Pipe Bands

Pipe bands have their origins in the military, having been formed in many famous Scottish Regiments, and date back hundreds of years.

In fact the Royal Scots have records of pipers going back to the early seventeenth century.

Back then the officers of the Regiments employed pipers to play for them, usually after dinner in the Officer's Mess.

These pipers were musicians rather than soldiers who also happened to be pipers, and were privately employed by the officers.

This practice continued until the 1840s when Queen Victoria, who had a passion for all things Scottish, persuaded the War Office that each Highland Regiment be allowed five pipers and a Pipe Major.

This continues to be all that the British army provides funds for to this day, all additional pipers and drummers are equipped by funds from the Officer's Mess Fund of the battalion.

By the end of the Crimean War bands were established in most of the Scottish Regiments, and it was these Regiments that brought the bagpipes to the attention of the world.

The first civilian pipe bands were formed by police forces and fire brigades, and this is a practice that continues today in many countries across the world.

Indeed some of these civilian bands are amongst the best in the world today.

A good example of this is the Simon Fraser University band, which has won the world championship five times in the last decade.

Below you can watch a short video of the band competing.


The pipe bands consist of pipers and drummers, in fact throughout the military they are referred to as the "pipes and drums".

A band consists of a section of pipers, they usually number between six and twenty five, a section of snare drummers, numbering from three to ten, one to six tenor drummers, and one bass drummer.

The band will normally follow the direction of the Pipe Major, but when on parade they may be led by a Drum Major, who directs the band with a mace.

Nowadays most military and civilian bands have many similarities in terms of musical style, with many of the same standard tunes being used in their repertories.

The music played is mostly from the Scottish tradition, with typical examples being marches, slow airs, up-tempo jigs and reels and strathspeys.

These pipe bands play a major role in Highland Games, which take place in many countries across the world every year.

Another chance to see massed pipes and drums is the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which takes place in the Scottish Capital every year.

If you are lucky enough to visit Scotland during August, I highly recommend you take in the show, it's spectacular.

There is nothing quite like the sight and sound of a band marching in perfect step, to the skirl of the pipes.

And they are just one more example of Scottish culture playing a big part in the lives of many nations.

If you would like any further information on this subject, or indeed have any questions regarding the web-site, I would love to hear from you.

Drop me a line using the "Contact Us" page, and I will be glad to help.

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