and they all have many things in common. But the one thing to me that really sticks out, is that they are all competitive within their own group. This breeds a mindset of mental toughness, drive and excellence at each and every game or practice.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

Let’s take the All Black’s (just because it’s Rugby World Cup time) for example – their individual talent level is extremely high. Each individual brings something special to the table, and they are determined to continually demand more from themselves and from their teammates. Self-ego is often viewed as a negative attribute, but to continually strive for that “X factor” or “next level”, players must posses some form of egoic mentality.  Each player doesn’t want to be outdone by the next, so they are driven to really push themselves to their limits, every time they step up to the plate.

There is no reason why the same approach couldn’t work for pipe bands. Creating a culture of healthy competition within the group cannot be a bad thing. So long as it is managed effectively it can really enhance the overall level that the team operates at. Seeing team players compete against each other in solo contest’s is a fascinating scenario, and at a subconscious level can really motivate the individuals to dig deep to get that advantage on the board. Some of the best pipe band drum corps’ of all time have all showcased a large number of the best solo players – I don’t think this is a coincidence.  The individual effort of each player can only enhance the collective product of the group.

There may not be a solo circuit happening everywhere globally that allows all bands to have their members competing regularly, however would it not be wise to consider an “in-house” solo? A way to have your players ranked by an external adjudicator?  I do feel nowadays there has been a push in some camps to make sure everyone feels good about their place and that everyone gets a prize in competitions. But at the end of the day, the only way to encourage world-class athletes or musicians to strive for new world records or Olympic bests, is to ensure that the best players and the greatest talents get the rewards. In life, there has to be winners and losers. That’s just reality. Those not getting prizes will be driven to work even harder to reach those new levels of performance. It’s a way that might help guarantee our art form will continue to develop for generations to come, just as it has done over the past century.

Do you know that moment when you witness a human being doing something freakishly amazing with their talent and you think, how on earth is that even possible? Or, Wow, I just witnessed something that this World might never see again? I recall such moments – watching George Best dazzle his fellow soccer players, being mesmerised by Jim Kilpatrick drumming up a storm on stage, watching Serena Williams dominate centre court with such ferocity … there are only a handful of things that come to mind that are truly freakish. Truly special. Once in a lifetime type things. These are the moments that make the hairs stand on the back of your neck. The moments that remind you how fortunate you are to be able to see these things with your own two eyes.  These moments are why it is important that we continue to reward the winners, the workers, the grafters and the lifers.  When a player see’s that they get the peer recognition for their sacrifices and passion, it continues to set the bar higher. And we all get to relish in the amazing potential that human beings are capable of.

Intra-corps competition in my mind – can only be a good thing for our little World.

James

www.come2drum.com

Press Release : Snare Line Product Launch

11202966_497138653771121_4441679629901280368_oI am excited to support the Snare Line brand and stock their new drum pad range.  The official launch of the pads has finally arrived, after many months (actually, years!) of research, testing and adjusting. For pipe band drummers, this is a must-have product – the feel, texture and response are fantastic.

The pads look stunning, with high-end finishes and superb quality materials. Drummers enjoy slick gear, and the Snare Line brand has hit the nail on the head.

Check out their official page for full information – www.snareline.equipment

You can grab yours at your local retailer (we have them here in stock at www.come2drum.com)