Drummer FAQ

What kind of drums are played in a bagpipe band?

  • Snare drum: This is the most prominent sounding drum in the drum line. The snare drum that is used in a bagpipe band is different from the snare drums that are used in other bands. The pipe band snare drum has snare mechanisms on both the top and bottom drumheads. The drumheads are also tensioned much higher than on a normal snare drum. This results in the distinctive sound of Scottish Drumming, a very high pitched and crisp snare sound which compliments the notes played on the bagpipe “chanter”.

  • Tenor drum: This is the drum that fills in the middle tones in a pipe band. The tenor drum is usually pitched the same as the bass drone on the bagpipes. Some bands may have multiple tenor drums and pitch them to various notes on the chanter scale. Pipe bands can have two types of tenor drum players:

    • “Flourishing” tenor drummers do fancy “swings” with their mallets which visually compliment and add excitement to the band’s performance. A flourishing tenor drummer also plays rhythmic beatings which fill in the overall ensemble sound.

    • Rhythm tenor drummer focuses on rhythmic beating which compliment the music. A rhythm tenor drummer usually plays within a pattern framework (ex. Hard, soft, medium, soft) that helps set the groove for the band.

  • Bass drum: This drum is the heartbeat of the band. The bass drum is usually pitched to the bass drone of the bagpipes, but an octave lower than the tenor drum. The bass drum sets the pace of the music as well as adding the harmonic “bottom” tone of the band. The bass drummer must have a strong sense of rhythm. A good bass drummer will set a strong groove for the band that makes it easy for the pipers and drummers to play together. Though not as common as it once was, bass drummers can also flourish their mallets, adding to the visual effect.

The importance of drums in a pipe band?

The drum section keeps the beat for the bagpipe band, but that is not it’s only job. The bagpipe is an instrument that can only be played at one volume level. There are no mechanisms for increasing or decreasing the volume. Everything sounds the same – LOUD! The drum section provides the illusion of the band playing more quietly or more loudly. This musical effect is referred to as “Dynamics”. A good drum section will work together, playing softer or louder parts together. The tenor and bass drummers may accent (strike more loudly) a beat that will compliment the accents that the snare drummers play. The snare drummers will often play parts or “chips” throughout the music to further enhance the dynamics within the ensemble.

Will I have to pay for the lessons?

No, you need only provide a sincere desire to learn and a commitment to practice.

Will I need to purchase any supplies to take lessons?

Yes. You will need to purchase a drum pad and a pair of drumsticks. A small handheld tape/ digital recorder is advantageous, so you can record lessons for later reference or practice sessions to play back for critique. If you eventually join the band, your drums and other supplies will be purchased for you by the band.

*PLEASE! DO NOT*buy anything until you have made contact with us, and visited us at a practice. An Instructor or the Drum Sergeant will discuss what is needed and resources where you can obtain them.

What will the lessons be like?

We like to start each new student as if they are starting from scratch (if you have previous experience this will likely be a quick review). We start with the very basics: Learning to properly grip the sticks and strike the drum. New students are given exercises to work on at home to develop proper technique. At each week’s lesson the student will be given instruction in reading drum music as well as developing the drum rudiments, such as rolls and paradiddles. The lessons are progressive; as each lesson is mastered new material is added.

How long will it take to learn to play?

This will vary depending on your natural ability, previous musical experience and the amount of practice time that you dedicate. With average ability and a reasonably dedicated practice ethic you could reach minimum “street level” (parade) playing ability in about one year. It has been done quicker.

How far you progress beyond “street level” will likely depend on how determined you are and how much practice time devote to the instrument.

Once I learn to play will there be a place for me in your band?


How do I get started?

Send an email to the Drum Sergeant or just show up at one of our practices. For further information for location and times, visit our home page or email one of us.