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March 30, 2022

Australia tests recorded spoken judging critiques

Piping judge David Telford with laptop and headset, about to trial “Voice Critiques” software at the Scots School Albury event in Victoria, Australia.

A potential solution to the challenge that judges face trying to write comments during competition performances was tested during Grade 2 St. Mary’s Band Club’s demonstration during the Scots School Albury Pipe Band competition at Albury, New South Wales, Australia.

Using “Voice Critiques” software by Eventshd, judges used a headset to provide spoken comments for saved files that provided “more emotion,” according to organizers, and feedback at exact points of the MSR or Medley performances.

While Voice Critiques has been used extensively for years at dance competitions in Australia, it was the program’s first use in a pipe band event. The idea was brought forward by pipe band judge and piping teacher Scott Nicolson after he helped to coordinate the Scots Dance Competition and Scots School Albury’s first pipe band competition in six years on March 20th.

“As a pipe band adjudicator, I thought it was worth trying at a live contest,” Nicolson said. “The software was very simple to navigate and easy to extract the recording for the band to listen to.”

“It was more efficient in providing feedback,” said drumming and ensemble judge Andrew Womersley. “The performance can be heard in background while listening to adjudicator’s comments, hopefully eliminating the player’s interpretation on what they believed they sounded like. Additionally, the feedback can be shared to the wider members of the band immediately.”

Nicolson acknowledged that there were drawbacks, such as the size of the digital file created, meaning that it couldn’t be downloaded to a phone or iPad, so a laptop had to be used.

The Music Board of Pipe Bands Victoria “will investigate the quality of the feedback and are enthusiastic about moving forward with this new methodology of pipe band adjudication,” Nicolson added.

A crowd of about 2,000 attended the Scots School Albury competition. Australia is slowly emerging from measures to stem the most recent wave of COVID-19 infections.

Here’s a demonstration of how Voice Critiques works.

Non-piping and drumming music competitions use similar voice recording methods for many years. Drum Corps International (DCI) and other marching band competition circuits have used taped critiques for decades, but the pipe band world has so far been mostly reluctant adopt or even try similar methods.

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