What can I do to encourage "good" piping?

First and foremost, you must get rid of your stereotypes and assumptions. Some common ones are bashed here:

  1. Military and regimental bands are not the best pipe bands. No military or regimental band has won the world pipe band competitions in the past forty years.
  2. Most of the pipers and in the world, and many of the best, are not Scottish born. Many are not of Scottish descent.
  3. Many top players are women.
  4. Dress and deportment does not make a piper. Playing the bagpipe should be about making music. Listen and evaluate with your eyes closed. The "Highland Peacock" who wears medals, ribbons, a sash and big feathers is seldom found on the prize list.
  5. Gracenotes are an essential part of the musical form. Anyone who plays a tune without them "to emphasize the music" is doing a grave disservice to the genre. Inaccurate playing can never be "good" playing. Musical pipers bring something in addition to, yet beyond, the mechanics and timing of execution.
  6. Piobaireachd is an essential element of piping. Every piper and serious listener should have a solid understanding of the subject. It is a classical art form and should be studied as such.

Encourage performers at all levels with applause and kind words. This is what makes the hard work all worthwhile. It's generally considered a great honor to the performing musician for the audience to clap or tap their foot in time with the music. Do it when you feel so moved (but don't interfere in a judged event!). Most performers will work twenty to fifty hours for a twenty minute performance.

Ask questions and inquire about progress in their studies. Most performers will jump at the opportunity to share what they know and discuss their latest endeavors with you. As a listener, you'll learn more by talking to the performer.

Become knowledgeable spectators by learning about the art. An informed audience actually encourages the performer to work hard and show his/her skill. Buy recordings and become familiar with them. You will find that there are many terrific tunes other than "Amazing Grace" and "Scotland the Brave". Consider taking the time to develop a knowledge of different tunes and then ask to hear a favorite. You may not get it during this show, but you'll almost always get it at a later performance. By asking for a tune, you encourage the performer to learn more!

Get your local Scottish society to encourage participation by pipers. An informal recital fifteen minutes before the beginning of the meeting can be a strong motivator for a beginning or intermediate player.

Consider being a sponsor for a prize at a local highland festival.  It doesn't take a lot of money and the prize is a terrific motivator!

Copyright S.K. MacLeod 1996-2016