What the world’s best pipers are playing: a pipes|drums Survey

Published: February 29, 2012
(Page 1 of 8)

Two years have passed since the last pipes|drums Survey of the world’s top solo pipers and what instrument, reeds, bag and moisture control system they use. In 2009 we had 35 responses, and we grouped together all Premier and A-Grade competitors at the Argyllshire Gathering and Northern Meeting. This time, we decided to broaden our research to include also the B-Grade competitors. We think that no one would dispute that today, anyone whose entry is accepted at these prestigious competitions are in the world’s elite players.

So, for our survey of competitors at Oban and Inverness and 2011, we sourced the names and addresses of 95 competitors across the three essential categories of Premier, A-Grade and B-Grade. Although a few may compete in A-Grade light music, we considered anyone who has won a Highland Society of London Gold Medal to be in the Premier category.

As with our 2009 survey, we will not reveal specific players’ responses, and only compile them as a whole. This we feel is only fair, and encourages a higher rate of participation.

We sent our survey three separate times over several weeks, each time to those who had not yet responded. Out of the 95 total, we had 70 responses, or a response-rate of 74%. No one asked not to be included now or in the future; they simply did not respond.

We posed eight questions to each respondent, who could then simply tick off the item that applied to them, or, if the piece wasn’t listed, they could write in under “Other” what they used. We listed every prominent modern maker that we could think of and also, for drones, the more prominent vintage instruments being played.

The essential questions:  

  • What type of pipe chanter did you compete with at Oban and Inverness in 2011?

  • What type of drones did you compete with at Oban and Inverness in 2011?

  • What type(s) of pipe chanter reed did you compete with at Oban and Inverness in 2011? (knowing chanter reeds might well be changed between events, respondents could pick as many as two)

  • What was your basic drone reed setup?

  • What type of bass drone reed did you compete with at Oban and Inverness in 2011?

  • What type(s) of tenor drone reeds did you compete with at Oban and Inverness in 2011?

  • What type of pipe bag did you compete with at Oban and Inverness in 2011?

  • What type of moisture control system, if any, did you compete with at Oban and Inverness in 2011?

 We’ll analyze results based on each grade, and, at the end, try to take an overall picture of what comprised the “ideal” solo instrument at the Argyllshire Gathering and Northern Meeting competitions in 2011.

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  1. Doc

    For the future, it would be interesting to know if anyone has changed their set up in the past year, or even how many times they’ve changed their setup in the past 5 years, for example. Also, what is being changed. This would give us all an idea of the most volatile” areas that need watching

  2. Bagpipermann

    Perhaps the reason for a greater percentage of vintage pipes in the premier grade and newer pipes on the B grade is a reflection on the age/longevity of the players and their respective accessability to (at the appropriate age) reasonably priced instruments? EG, a 16 year old us not too likely to cough up 10K for a set of now rare Silver & Ivory vintage pipes compared to 2K? for an abundant new set of equal or better quality sound? Maybe? As far as bags and reeds, it’s interesting to see that the Old Dogs” have a preference for modern technology while the “Young Pups” are slanted more towards the old…hmmm…perhaps pups have more patience or energy for the persnicketiness of the old ways? Well. I’m stayin’ with my old pipes and new bags/reeds…I just don’t have the patience for the protracted battle of attrition for a negligibly better or worse sound at the end of it…gimme instant sound anytime!… Cheers

  3. AndrewBerthoff

    @Lawrie – thanks for the comment. I’m sure many of the respondents don’t care about revealing their identity, but keeping everyone anonymous gets many more responses, which is most important. @Doc – good idea. Perhaps we will add a question or two along those lines next time.

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