Parts Of A Pipe Band
BAGPIPES: Since the bagpipe is the only one of the pipe band instruments capable of producing distinct pitches, the pipers in a pipe band are responsible for providing all of the melodic and harmonic material in the music. Generally all of the pipers will play unison melody (often quite complex and demanding) on their chanters, with their drones.
THE DRUM CORPS AND MIDSECTION: The drum corps of a pipe band consists of a section f drummers playing Highland snare drums. The snare drums have very tight Kevlar heads, designed for maximum tension to create a very crisp and strident sound. The drum corps is responsible for supporting the piping with a solid rhythmic foundation and a sense of pulse; the score being played by the drum corps is usually based on rudimental patterns and can often be quite involved, with solo, unison and contrapuntal passages throughout. The drumming in pipe bands has been compared to that of big band or jazz drumming; both combine technique and rudimental drumming while striving for unity and a rhythmic feel.
In competition, bands compete against bands of similar ability levels and carefully perform required tunes. Competitions are held all around the world, and many bands travel great distances to compete. In North America, most competitions are held between May and September. Winners receive a trophy or award, in addition to prize money.
GRADING SYSTEM: Bands in the U.S. are graded from 5 to 1. The most serious, professional pipe bands with the largest number of experienced players are Grade 1 (highest ability level), and the beginner bands with the newer players are Grade 5 (lowest ability level). In solo competitions, the open level is added, to allow professional piper and snare drummers to compete against one another.
JUDGING: There are typically four judges that critique a competing band. These judges are usually seasoned professional players, and must pass an exam to be certified. In most games, there are two piping judges, one drumming judge and one overall ensemble judge.
Pipe and drum sections are judged on tuning, tone, tempo, unison (plying together across the sections), expression, phrasing, execution musicality, the balance/blend between the pipes and drums, attacks (starts) and cut-offs (stops).