Should I join a pipe band?

There are advantages and disadvantages to joining a pipe band no matter what your ability.  Overall I believe the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, but it will be a completely individual choice.  Here are some things to think about:

Type of band. Some bands specialise in teaching players and giving inexperienced players a chance to develop whilst others want players that are ready to go and can jump straight into practices and performances. 

Time commitment.  Being a member of a pipe band requires a certain amount of time each week.  Usually they will have one or two practices per week each lasting two to three hours and lots of performances during the summer months.  This gives a great sense of camaraderie, but can sometimes be too time intensive.

Uniform & Instrument.  A pipe band will provide you with a uniform and perhaps even an instrument, which amount to thousands of pounds, for the princely sum of it's yearly dues (usually around £100).  This is a huge saving on your part but does tie you to membership.

Competitions.  If you have a competitive nature then a competing pipe band is the place for you.  It can be daunting to get involved, and sometimes a lot of pressure, but you will be justly rewarded once you start picking up silverware at contests.

Learning.  Regardless of your level, the right pipe band will give you the opportunity to flourish.  You will get to see how many other players do what they do and can pick up many tips and tricks from those around you.  Finding the right band can be tough though, and it may not be in your locality resulting in lengthy commutes to practice.

Pipe bands... the best thing since sliced bread!

  • The camaraderie you develop with the other members is awesome.  They are like a second family that can help you with many aspects of life, not just music!
  • Bands are a great place to learn.  You will get to see how many other players do what they do and can pick up many tips and tricks from those around you.
  • They make you play your bagpipes at least two times per week which is great if you have low motivation to practice.
  • For the cost of membership dues (usually around £100) you get a complete uniform and sometimes even an instrument which saves you thousands of £££'s.
  • You get the opportunity to work as a team to create wonderful music and perform in places that most could only dream of.
  • The music changes most years with new tunes being added and different arrangements tried out.  This is great for keeping you on your toes musically and avoids stagnation.

Pipe bands... worse than taxes! abandoned dog poop

  • It's hard to find the perfect band right on your door step which usually means you end up spending a lot of time travelling to and from practice.
  • There is quite a big time commitment as band practices usually last between two and three hours twice per week and during the summer months there will be many competitions or performances to attend.
  • Bands can be really frustrating as it tends to be the same people that keep turning up to performances and keep the band running whilst others turn up whenever it suits.
  • In many cases a band may only perform at competitions and won't do any parades or other performances.  This means that practice is spent playing the same five minute medley of tunes over and over and over which can get quite boring after a while.
  • The music and style of playing is generally fixed within a band which leaves little room for the individual to improvise and play the music the way they want to play it.
  • As in all organisations there can be politics and bullying which ruin the overall experience.  The high moments can be great, but the low moments can be equally awful.