Teach Yourself Bagpipes by Lindsay Davidson

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Playing for Competitions

For a long long time competitions have provided both a platofrm and a challenge to help pipers display their art and also to develop it. It is becoming less popular as a platform, but is still very relevant.

To be successful you will need to practise in a way to be secure technically and consistent. Some competitions are held indoors, but the majority are at Highland Games, and therefore you may find yourself playing in the rain.

For solo competitions and for band competitions from a certain level, you will need to play a set of three tunes - a March, Strathspey and Reel. These tunes are of a particular style, although exactly what that means beyond a few basic observations becomes a musicological debate.

The most basic definition is that each tune should have 4 'parts', or sections of 8 bars repeated, or the equivalent. In many competitions, in fact the majority, you tell the judge what you are going to play and just get on with it. However, in more prestigious or challenging competitions you will need to offer the judge a choice of tunes to pick from, and then you play what you are told from that list. In some places this is three tunes of each type, but most typically it is six tunes.  There are a few competitions ask for 8 tunes, but by the time you get there you probably have more anyway.

Piobaireachd is also featured in significant competitions. This has its own section on the website. Piobaireachd is not just a competitive art, but also something we study musically.

Each tune here has its own page, and in due course each tune will have videos at different speed and some comments to help you learn it.

This section of the teachyourself site is suitable for both bands and soloists and can be used by anyone right up to professional level. These are the types of files that the author himself actually learns with.

As this is a very large and musically complex project, please keep coming back. The tunes will be typeset and displayed first and then the advice and playback files will be created.  

Last update was July 2021.

If you or your band has a speical request for tunes please contact Lindsay Davidson

Index of competition style tunes:


Kantara to El Arish
Kilberry Castle

Arniston Castle

Caledonian Society of London, The
MacBeth's Strathspey
Ewe Wi' The Crookit Horn, The
Shepherd's Crook, The
Tulloch Castle

Brochan Lom
Ca' the Ewes
Lexy McAskill

Lochiel's Away To France
Rejected Suitor, The
Sheepwife, The



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