Published: May 31, 2009

Ontario to trial mid-section critiques

The Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario (PPBSO) will test-fly critiques of pipe band mid-sections at some of its outdoor pipe band competitions in the 2009 season after the organization’s Executive unanimously approved a proposal from the PPBSO’s Music Board.
 
While a mid-section judge will provide bands with a scoresheet, the assessment will have no bearing on the competition, and is only designed to provide feedback and constructive criticism during its pilot phase.
 
In addition, the pilot project is designed to allow the PPBSO’s Music Board to learn from the process, and perfect a system should the organization’s membership wish to adopt a formal program in band competitions, potentially with actual points counting towards results.
 
Several top bass- and tenor-drummers have volunteered to assess bands at PPBSO events this summer. The pilot project will focus mainly on Grades 3, 4 and 5.
 
Copies of scoresheets and non-impacting section rankings will be used by the organization for data collection and educational purposes.
 
The project was spearheaded by PPBSO Music Board member Tyler Fry, who assembled a committee of experienced mid-section players from around the world to develop the program. The group is now in working to create a mid-section scoresheet.
 
Over the last decade, the role of mid-sections has changed dramatically, resulting in substantial and controversial changes to pipe band music overall.
 
While the PPBSO is launching the pilot project, the UK’s Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association in March 2008 eliminated Best Bass-Section prizes at major championships.
 
The PPBSO is also working towards a formal accreditation program for adjudicators of solo bass and tenor competitions.

58 COMMENTS

  1. Cairns, I totally agree for the most part. I actually can’t believe what most of you are arguing about. None of you have really touched on what this is about. Wouldn’t you like to hear or see on a score sheet some critiques that could point out the tone and tuning of your drums, the togetherness of your flourishing, instead of tenor compliments bass

  2. A good, lively conversation! That’s what it’s all about. A few things: I don’t think it will be only lower-grade bands that are assessed. A challenge, though, is that many of the most respected mid-section judges” are in top-grade competing bands. The other thing is that people should remember that this is a chance to start with a clean slate

  3. Rolly, your two aggressive posts thus far indicate that you see yourself as a bit of a watchdog for this topic. That is a tad precious IMHO. On the subject of dogs, this topic is akin to the tail wagging the dog. A separate drumming judge to assess a corps within a corps suggests, as you have (and wrongly) , that these judges are not capable of hearing and critically assessing everything going on before them. What rubbish. I’m grateful for you pointing out that there are two piping judges. One would have thought it fairly obvious – i.e. to judge the principal instrument in a PIPE band. Mid sections” – chill out. You do good stuff and bad. Just because you might be bigger and play more beatings

  4. I’ve read all this with interest, and some amusement, and I can find myself agreeing with quite diverse perspectives. This is not a B&W subject. Part of me thinks that for the amount of time that goes into writing & learning good mid-section scores, and the very positive contribution they can make to a band’s overall sound, it is an element of the band performance that—as Tyler’s banner suggests—is not getting full and fair consideration on the score sheets, or at least: that full and fair consideration is not being reflected on the score sheets. Are judges hearing and evaluationg, and just not commenting? The other voice in my ear says, The judge’s role is to choose a prize list

  5. McDuck and Jim both make a lot of sense. My own view is that judges are there to award places and allocate points. Piping sheets are often skimpy on detail and most of what you get back is the stuff that the PM is already aware of and trying to address, or is way off-track with the PM’s own direction and will be overlooked. It’s really about the announcement at the end of the day and the silverware. Why would mid-sections be any different? Mehtinks the feedback” line of argument here is really more about self-interest and suring-up a stand-alone trophy for mid-sections across all grades and at all contests. It really is unnecessary in my humble opinion. In relation to the bagads of Brittany

  6. The timpanist will be told by one person – the conductor. As would all other components, players etc etc. The conductor has the authority to sack whomever he/she likes. This is all about mid -sections”/tenor drummers wanting to take a slice of the action and kudos. They can’t simply settle for a drum CORPS trophy (when the pipe corps does not). They want one all for themselves because they are special

  7. Cairns, I totally agree for the most part. I actually can’t believe what most of you are arguing about. None of you have really touched on what this is about. Wouldn’t you like to hear or see on a score sheet some critiques that could point out the tone and tuning of your drums, the togetherness of your flourishing, instead of tenor compliments bass

  8. A good, lively conversation! That’s what it’s all about. A few things: I don’t think it will be only lower-grade bands that are assessed. A challenge, though, is that many of the most respected mid-section judges” are in top-grade competing bands. The other thing is that people should remember that this is a chance to start with a clean slate

  9. Rolly, your two aggressive posts thus far indicate that you see yourself as a bit of a watchdog for this topic. That is a tad precious IMHO. On the subject of dogs, this topic is akin to the tail wagging the dog. A separate drumming judge to assess a corps within a corps suggests, as you have (and wrongly) , that these judges are not capable of hearing and critically assessing everything going on before them. What rubbish. I’m grateful for you pointing out that there are two piping judges. One would have thought it fairly obvious – i.e. to judge the principal instrument in a PIPE band. Mid sections” – chill out. You do good stuff and bad. Just because you might be bigger and play more beatings

  10. I’ve read all this with interest, and some amusement, and I can find myself agreeing with quite diverse perspectives. This is not a B&W subject. Part of me thinks that for the amount of time that goes into writing & learning good mid-section scores, and the very positive contribution they can make to a band’s overall sound, it is an element of the band performance that—as Tyler’s banner suggests—is not getting full and fair consideration on the score sheets, or at least: that full and fair consideration is not being reflected on the score sheets. Are judges hearing and evaluationg, and just not commenting? The other voice in my ear says, The judge’s role is to choose a prize list

  11. McDuck and Jim both make a lot of sense. My own view is that judges are there to award places and allocate points. Piping sheets are often skimpy on detail and most of what you get back is the stuff that the PM is already aware of and trying to address, or is way off-track with the PM’s own direction and will be overlooked. It’s really about the announcement at the end of the day and the silverware. Why would mid-sections be any different? Mehtinks the feedback” line of argument here is really more about self-interest and suring-up a stand-alone trophy for mid-sections across all grades and at all contests. It really is unnecessary in my humble opinion. In relation to the bagads of Brittany

  12. The timpanist will be told by one person – the conductor. As would all other components, players etc etc. The conductor has the authority to sack whomever he/she likes. This is all about mid -sections”/tenor drummers wanting to take a slice of the action and kudos. They can’t simply settle for a drum CORPS trophy (when the pipe corps does not). They want one all for themselves because they are special

  13. In response to your comment, you must not be a drumming judge or for that matter know much about drumming. If you had any idea of what is going on in drum corps, you would understand that one person could not possibly make a fair evaluation of all of the aspects of the drumming performance plus have time to write up those details on a sheet.

  14. Top grade pipe sections are bigger than they ever have been, regularly topping 20 pipers, and they play very technical medleys in many cases. Based on the same ‘logic’ being applied to mid-sections, should we not have another piping judge then? Of course not! More drummers does not = a call or need for more judges. Mid sections, despite insisting they have re-invented what they do, still just hit their drums and maybe flourish a bit more (and more noticeably…..). Any judge worth a pinch can still hear and see what they need to, write a sheet, continue to breathe, wonder if they left the iron on etc etc. Please don’t try to make this look like rocket science. Try being a piping judge and sitting through 30 piobaireachd at solos…..and then get back to me on why a qualified and experienced judge (as they tend to be) can no longer effectively judge a drum CORPS because it is might simply be bigger and plays more beatings.

  15. Lawrie, I was pretty sure you wouldn’t pass up this opportunity to spew your drivel again. By the way, pipe sections already have judges, two of them. Midsections do not have a judge. Yes, there is one drumming judge. The snare section though gets all kinds of feedback from that one drumming judge but the midsections are given mostly a passing comment at best. Everyone who plays deserves a fair listen, do they not? If you don’t like midsections and what they are doing or the fact that they would like some constructive feedback then go enjoy your piobaireachd solos. You won’t find the drummers crowing about how piobaireachd should or shouldn’t be judged. By the way, I actually like piobaireachd but it’s not everyone’s choice eh? You don’t find the drummers whining about it though.

  16. Lobman: If this is strictly a musical contest and should no visual aspect be judged, then why are we required to wear uniformed kilts, headwear and march from block formation into a circle formation? Why are tenor sticks made with strings? Ahh yes, these Traditional” aspects are too difficult to grasp for some. Flourishing is part of the art and should not be discounted.”

  17. Kevin. Lets not get into why we were uniforms etc..that is not what is being discussed here. The judging of the midsection is what is being discussed. I honestly do not care what a band wears. wikipedia defines music as (Music is an art form whose medium is sound organized in time. Common elements of music are pitch (which governs melody and harmony), rhythm (and its associated concepts tempo, meter, and articulation), dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture) I have nothing against the visuals , I do think they add to a bands performance but do not think visuals should be adjudicated. I would love for pipesdrums.com to do a poll of leading PM and LD , securing their identity so as no one felt they had to answer politically correct. The question would be just what I am talking about here. Should the visual aspects of the midsections be judged?

  18. namboL: Why should the grunt band members be excluded from participating in this poll you propose? If 100 band leaders participated, you’d only get 200 results, which is hardly enough information to make a fair assessment of how it should be judged. Even mainstream musicians are required to display a great deal of visual aspect. If a girl showed up on American Idol with the most angelic voice and never visually conveyed her passion through hand, face and body expression, I’d hardly think Simon would be 100% on board. Maybe we should just see what Simon would say (WWSS) or leave such a decision to all the adjudicating members of the World Tenor Fraternity (WTF) – yes I crack me up. Anywhoo, on you go Tyler! This is great for the sport.

  19. Kevin , sorry, as much as i love my daughter ( a tenor drummer BTW), her 3 years experience should not be given the same weight as Misters Livingstone , maxwell , Kilpatrick , Lee, Parkes, Mathison etc……..

  20. Lobman…I was never a uniform, so I’d actually like to hear more about why we were uniforms. 2) This is FANTASTIC!! And all aspects should be judged. Bands are judged regularly in parades and even competition about dress and deportment, and these fine players who work their tails off to perfect their art (which I’d argue is just as difficult as anything pipers or snare drummers do) and deserve to receive constructive feedback. Thanks PPBSO, kind of makes me want to move back and play in a more progressive environment…

  21. Personally, I look forward to what we can learn from this trial adjudication system. To quickly argue the visual aspect of tenor, top midsections apply just as much concentration to timing of flourishes to the timing of their scores. Does it make a sound? No. Is it musical in reference to how it executes in reference to the beat and melody? Absolutely. From the drumming standpoint, it would be great to have judges identify where the midsection drummers can integrate more into ensemble. Spinning and hitting is one thing. Blending with the overall corps dynamics, articulation, tuning, harmonics and drumming technique is much more. If this summer’s test can provide insight or improvement in the areas above, why not try it out? Kevin MacHeffner

  22. I think most people are missing the mark here and continually see the pipe band as seperate sections. I hope the judges comments add to the orchestration of the whole band the depth of feeling, the highs and lows the cresendos and dynamic finishes. Lets treat this as a step forward and a welcome addition to the overall visual and audible pleasure of the music.

  23. OK. What about the ensemble judge? Per one reader, it isn’t possible for a drumming judge to accurately assess the snares as well as the mid section due to all of the complexities of the new sounds going on in the modern Uberband. If that is that case, then how can the poor old ensemble judges do their job as not only do they have to consider the activities of all of the drummers, but on top of that have to listen to the pipers at the same time! Also, with the new mid section judge evaluating ensemble type activity, should we eliminate the ensemble judge? Hey, wait a minute! I have an idea. Why don’t we have the existing ensemble judge evaluate the mid section along with the overall ensemble of the band? You think it might work if they were trained properly on how to do this?……

  24. Yes, I have found the opposition to midsections and their fair adjudication an irritant so if this makes me a watchdog then so be it. If I have insulted drumming judges I apologize for my comments. I say that one drumming judge cannot make a fair assessment of both the snare and midsections because to this point this has been my observation. The multitude of people who have posted on the lack of constructive feedback plus any judging sheets I have seen or heard about indicate this. Perhaps the ensemble judge can make this part of their assessment as has been suggested. Whether a single drumming judge can do this is or not though is not the real issue. The point is that it is not being adequately critiqued and commented upon thus far on judging sheets. Education of judges would certainly be a step forward in helping solve the problem. I don’t think any judge would be opposed to learning more about this area. I think having a trial basis for a midsection judge is a good idea which will provide more insights into how this issue can be more adequately resolved.

  25. Well, I’m neither for or against the practice of providing mid-section critique, but I’m not really fond of the idea of scoring the mid-section as a separate entity, ie. apart from the drum section, as it could potentially lead to another divisive element within a band due to competing self-interests. We’ve already witnessed cases where the entire drum section packs up and moves to another band. We’ll likely see the same thing with entire mid-sections. Who knows, perhaps this will eventually extend to all harmony players in the pipe corps, or maybe those guys who play all the fancy parts beneath the melody line, or …?

  26. I’m not a big fan of covering the competition field with judges, but as an ensemble judge I can assure you that in shorter performances (an M/S/R or a lower-grade march medley) there is already not enough time for the ensemble judge to get around the circle and do everything that needs to be done — assess the sound of the pipes and snares, determine if the snare material fits (which can change with the time signature and must be reasssessed more than once), assess the bass sound and playing, consider the material and harmonies, etc. Add in a detailed critique of the midsection, and the ensemble judge is simply not able to manage everything. Also, as a piper doing ensemble, I don’t feel I’m the best qualified to make this assessment. I’ve never even felt comfortable choosing ‘Best Bass,’ which ensemble judges are still asked to do in some organizations. It does strike me though that midsection assessment is something the drumming judge should be doing. It’s specialized, but it should still fall under the lead-drummer’s realm, just as pipe harmonies fall under the pipe major’s realm even though they may be created by specialists. JM

  27. Sweet pedal harmony!!! I’m a specialist! not really, I tried to take myself and all my harmony cronies and form our own band, but the tunes never sounded the same. We even went back to the basics, and still had trouble dealing with writing a melody line. When it came down to it, not a single judge put us higher than last place due to our lack of a recognizable melody line. Whatever, begged my old PM to let us back in the band, and sit a third below everyone else like always.

  28. Yes, but having said that, would the tympanist not be appreciative of some feedback on their particular contribution within the whole, particularly if it was from someone who understood tympani- with a view to improving how the tympanist can better integrate with the ‘whole’ and hence contribute more to the marks at the end of the day and the obtaining of silverware- hopefully in return for quality of music produced, and not anything else. But where do you draw the line with how many judges you have on the day?

  29. I’m curious about the scenario where a band plays only a very small ‘tenor’ section. How does a judge assess a mass tenor corps of 6 or 7 against one that has just 2? If you judge a snare section of 3 compared to a snare section of 8, you’re still essentially, still judging the same aspects of what the two are doing. They’re both doing the same – one is just louder than the other. However, can you really do the same when you judge a tenor section of 2 (or maybe even one…or none…for some lower grade bands) versus one playing 6 which is set up in an entirely different manner? As for judging the ‘visual apsect’…just don’t!

  30. Do we need to consider the idea of min & max numbers of playing members in pipe bands to help create some sort of consistency in terms of judging and overall presentation? While minimum requirements exist now, it may be prudent to impose maximums. It would help to spread the talent around a bit more and thus should result in a better overall expertise level throughout all of the bands and grades.

  31. In response to your comment, you must not be a drumming judge or for that matter know much about drumming. If you had any idea of what is going on in drum corps, you would understand that one person could not possibly make a fair evaluation of all of the aspects of the drumming performance plus have time to write up those details on a sheet.

  32. Top grade pipe sections are bigger than they ever have been, regularly topping 20 pipers, and they play very technical medleys in many cases. Based on the same ‘logic’ being applied to mid-sections, should we not have another piping judge then? Of course not! More drummers does not = a call or need for more judges. Mid sections, despite insisting they have re-invented what they do, still just hit their drums and maybe flourish a bit more (and more noticeably…..). Any judge worth a pinch can still hear and see what they need to, write a sheet, continue to breathe, wonder if they left the iron on etc etc. Please don’t try to make this look like rocket science. Try being a piping judge and sitting through 30 piobaireachd at solos…..and then get back to me on why a qualified and experienced judge (as they tend to be) can no longer effectively judge a drum CORPS because it is might simply be bigger and plays more beatings.

  33. Lawrie, I was pretty sure you wouldn’t pass up this opportunity to spew your drivel again. By the way, pipe sections already have judges, two of them. Midsections do not have a judge. Yes, there is one drumming judge. The snare section though gets all kinds of feedback from that one drumming judge but the midsections are given mostly a passing comment at best. Everyone who plays deserves a fair listen, do they not? If you don’t like midsections and what they are doing or the fact that they would like some constructive feedback then go enjoy your piobaireachd solos. You won’t find the drummers crowing about how piobaireachd should or shouldn’t be judged. By the way, I actually like piobaireachd but it’s not everyone’s choice eh? You don’t find the drummers whining about it though.

  34. Lobman: If this is strictly a musical contest and should no visual aspect be judged, then why are we required to wear uniformed kilts, headwear and march from block formation into a circle formation? Why are tenor sticks made with strings? Ahh yes, these Traditional” aspects are too difficult to grasp for some. Flourishing is part of the art and should not be discounted.”

  35. Kevin. Lets not get into why we were uniforms etc..that is not what is being discussed here. The judging of the midsection is what is being discussed. I honestly do not care what a band wears. wikipedia defines music as (Music is an art form whose medium is sound organized in time. Common elements of music are pitch (which governs melody and harmony), rhythm (and its associated concepts tempo, meter, and articulation), dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture) I have nothing against the visuals , I do think they add to a bands performance but do not think visuals should be adjudicated. I would love for pipesdrums.com to do a poll of leading PM and LD , securing their identity so as no one felt they had to answer politically correct. The question would be just what I am talking about here. Should the visual aspects of the midsections be judged?

  36. namboL: Why should the grunt band members be excluded from participating in this poll you propose? If 100 band leaders participated, you’d only get 200 results, which is hardly enough information to make a fair assessment of how it should be judged. Even mainstream musicians are required to display a great deal of visual aspect. If a girl showed up on American Idol with the most angelic voice and never visually conveyed her passion through hand, face and body expression, I’d hardly think Simon would be 100% on board. Maybe we should just see what Simon would say (WWSS) or leave such a decision to all the adjudicating members of the World Tenor Fraternity (WTF) – yes I crack me up. Anywhoo, on you go Tyler! This is great for the sport.

  37. Kevin , sorry, as much as i love my daughter ( a tenor drummer BTW), her 3 years experience should not be given the same weight as Misters Livingstone , maxwell , Kilpatrick , Lee, Parkes, Mathison etc……..

  38. Lobman…I was never a uniform, so I’d actually like to hear more about why we were uniforms. 2) This is FANTASTIC!! And all aspects should be judged. Bands are judged regularly in parades and even competition about dress and deportment, and these fine players who work their tails off to perfect their art (which I’d argue is just as difficult as anything pipers or snare drummers do) and deserve to receive constructive feedback. Thanks PPBSO, kind of makes me want to move back and play in a more progressive environment…

  39. Personally, I look forward to what we can learn from this trial adjudication system. To quickly argue the visual aspect of tenor, top midsections apply just as much concentration to timing of flourishes to the timing of their scores. Does it make a sound? No. Is it musical in reference to how it executes in reference to the beat and melody? Absolutely. From the drumming standpoint, it would be great to have judges identify where the midsection drummers can integrate more into ensemble. Spinning and hitting is one thing. Blending with the overall corps dynamics, articulation, tuning, harmonics and drumming technique is much more. If this summer’s test can provide insight or improvement in the areas above, why not try it out? Kevin MacHeffner

  40. I think most people are missing the mark here and continually see the pipe band as seperate sections. I hope the judges comments add to the orchestration of the whole band the depth of feeling, the highs and lows the cresendos and dynamic finishes. Lets treat this as a step forward and a welcome addition to the overall visual and audible pleasure of the music.

  41. OK. What about the ensemble judge? Per one reader, it isn’t possible for a drumming judge to accurately assess the snares as well as the mid section due to all of the complexities of the new sounds going on in the modern Uberband. If that is that case, then how can the poor old ensemble judges do their job as not only do they have to consider the activities of all of the drummers, but on top of that have to listen to the pipers at the same time! Also, with the new mid section judge evaluating ensemble type activity, should we eliminate the ensemble judge? Hey, wait a minute! I have an idea. Why don’t we have the existing ensemble judge evaluate the mid section along with the overall ensemble of the band? You think it might work if they were trained properly on how to do this?……

  42. Yes, I have found the opposition to midsections and their fair adjudication an irritant so if this makes me a watchdog then so be it. If I have insulted drumming judges I apologize for my comments. I say that one drumming judge cannot make a fair assessment of both the snare and midsections because to this point this has been my observation. The multitude of people who have posted on the lack of constructive feedback plus any judging sheets I have seen or heard about indicate this. Perhaps the ensemble judge can make this part of their assessment as has been suggested. Whether a single drumming judge can do this is or not though is not the real issue. The point is that it is not being adequately critiqued and commented upon thus far on judging sheets. Education of judges would certainly be a step forward in helping solve the problem. I don’t think any judge would be opposed to learning more about this area. I think having a trial basis for a midsection judge is a good idea which will provide more insights into how this issue can be more adequately resolved.

  43. Well, I’m neither for or against the practice of providing mid-section critique, but I’m not really fond of the idea of scoring the mid-section as a separate entity, ie. apart from the drum section, as it could potentially lead to another divisive element within a band due to competing self-interests. We’ve already witnessed cases where the entire drum section packs up and moves to another band. We’ll likely see the same thing with entire mid-sections. Who knows, perhaps this will eventually extend to all harmony players in the pipe corps, or maybe those guys who play all the fancy parts beneath the melody line, or …?

  44. I’m not a big fan of covering the competition field with judges, but as an ensemble judge I can assure you that in shorter performances (an M/S/R or a lower-grade march medley) there is already not enough time for the ensemble judge to get around the circle and do everything that needs to be done — assess the sound of the pipes and snares, determine if the snare material fits (which can change with the time signature and must be reasssessed more than once), assess the bass sound and playing, consider the material and harmonies, etc. Add in a detailed critique of the midsection, and the ensemble judge is simply not able to manage everything. Also, as a piper doing ensemble, I don’t feel I’m the best qualified to make this assessment. I’ve never even felt comfortable choosing ‘Best Bass,’ which ensemble judges are still asked to do in some organizations. It does strike me though that midsection assessment is something the drumming judge should be doing. It’s specialized, but it should still fall under the lead-drummer’s realm, just as pipe harmonies fall under the pipe major’s realm even though they may be created by specialists. JM

  45. Sweet pedal harmony!!! I’m a specialist! not really, I tried to take myself and all my harmony cronies and form our own band, but the tunes never sounded the same. We even went back to the basics, and still had trouble dealing with writing a melody line. When it came down to it, not a single judge put us higher than last place due to our lack of a recognizable melody line. Whatever, begged my old PM to let us back in the band, and sit a third below everyone else like always.

  46. Yes, but having said that, would the tympanist not be appreciative of some feedback on their particular contribution within the whole, particularly if it was from someone who understood tympani- with a view to improving how the tympanist can better integrate with the ‘whole’ and hence contribute more to the marks at the end of the day and the obtaining of silverware- hopefully in return for quality of music produced, and not anything else. But where do you draw the line with how many judges you have on the day?

  47. I’m curious about the scenario where a band plays only a very small ‘tenor’ section. How does a judge assess a mass tenor corps of 6 or 7 against one that has just 2? If you judge a snare section of 3 compared to a snare section of 8, you’re still essentially, still judging the same aspects of what the two are doing. They’re both doing the same – one is just louder than the other. However, can you really do the same when you judge a tenor section of 2 (or maybe even one…or none…for some lower grade bands) versus one playing 6 which is set up in an entirely different manner? As for judging the ‘visual apsect’…just don’t!

  48. Do we need to consider the idea of min & max numbers of playing members in pipe bands to help create some sort of consistency in terms of judging and overall presentation? While minimum requirements exist now, it may be prudent to impose maximums. It would help to spread the talent around a bit more and thus should result in a better overall expertise level throughout all of the bands and grades.

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