Teach Yourself Bagpipes by Lindsay Davidson

bringing quality 'piping instruction to you for free
Band Repertoire

Each band will have its own goals and own repertoire needs. However, if you are here, then the assumption is you must be a beginner band, or one that is looking for ideas with beginners and inexperienced members in mind. If you are a competition band taking part in competitions organised by the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association or its affiliates and local pipe band associations, you may well need to look at the  section created here for the particular repertoire they ask for. The RSPBA have a special list of tunes they mandate for competition purposes and have published a list of these together with arrangements on their website. Here, you can find the same settings, taken from the RSPBA without comment, judgement or alteration regarding the settings, and arranged as midi files at two different pitches and three different speeds, together with five points of teaching/learning advice and five exercises per tune, likewise arranged. The interpretations have been made in a special way to help your band play together and develop a consistent style to help learning new tunes more quickly in the future. For some reason the RSPBA have called this list of tunes MAP tunes, and so this name has been used here too. These tunes are actually useful for anyone or any band looking for a repertoire.

Please click here to go to the index of MAP tunes or use the link on the left (tunes 2)

If you are not a band associated with competitions and the RSPBA or its sister organisations around the globe, please read on...

There are a number of tunes regarded as standard repertoire, played almost universally. Likewise there are standard drum settings, well known across the globe.

Apart from this there are a several roles that a band must perform and the repertoire below should make this obvious.

Typically the band will teach the parade music to the beginners and make the accomplishment of this a criteria for getting bagpipes, or joining the band. The apprenticeship will be made up of parade playing. Setting a minimum standard for entry to the band is a good way of establishing and developing a quality base.

With the availability of pipe music printing software, such as ‘Pipewriter’,  BMW, PiobMor and others, there is no need for sheet music to be of a poor quality. It is a good idea to print a book or folder with all the tunes for the year and issue each member with their own copy. Additionally, it is useful to have a folder containing extra copies of the tunes, plus an archive, at each meeting.

The sections of such a book should be well organised – permanent music at the front (standards/parade music for example), and each year’s repertoire coming after.

Exactly how the band will go about learning such a repertoire will be different in each case. Many bands spend the Autumn and Winter learning new material for the next year and change everything except their standards, whilst others learn new tunes as a goal in itself and do so when there is a need. If the band is very busy in summer, they will not have time to learn new material, but will want to have a lot of fresh material each year. Survey the individuals discreetly and find out the group feeling on the matter.

At the beginning it should also be noted that the standard achieved when a tune goes into the repertoire for public performance will not get better with time. The standard of the band is raised through learning new material, so be ready to work very hard on a small repertoire at the beginning and change it frequently. Bring in new sets and throw out old ones to avoid retaining any bad habits that were learned with those tunes.

Parade Music

Obviously, music for parades. 3/4, 4/4, 6/8 and ‘other’ marches. This will include ‘family favourites’ or the standard international repertoire.

Slow Airs

In this context, used to primarily to help inexperienced bands build up awareness of good tone production and steady blowing. These can also be good for the public.

Selection, or Medley

A group of tunes of different types which can serve as a good all round learning of, and about, the different types of pipe music. A medley for an inexperienced band should have tunes of each type –march, strathspey, reel, air, maybe a hornpipe, and jigs. Each tune should be short and quite easy, as the big issue is concentration over longer sets. It may also be an idea to introduce medleys of two or three tunes, for example and air and a jig, then two small strathspeys and two small reels etc whilst building up to a longer set of 6 tunes or more.

March, Strathspey and Reel or ‘MSR’ 

Competition style tune to seriously challenge a band’s technique. This belongs to intermediate work. The files which will appear here will also be useful for soloists.


Often jigs can be simple, although faster than other tunes. These can be used for display purposes and to build confidence at higher tempi.


Repertoire 1 - Basics
Highland Laddie             (Standards)

The Green Hills of Tyrol
When the Battle’s O’er    (Standards) 

Scotland the Brave
Rowan Tree
Bonnie Galloway             (Standards)

Amazing Grace                (Standards)

Highland Cathedral         (Standards) 

Corriechoillie                     (Very well known)

Bonnie Lass of Fyvie


Bonnie Dundee
The Steamboat

Repertoire 2 – More advanced – in addition to the standards

Loch Maree
Kilworth Hills

Farewell to the Creeks
Glendaruel Highlanders

Crusader’s March
Lord Lovat’s Lament

Marquis o Huntly’s Highland Fling
My Darling Asleep

Piano di Sorrento

Cutting Bracken
Paddy’s Leather Breeches

Aspen Bank
Loudon’s Bonnie Woods and Braes
Fairy Dance
Jenny Dang the Weaver
It is suggested that these repertoires should each represent one year or season's work, with the standards being worked on first, in effect as a third repertoire. Thus this should be two and a half to three years' of work.
Many of these tunes are available on the tunes page.

Please note that in due course pages will be added for each of the tunes above. These will have: 
  • Music – drum music and pipe music
  • Advice on how to approach the tune and suggestions for preparatory exercises
  • Midi files at various speeds and pitches to help home practice
When these pages have been completed a further section will be added on how to raise the standard of the band to intermediate level, with MSRs and longer medleys.

About this project
Lindsay Davidson
About the author