December 31, 2008

Two RSPBA branches taking Mid-Section proposal to Music Board

After separate general meetings, the Midlands and Glasgow & West of Scotland branches of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association will take proposals to establish Best Bass-Section awards at every future RSPBA championship in every grade to the Association’s Music Board.
The proposal – “To introduce new Best Bass Section awards at RSPBA major championships.” – was passed unanimously at the Midlands Branch meeting in early December, and the Glasgow & West of Scotland Branch’s motion was carried at its December 6th meeting after a lively debate by a vote of 10 to five.
The proposals are in response to the Association’s decision in March 2008 to eliminate the Best Bass-Section prizes that had been awarded at the World, Cowal and British championships. Because there was never any rule that the awards had to be handed out, the RSPBA’s Music Board made the decision as a matter of policy, and it was subsequently approved by the National Council, the RSPBA’s official ruling body.
The proposed rules make no mention of “re-instating” the awards, and instead are positioned as creating a completely new rule. The proposals will be passed to the RSPBA’s Music Board for further discussion by, among others, newly appointed Glasgow & West of Scotland Branch Music Board representatives Don Bradford, Strathclyde Police Pipe-Major, and Alistair Graham of the Grade 3 Milngavie Pipe Band’s bass-section.
Arguments for officially creating the awards included the contention that bass-sections are currently the fastest growing part of pipe band membership, market demand and the idea that the awards are an incentive for bands to improve.
The RSPBA cited time constraints at prize-giving ceremonies as the primary reason for eliminating the prizes. Other arguments against Best Bass-Section awards include the assertion that they can encourage division within bands and detract from ensemble goals.
An online petition to re-instate the Best Bass-Section awards was presented to the RSPBA, but the appeal was subsequently rejected by the Association’s National Council.


  1. I’ve become numb to a lot of things in this world; that is, with the exception of when it comes to standing up for something I believe in. You most certainly do not need to agree with the award (or any award for that matter) and I and my fellow peers will respect that. However, I certainly hope that when push comes to shove that you all have the same will and drive to respond in a similar fashion when you are put in a comparable situation; a situation that in your opinion adversely impacts the hard work of your fellow peers, musicians and/or students. Boghall didn’t ‘need’ their countless bass section awards throughout the 80’s and 90’s to gain our communities’ respect for where they brought things in our modern-day; in fact, I can see how that musical buzz” would be so pronounced having a section enhancing the melody like that. However

  2. Tenor drummers are OPTIONAL” It’s sad that this notion still exists. Bass and Tenors compete for 0% of the score yet make up a quarter of the bands personnel. If Ensemble is the most important aspect

  3. Maybe the best solution would be to eliminate individual section awards altogether and replace them with Best Ensemble”. This would reflect the work put in by the band as a whole as opposed to any one section ( Best Pipe Major

  4. Would one of the self-appointed tenor ‘messiahs’ please come forward with some hard and worthwhile evidence (maybe in the form of stats) to prove that the removal of a trophy will cause standards in bass and tenor drumming to plummit and also cause numbers to dwindle. Shall I hold my breath…? This all smacks of a few people galvanizing a bunch of followers to satisfy personal aspirations and ego. Sounds familiar…… Tenor drummers, feeling a little bit like an ‘add-on’ in pipe bands have all waited for their messiah for decades, and now they seemingly have one……albeit it in a Life of Brian” way. Maybe you can all hold one Ghillie Brogue aloft whilst playing…? Just kidding – this is really all now becoming comical and tiresome

  5. Actually no, it’s not enough already. The fact that you feel compelled to comment, as others do, (regardless of whether or not you have something to add), tells me that this issue resonates with almost everyone on every level. Remember, we’re talking about the destruction of a prize that was put in place in the 30’s for Cowal, long before a Worlds” had even taken place. We all have to be very careful to respect where we have come from. The history is far too precious. It’s one of the most important elements in allowing us to be the best that we can be. The Pipe Band World felt compelled to implement sectional prizes for a reason. Surely

  6. Once again, Scott, you presume to speak on behalf of others. Are you the chairman of a club or association of tenor drummers..? You’ve put the ball in your own court by setting yourself up as a spokesperson for all tenors. The challenge was to put forward some hard evidence – to prove that the removal of a trophy will cause numbers to shrink and standards to decline. I put it to you (and others) that the mid section” road show will press on regardless. Personally

  7. Actually ROLLY, enough is enough already. Progress is undeniable with all things, however the definition of progress in regards to tenor drumming obviously varies depending on who you ask. What is progress in this Mid Section” context? Having nearly or as many tenors as there are side drummers? Pink mallets? The very basic assertion that hitting more drums

  8. To achieve disfunctional tuning, simply replace the tenor drums with those African type that can be carried under the arm and squeezed for different sounds. That way, there won’t be a need for 9 drummers to be able to play all the tones that are required. In addition, the new instrument would be more challenging to play in proper tune and time thus perhaps even deserving a Look At Me

  9. If tennor drummers attended AGMs in the first place, this wouldnt be happening. It’s you’re own fault. If you dont want things to happen in the first place, be active. Dont moan when it’s done if you couldnt be bothered to go to the AGM!

  10. i’d love to comment today’s tip-of-the-day bit from PM Walker, i know that for many musicians it’s much more than just a hobby as this mid-section issue shows

  11. On the other hand, those concerned could take the traditional route of doing nothing, grousing in the beertent and wondering why nothing ever changes . . .

  12. Fair comment Tyler, I do remember getting my **** kicked and my head squeezed (you had to be there) many times by that same Mr Mclean. I do agree with your points about the difference they made to our band, however I guess Big Ian and the rest of that generation would have resolved this problem in a different way, thats all.

  13. ….Ithe last word from me…..I just remembered, frequently over the years Tom, Gordon, Ian and the rest said that they’d have traded all of the drumming / bass section prizes for just one band win. I think that says it all.

  14. At least that’s one thing we can agree on Ross! Every drummer I know would prioritise the success of the band. But excellence in the drum corp and bass section form but a small part of that priority and that’s what these awards recognise(d).

  15. Let’s put this in perspective. We all belong to the, or a, Pipe BAND association. We play in a BAND, or the PIPES & DRUMS. The ultimate prize we all aspire to is the BAND prize. On the way to that result recognition is taken of the role the drum corps play in that performance.The Drummers play as a team to add a rhythmical accompaniment to the Pipe melody and strive for the best ENSEMBLE performance. To follow the argument for the award to its ultimate conclusion, will we now see players wanting an award for the best pipe corps, the best bass and tenor corps, the best snare drum corps and the overall band prize reduced to an also ran result. No, I don’t think so. The drive for this campaign has come from, as ever, the vociferous few wanting to have their own way, and sod the rest of the people. What percentage of total membership comprise Bass/Tenor drummers? – a lot less than a quarter I reckon, but I could be wrong. What number of bands realistically can expect to have a chance of winning or being placed in such a competition ?- very few I reckon. The great number of bands struggle to provide tenor drummers so let’s have a level playing field for this. And let’s not forget, Tenor drummers are OPTIONAL.

  16. And what if there weren’t those drumming and section trophies… it possible that a band like the Boggies could have copped a Worlds or two??? Just thinking….

  17. How does this square with the fact that we give best drum section awards in MAP grades where the judges are supposed to be focusing on ensemble? RSPBA Champion of Champions 2008 Grade 4A Band – Black Bottle of Islay Drumming – Black Bottle of Islay Grade 4B Band – Stockbridge Drumming – Stockbridge

  18. Once again Lawrie, it’s difficult for me or anyone else to take anything you say with more than a pinch of salt without you putting your money where your big mouth is by throwing your name behind your point, whatever that actually happens to be. Just as I and others have provided our own submissions to the powers that be and pipes|drums readers as to why the presence of such awards contributes towards the growth and improvement of quality of bass sections, perhaps you could use your own keenly honed powers of presumption to manufacture your own ‘evidence’ in support of your own contra-argument. We’ve done our homework; you go do your own! However, in doing so, you may wish to “carry yourself a bit better.” 😉 I will though make one observation – the closer this topic makes it back to the debating table at Washington Street, the louder and less dignified you have become in your efforts to discredit those in support of the awards. My cards are on the table for everyone to see – I have invested way too much into my ‘hobby’ over three decades to sit idly by and watch while a handful of likeminded, influential individuals dismantle and devalue over 50 years of history and progress. If making my best efforts to contribute in some small way towards attempting to preserve and continue that history puts my character out there to be judged as an egotist by the likes of you, then I suppose I’ll just have to live with that. Those who know me personally know what I’m about. I’ll leave others like you that don’t to make it up!

  19. Yes, it is enough…….but I was actually referring to the sniping back and forth between SC Dri\umming and Laurie. Coincidentally, I just happen to be watching UFC Fight Night right now. In fact, James Irvin just KO’d Huston Alexander in first 10 seconds of the very first round with a superman punch. But, I digress…… Let’s just get the prize reinstated and move on….. Signed, Altodrummermann (formerly known as Bagpipermann).

  20. ps – history gets re-written all the time, Craig. I applaud and respect your research and skills but it’s inevitable that some things will change. Maybe you need to read between the lines and see that the underlying message from the powers-that-be is ‘enough already!’. How much more can you do, drumming-wise, or do you propose to do, within the parameters that are prescribed? The OTT, non-musical flourishing, and the jumping around like rock stars is enough…..or is it? Where to from here? Maybe it’s a case of Danny Carey, Lombardo or Bonham being stuck in a kilt…? If so, leave pipe bands and join a rock band. The bass/tenor ceiling has been hit, and the message is being sent to you. Look at piping – there is a limit in the band contest environment. Mark Saul et al do a fantastic job of pushing the boundaries….but outside the realm of pipe bands. Maybe bass/tenor people need to go there, on their own……and see how you go without the band framework (pipes and sides) to support you…. The sky won’t fall in if the decision stands. If they did away with the world pipe band championship, for example, we’d all find a way to move on. This is all pretty boring now. If it means so much, boycott the worlds and see how much you’re missed, and how much the contest suffers. I’m tipping you’d all be there by choice, regardless, trophy or not. History is just that. Time to move on.

  21. Mitch, to answer your question, the awards were indeed formerly known/announced as ‘Best Bass Drum’. The awards began being known/announced as ‘Best Bass Section’ around late 1980’s/early 1990’s.

  22. Lawrie, yes change is inevitable. The changes in today’s midsections are undeniable. The changes in the musicality and sophistication of the compositions plus the tonal contributions are undeniable. The need for a change in the way these midsections are adjudicated is undeniable. Show me a judging sheet that adequately evaluates a midsection and perhaps we will all shut up. The RSPBA needs to address this, not remove an award which has to date been the only real recognition that the midsections have ever really received. In a genre of music that puts the various elements under a microscope for evaluation, why is it that midsections are not being equally assessed? The reason is that there are not any people currently qualified to do so or the few who are able to do this justice have not been approached to do so by the association. The associations across the world need to move towards adding a midsection judge to the panel at contests. Yes, it is inevitable that things change and this is the change that is needed here. Sorry, but I completely disagree with you and your statement that enough is enough”. We have clearly not done enough. “

  23. Tenor drummers are optional – Yes BMorgan, they are. Also they do not contribute 0% of the score they contribute the 40 or 50% of the marks you state, as part of the drum corps. If pipers play harmonies they don’t get an award for the ‘best harmony line’ which in essence is what the tenor and bass section do as a best underlying rhythm line and melodic accompaniment, the tenor and bass section contribute to the drum corps as a body, not as separate parts. To come back to one of my original points, the drum corps is a team, a sum of the parts, a synergy. My comment about tenor drummers being optional was taking the line of :-tenor drummers are not necessary to compete but where they do they are part of a team and not the be all and end all, which I feel is where this whole discussion is leading. Put the dummy back in, get the toys back in the pram and let’s get on with playing MUSIC(not you personally but all the tenor drummers who think they are God’s gift).

  24. Here’s a question: how can all this tenor drumming hype be about anything but the ‘BIG SHOW’ (big numbers, OTT flourishing and LOOK AT ME!!)..? I’ve seen some bands rig up a harness so one tenor drummer can play 3 drums. Why are we yet to see a single tenor drummer with 3 drums attached to one harness? They are light enough, and you only have to waddle 20 yards into the circle. A single snare drum would still be heavier than 3 tenor drums. But then I guess a mere 2 tenor drummers playing 6 drums between them, despite requiring more skill and coordination to do so, doesn’t look as cool as 9 puffed up peacocks, mainly because they couldn’t flourish or look as big and catch the eye…..oh, hang on I forgot – I’m about to be told it is ‘all about the music’! Give me a break. If it was, there would be much smarter ways to deliver the music, like a proper utilisation of a very simple instrument. It’s all about the big show, don’t kid yourselves or, worse still, try to kid anyone else.



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