What do the grade levels mean?
Some pipers choose to present themselves in front of world renowned judges for feedback on their playing and the possibility of a prize.
To allow for more encouragement (prizes), there are several grades. Generally the entry levels are "Chanter" (i.e., not yet on pipes), Grade V (i.e., a beginner) or Senior Novice (i.e., beginner for the more "mature" learner). In some areas, there are no Grade V or Senior Novice categories and the entry level is Grade IV. As the numbers get smaller, the skill of the piper must increase in the areas of technique and musical ability. Above Grade I, there is an "Open" category for professional players where they compete for cash prizes.
Of all players, about 25% may choose to compete in Grade IV or above. Of those, only about 10% will earn a legitimate prize and move up to Grade III. From there, only about a third will take prizes and go on in each Grade. That leaves about 2-3% of all pipers who legitimately move up to Grade III, about 1% to Grade II and about 1/2% to Grade I. An "Open" class piper is about a 1 in 1000 rarity.
"Piper of the Day" is an honor bestowed upon the best overall competitor at a festival.
Moving from grade to grade is often a matter of negotiation between the student, tutor, judge and piping association. There are no set definitions.
A Grade II player is generally a very good player while Grade I is an outstanding musician.
(Note: The soloist competitions are commonly very lax with regard to who can compete in the different levels. As a result, any bozo can present themselves to play in Grade I. The unscrupulous person doing so might then claim to be a Grade I player - even though the judge stopped them in the middle of their piece to throw them out! If a piper is claiming to be Grade such-and-such and you have doubts about their abilities, ask them what prizes they've taken in that grade.)Copyright S.K. MacLeod 1996-2016