By the left . . . It’s January 2030: where we are after a decade of change
Who could have predicted how the 2020s would end, with a 2029 that was nothing like any crystal ball attempts made in 2020. Let’s have a look at the year that was and what we might expect for 2030 and the new decade.
It was amazing to see Grade 1A Eastern USA United winning the World Championship. After the best pipers and drummers in the eastern half of the United States secured funding in 2025 from a legacy left by the late Warren Buffett, the Eastern USA United Pipe Band (EUSAUPB) finally brought a World’s the country in 2029. The band, pipe-majored by 25-year-old prodigy Hank Cohen, will now vie for a second title with a competing roster of 25 pipers, 10 snare drummers and their artificial intelligence-driven percussion DJ/producer who only goes by the name of “Plops.” The World Association guidelines on maximum numbers, ushered in in 2024, made it possible for more bands around the world to compete on a more level playing field after Scottish bands routinely fielded sections of more than 32 pipers and 15 snare drummers.
Rumour has it that a Western USA United Pipe Band (WUSAUPB) is also being formed, with an eye to starting in Grade 1B.
We’re look forward to the Intergalactic Pipe Band Championship. After the World Pipe Band Collective was formed following the collapse of several world pipe band associations between 2021 and 2025 due to accounting “issues” and a widespread defection by members. The World Pipe Band Collective now has a virtual headquarters in Edinburgh, Chicago, Sydney and Vancouver, and operates on a $20,000 annual budget. The Intergalactic Championship will be in Los Angeles, 2031 in Paris, 2032 in Vancouver and 2033 in Edinburgh.
With the popularity of drone reeds and pipe bags made from natural materials petering out in the early ’20s, the Highland bagpipe in 2030 is now completely synthetic and recyclable. The extinction of suitable blackwood and a virus blight on cane virtually wiping out world supplies saw CITES ban the use of the materials in any form, in both new and vintage instruments. Combined with new breakthroughs in polymers, pipes are now universally synthetic. When the first all-plastic one-piece pipe chanter reed was launched to great acclaim in 2025, and the invention of incredibly stable and affordable PolyWood for woodwind musical instruments, pipers have switched to instruments crafted in state of the art clean-room facilities. Silent mechanical “pressure-breathing systems” mounted within bags, complete with a filtered air intake device, mean that players only must concentrate on moving their fingers.
Using a special cap that captures brainwaves, musical scores for piping and drumming are now automated as virtual reality scoring has gained widespread acceptance. While pipers have always learned to read and write music from day one, the new Virtual Reality Scoring Cap is a breakthrough for many lead-drummers who, incredibly, still can’t read/write music. The Scoring Cap can be put into “teach” mode, brain waves – even faint ones from music-illiterate players – so that scores can be transferred mnemonically to other pipers and drummers. They won’t need to be physically present. The VR Scoring Cap works via what was once quaintly referred to as “the internet.”
Now entering his seventh decade as pipe-major, Sir Richard Parkes, knighted by King William in 2028, will call it a career in 2030. He can look back on his 18 World Championship wins with deserved pride. Sir Richard has not named a successor, but it’s thought that several in his band will be assimilated into the new UK United Pipe Band, an answer to EUSAUPB. As previously reported, 20-time World Solo Drumming Champion Steven McWhirter MBE will manage the percussion side of UKUPB.
New algorithms that recognize negative thought have been implemented by piping and drumming associations. The World Pipe Band Collective was the first to adopt the technology, which monitors the actions and words of pipers and drummers through special cameras mounted at competitions. Critical language expressed or negative body language captured at competitions will be interpreted by the new technology, and undesirables will be automatically suspended. The algorithms have been in use at sporting events and political rallies, and a version for the pipe band world has been finalized.
Only a few humanoid judges remain. Due to continuing outcry from competitors, the Shazam company launched the Judge Detector in 2028. Competition administrators simply hold up their iPhone 28, and Judge Detector assesses all aspects of the performance. Tone, tuning, unison, beats-per-minute, blowing, dynamics and ensemble are all interpreted automatically with one wave of Judge Detector. Foolproof results are fed to a robotic compiler in real time.
The pipe band world was honoured to have Scotland’s President Nicola Sturgeon present the prizes at the first National Pipe Band Championship at Holyrood Park. Held under a massive marquee, President Sturgeon’s team received a notification from the robotic compiler and spoke live to all bands via her office at the Scottish Parliament. Band members eagerly awaited the news as they sat on their eco-buses, VR headsets in place when Sturgeon delivered the news. Eastern USA United was delighted that US President Schmutz did not have to call in an air strike.
The big gatherings saw success in the last few years, with piobaireachds set for the various competitions including the winning tunes in their ceol mor composing contests. This strategy has worked like a charm. By putting a call out each year for new compositions to enter to win a £2,500 first prize, and then requiring competitors to submit some of those winning tunes, these new piobaireachds are quickly embraced. It’s an exciting new era for piobaireachd.
And on the uniform front, the popularity of one colour kilts has really taken off. Bands are taking a monochrome, non-tartan approach to their uniforms, inspired by the saffron, hodden grey and green kilts occasionally seen before. This simplified dress is a lot less expensive for bands as well, as they continue to pay games and festivals for the privilege of performing at them.
On a note closer to home, pipes|drums version 7 should be launched in its new Fingertip format by mid-year. Always on top of communications technology, your favourite publication will take advantage of the wildly successful GooppleFlix Fingertip Thimble, which enables “readers” to digest content directly into their implanted chip, feeding to synaptic waves. Just one swipe of the Fingertip Thimble and your favourite content will be transferred to your brain in real time. No more tedious reading!
The 2020s were quite a decade of change for piping and drumming. But it’s nothing compared with what we will see in the 2030s.