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Minimum Standards and a Plan for Advancement - Pipers The Henry´s Fork Pipes and Drums

(Revised 1 February 2006)

"B" Performer
"A" Performer


This is a student who is getting basic instruction on the practice chanter. The beginner phase lasts from the first lesson until the student is ready to begin the transition to the bagpipe. The length of time required varies depending on individual aptitude and level of effort. Six months to a year will be sufficient for most students to advance to the novice bagpiper phase. Some will require a year and a half to two years. Very small children may require more time before advancing to the bagpipe due to the physical demands of the instrument. It should be understood that the practice chanter is not just for beginners; unlike the training wheels on a bicycle, all pipers at all levels continue to use the practice chanter throughout their career for refining expression, memorizing tunes, practicing indoors after bedtime, etc. The chanter student will be ready for the bagpipe once he or she has mastered the basic embellishments and can apply them consistently in a handful of tunes played by memory with reasonably accurate timing and adequate musical expression. A given tune is ready for the bagpipe when it can be executed on the chanter, by memory, with a degree of confidence and continuity appropriate for a low-pressure performance.


This is a student who is on the bagpipe but not yet ready to perform. The transition from the practice chanter to the bagpipe is difficult and potentially frustrating; therefore it is important that the student have a reasonable set of expectations and a high level of commitment. Playing the bagpipe consists of a composite of skills which must be acquired over a period of several months, so be patient. The skills may be categorized as follows:

1. strength and endurance
2. fingering technique
3. steadiness of blowing
4. ear training and tuning ability
5. tone production
6. marching
7. handling the bagpipe
8. striking in and cutting off
9. reed setting and pipe maintenance

These aspects must eventually be integrated and coordinated intuitively and in a seamless manner.

"B" Performer (general function piper)

Having mastered the body of skills described above, the problem now is to be able to apply the skills with confidence under performance conditions. In other words, you have to be able to play long enough to get the job done, and you have to perform in a manner that is musically and visually pleasing. Specific needs will vary with the type of performance, i.e., tune selection and endurance requirements; other aspects are common to all performances: deportment, tuning procedures, playing technique, focus, etc.

In order to perform with the Henry´s Fork Pipes and Drums, the player must meet the following standards:

* Own a functional bagpipe compatible with the band´s master pitch.
* Demonstrate knowledge and application of basic maintenance procedures.
* Demonstrate knowledge and application of basic tuning principles; be able to execute reed setting and tuning operations under the Pipe Major´s direction.
* Demonstrate mastery of basic drill and deportment: march and counter-march, pipes up, pipes down, parade rest, band dismissed, etc. Deportment includes maintaining correct posture while playing at a stand-still, and proper decorum before the public at all times.
* Have appropriate uniform components and wear them correctly.
* Demonstrate correct technique and reasonable consistency for strike-in and cut-off.
* Demonstrate (by solo audition) adequate knowledge of performance repertoire, in terms of both memorization and technical proficiency
. * Play in a manner consistent with the requirements of band unison, as demonstrated through an appropriate level of participation at band rehearsals.

The decision to include or exclude a member from a given performance is the sole prerogative of the Pipe Major, and must be accepted by the member without protest or pride. Members who have "made the grade" before are not automatically guaranteed a position in the performance unit for a given event. A temporary indisposition, memory lapse, equipment failure or other unforeseen crisis may necessitate a last-minute invitation to "stand down." Such crises can happen to anyone and will be dealt with in as tactful a manner as possible. Let it be understood that our desire is to include people and build the band to the extent that we can do so and maintain a high standard of excellence. Individuals who do not meet performance standards can still help the band in other important ways. We value your dedication and support.

"A" Performer

The standards for the "A" performer are exactly the same as those of the "B" performer. The basic difference is a higher level of proficiency required for more demanding performances such as competitions, or mastery of more difficult repertoire for special exhibition sets within full-band programs.