South Alberta Pipes and Drums
Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada
2011-07-01

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Do you have to be Scottish to play the pipes?

No. Any ethnic background may play the pipes. Although the pipes have reached their best known status as a cultural evolution in Scotland, many European countries have a tradition of piping. However, we accept any interested person at our band school, provided they make a serious effort.

How long does it take to learn the pipes or the drums?

Neil Munro said several centuries ago: "Seven years go to the make of a piper and then one who is born to it is at the beginning of his craft." Although Neil was basically correct, we still see students progress to playing with the band after about three years. Drumming can take a little less time to become proficient.

Does the band provide equipment?

Piping students are expected to obtain their own practice chanter. Drumming students are expected to obtain their own drum sticks and pads. As a piping student progresses, there may be a set of band pipes available for the student to learn on (we have five sets). We also have drums available for drumming students. Upon joining the band, drum equipment (not sticks) is provided. Pipers continue to supply their own pipes.

How much practice is required?

We hold band school on Monday evenings. We learn new sets, practice technique during band school. On Friday evenings, all band members and students who are on pipes or drums practice the music. However, a minimum daily practice is required to make any kind of progress.

Do you have to speak Gaelic to be in a pipe band?

Contrary to popular opinion, English is now allowed. However, an understanding of Gaelic is helpful in deciphering the names of the movements (eg taorluath) and in speaking to the Pipe Sergeant. Historically, piping was taught by the canntairreachd method, a sung version of the tunes where each note and movement had a name based on the Gaelic.

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