October 18, 2018

The drummers dilemma

As the 2018 World Solo Drumming Championships approach, and the autumn is rife with the vast majority of bands seeking snare drummers, many also toiling trying to recruit qualified and willing lead-drummers, the time is right to have a look at these age-old perennial problems.

The dearth of drummers and leaders is so familiar that we suspect many feel it’s simply a baked-in tradition. Not that all bands are flush with pipers, but, far more often, recruiting for the back end of the band is annual and ongoing.

As pipes|drums does, rather than sitting around accepting problems as simply the way things are and will always be, we’ve made queries to come up with possible answers. Only by asking questions on sensitive, difficult or even taboo subjects can we expect to improve.

It’s safe to say that we can all agree that there is a shortage of pipe band snare drummers, with only a handful of top-tier bands having as many or more than they need. Compounding this is the fact that, each year, lead-drummers decide to move on or pack it in altogether. Finding suitably prepared replacement leaders continues to be difficult, even to the point of some bands being unable to compete.

+ Grade 1 Toronto Police still searching for L-D

+ 78th Halifax looking for L-D

+ L-D search on for Ottawa Police

But why? Compared with, say, 25 years ago, there are more instruction and instructors available than ever for any drummer, novice or experienced, who wishes to learn. There is more media to access this education, with the Internet providing various platforms to deliver the tools. A learning drummer can dial up a World Champion for a lesson on Skype . . . but they mostly don’t.

Add to this the fact that pipe band drumming is exponentially better than ever. The instruments themselves are precision-crafted, producing tone beyond the imaginations of drummers of past generations.

State of the art instruction, teaching aids, instruments – they are all there for the taking. It’s a great time to be a pipe band drummer.

So why are pipe bands still too often mired in all-too-familiar desperate situations?

A few thoughts . . .



  1. A very well written and comprehensive article.
    Blair’s insights are spot on and clearly suggest that the growth and development of the individual is paramount to ultimately filling this ongoing void.
    With an early focus on correct technique and execution, a foundation is established for personal growth and development as a musician.
    The importance of exposure to other styles and approaches to the music cannot be understated…especially as it ultimately relates to the development of ones own style.
    The success that comes with this regimen of personal development instills confidence and the basis for leadership and movement to the highest levels of performance.



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