Published: June 10, 2021

The rankings: MSRs using Alan Jones’s ensemble formula (updated)

Editor’s note: The four-part series by former Grade 1 snare drummer and mathematician Alan Jones of New Zealand outlined his attempt to break down marches, strathspeys and reels for their suitability for pipe band ensemble success.

If you have not read them, they’re well worth your consideration, and the links to the articles follow.

Of course, piping and drumming are arts, but, at least the version most pipes|drums readers enjoy, is focused on competition. Just as there is art in sports, there is a degree of sport in our arts. Every pipe band looks for an edge in competition.

Many of the innovations involving bagpipes and drums are based on science. The pipe band snare drum itself is, in many ways, a work of physics, and most instrument manufacturers consider the latest innovations in manufacturing to get a business edge.

Don’t worry, no one is going to take your LAK away.

We find it ironic that the great 2/4 march “Lord Alexander Kennedy” is beloved by many pipers, drummers and pipe bands, yet when Alan Jones applies his theories and formulas, it ranks as the most unsuitable composition for successful ensemble.

On paper, that is.

There’s also no doubting that it is the creative and technical skill of the drum score composer that can overcome the challenges – real or theoretical – that the tune might or might not present. Pipe bands love a challenge. A Grade 1 band would be laughed out the park if they played, say, “Walter Douglas MBE” in their MSR.

Then again, there’s no formal reward for “hard,” especially in pipe bands where judges might well have never have even heard of, much less played, “Colonel Stockwell.”

The debate continues over whether we should challenge ourselves in competition, and thus potentially reduce the chance of a prize, or make things as easy as reasonably possible to increase the opportunity to win.

Here are 2019 World Champions Inveraray
& District
playing “Lord Alexander Kennedy”
on their way to
winning the title.
Ensemble judge David Brown
placed the band first.

Silver Stars at the Northern Meeting have been won with “Charlie’s Welcome” and “Thompson’s Dirk,” and probably far more often with the latter.

One does not have to agree with Jones’s discoveries. But, if you’re like us, we try to keep an open mind, gather the information, and make an informed decision.

Don’t worry, no one is going to take your LAK away.

Pipe band judges would be ignorant or just plain stupid to summarily conclude that no band can make a good job of “Lord Alexander Kennedy” based on a scientific analysis. There can be no replacing skill and nuance.

In Part 3, Jones concluded that Ann Gray’s lesser-played 2/4 march, “Andrew Wright of Dunblane,” provides optimal ensemble opportunities, according to his mathematical formulas.

Here, then, are the more popular competition marches, strathspeys and reels that Alan Jones put through his calculations to determine their theoretical propensity for ensemble success.

As they say, your opinions may vary.


What Makes Ensemble Click: Is this the end for “Lord Alexander Kennedy”? – Part 1
May 23, 2021


What Makes Ensemble Click: Is this the end for “Lord Alexander Kennedy”? – Part 2


What Makes Ensemble Click: Is this the end for “Lord Alexander Kennedy”? – Part 3


What Makes Ensemble Click: Is this the end for “Lord Alexander Kennedy”? – Part 4
June 6, 2021


By Alan Jones

The following scores result from a spreadsheet program that measures the piping tune’s rhythmic compatibility with the pipe band snare drum, based on the five criteria: Flow, Rhythm, Lift, Drive, and Repetition.

This is a preliminary analysis, based on the tune’s own rhythmic structure.

The higher the score, the greater the potential ensemble match between the two instruments.

For example:

“Lord Alexander Kennedy”
Flow 0.55 Good
Rhythm 0.10 Poor
Lift 0.07 Poor
Drive 0.34 Poor
Repetition 0.58 Good
SCORE: 33%

A second analysis, based on an enhancement of the tune’s rhythmic structure, can be found in Part 4.

Here are percentage ratings for marches commonly played in competition.

Higher-level Marches

77% Dugald MacColl’s Farewell to France
74 The Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band
74 The Highland Wedding
74 The Links of Forth (6 parts)
74 The Links of Forth (8 parts)
69 The Balmoral Highlanders
69 The Clan MacCrae Society
68 Pipe Major Willie MacLean
66 Jeannie Carruthers
62 The Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society
61 Captain Carswell
61 John MacDonald of Glencoe
61 The Young MacGregor
57 Pipe-Major Willie Gray’s Farewell to the Glasgow Police
56 The Conundrum
55 Mrs. John MacColl
54 Pipe-Major Jim Christie of Wick
54 The Braes of Badenoch
53 The Argyllshire Gathering
53 The Lochaber Gathering
52 Donald Cameron
51 Colin Thomson
50 Hugh Kennedy
44 Brig.-Gen. Ronald Cheape of Tiroran
44 Carradale Bay
44 The Clan MacColl
41 Jimmy Young
33 Lord Alexander Kennedy

Higher-level Strathspeys

79% The Ewe wi’ the Crookit Horn
73 Arniston Castle
71 Inveraray Castle
68 Shepherd’s Crook
58 Atholl Cummers
58 The Islay Ball
54 Bob o’ Fettercairn
52 The Caledonian Society of London
47 Dora MacLeod
39 Blair Drummond
39 The Cameronian Rant
34 Maggie Cameron
31 Tulloch Castle
31 Susan MacLeod
30 Monymusk

Higher-level Reels

84% Willie Murray’s Reel
81 Cabar Feidh
79 Charlie’s Welcome
78 Alick C. MacGregor
78 Pretty Marion
76 Johnnie MacDonald’s Reel
72 Mrs. MacPherson of Inveran
68 Over the Isles to America
67 Dolina MacKay
66 John Morrison, Assynt House
65 Major David Manson
62 The Brown-Haired Maiden (6 parts)
60 McAllister’s Dirk
45 The Smith of Chilliechassie (arr. Ramsay, 8 parts)
44 John McKechnie
41 The Smith of Chilliechassie (arr. MacLellan, 6 parts)
41 Ca’ the Ewes (6 parts)
41 Loch Carron
38 Ca’ the Ewes (4 parts)
27 The Sheepwife

 

MSR pipe tune rankings based on the pipe tune’s enhanced rhythmic framework

The following scores result from a spreadsheet “program” that measures the piping tune’s rhythmic compatibility with the pipe band snare-drum.

Each tune has now been analyzed twice by the program.

  1. The first analysis, based on the tune’s own rhythmic structure.
  2. The second analysis, based on the tune’s enhanced rhythmic structure.

The results of this second analysis provide a more accurate indication of the tune’s potential to deliver a close rhythmic match between the pipe and drum sections.

The higher the score, the greater the potential match between the two instruments.

For example:

87 55 32 Andrew Wright of Dunblane

87% – The tune’s ensemble rating – based on its “enhanced” rhythmic framework.

55% – The tune’s preliminary score – based on its own rhythmic framework.

32% – The ensemble points gained.

N.B. So that an accurate and direct comparison between all types and levels of tune can be made, enhanced framework results have been allowed to exceed 100%.

MARCHES

RSPBA prescribed two-part Marches:

116 58 58 Corriechoillie’s 43rd Welcome to the Northern Meeting
115 55 60 The Earl of Mansfield
114 65 49 Mrs H.L. MacDonald of Dunach
114 74 40 The Drunken Piper
112 67 45 The Liberton Pipe Band Polka
110 69 41 McKay’s Polka
110 63 47 The Weary Maid
108 84 24 Coppermill
108 82 26 The 79th’s Farewell to Gibraltar
107 83 24 Greenwood Side
106 62 44 Duncan McInnes
106 64 42 Miss Delicia Chisholm
106 64 42 Prince Charles’ Welcome to Lochaber
104 52 52 Highland Lassie Going to the Fair
104 63 41 Mairi Bhan
104 63 41 The Sweet Maid of Glendaurel
101 61 40 Highland Laddie
101 70 31 The High Road to Gairloch
99 49 50 Major C.M. Usher OBE
99 85 14 The 72nd Highlanders’ Farewell to Aberdeen
97 70 27 Rantin’ Rovin’ Robin
97 78 19 The Siege of Delhi
96 73 23 MacKay’s Farewell to the 74th
96 76 20 Teribus
96 73 23 The McKenzie Highlanders
96 68 28 Walter Douglas MBE
95 64 31 The Atholl and Breadalbane Gathering
95 80 15 The Burning of the Piper’s Hut
95 68 27 The White Cockade
93 61 32 Muir of Ord
93 70 23 The Brown Haired Maiden
92 48 44 Australian Ladies
92 74 18 Corn Riggs are Bonny
92 41 51 Lady lever Park
91 60 31 The Haughs of Cromdale
89 57 32 Glen Caladh Castle
88 70 18 The 2nd Rhodesian Regiment
87 57 30 Campbell’s Farewell to Redcastle
87 66 21 The 51st Highland Division at Wadi Akarit
86 53 33 Hugh Kennedy
86 63 23 The Barren Rocks of Aden
85 75 10 Jenny’s Bawbee
85 63 22 Men of Argyll
84 54 30 Auchmountain’s Bonnie Glen
84 61 23 Captain Norman Orr-Ewing
84 49 35 Donald MacLean’s Farewell to Oben
83 60 23 The Dundee Military Tattoo
83 51 32 The Hills of Perth
81 81 0 I’ll Gang Nae Mair Tae Yon Toon
81 61 20 King George V’s Army
81 64 17 The Piper’s Cave
78 41 37 John MacMillan of Barra
76 61 15 Dornoch Links
74 49 25 The Taking of Beaumont Hamel
73 73 0 The Inverness Gathering
73 72 1 The 25th K.O.S.B’s Farewell to Meerut
70 46 24 The River Irvine
66 53 13 Pipe Major Willie Gray’s Farewell to the Glasgow Police
65 57 8 Achany Glen
65 60 5 Pipe Major William Ross’s Farewell to the Scots Guards

RSPBA prescribed four-part Marches:

111 73 38 The 79th’s Farewell to Gibraltar
110 78 32 The Siege of Delhi
107 64 43 The Liberton Pipe Band Polka
104 66 38 Prince Charles’ Welcome to Lochaber
104 87 17 The Atholl and Breadalbane Gathering
102 57 45 Lady Lever Park
101 63 38 Duncan McInnes
100 49 51 Major C.M. Usher OBE
99 68 31 Muir of Ord
98 65 33 Miss Delicia Chisholm
98 52 46 Mrs H.L. MacDonald of Dunach
97 59 38 Donald MacLean’s Farewell to Oban
97 73 24 Walter Douglas MBE
95 69 26 The Dundee Military Tattoo
95 61 34 The Haughs of Cromdale
94 53 41 John MacMillan of Barra
92 64 28 The 51st Highland Division at Wadi Akarit
91 50 41 The Australian Ladies
88 58 30 Glen Caladh Castle
88 63 25 The 2nd Rhodesian Regiment
87 70 17 Captain Norman Orr-Ewing
85 75 10 The Inverness Gathering
84 47 37 Miss Elspeth Campbell
84 71 13 The Burning of the Piper’s Hut
80 50 30 The Hills of Perth
79 66 13 KIng George V’s Army
79 75 4 The 25th K.O.S.B’s Farewell to Meerut
73 56 17 The Taking of Beaumont Hamel
72 49 23 Men of Argyll
71 56 15 Auchmountain’s Bonnie Glen
65 58 7 Achany Glen

 Higher-level Marches:

107 56 51 The Conundrum
103 61 42 Captain Carswell
99 74 25 The Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band
94 66 28 Jeannie Carruthers
94 61 33 The Young MacGregor
92 77 15 Dugald MacColl’s Farewell to France
92 55 37 Mrs John MacColl
92 74 18 The Highland Wedding
91 69 22 The Balmoral Highlanders
91 62 29 The Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society
88 68 20 Pipe Major Willie MacLean
86 61 25 John MacDonald of Glencoe
86 44 42 The Clan MacColl
88 50 38 Hugh Kennedy
84 54 30 The Braes of Badenoch
84 69 15 The Clan MacCrae Society
84 64 20 Pipe Major Jim Christie of Wick
83 74 9 The Links of Forth (8)
82 74 8 The Links of Forth (6)
80 44 36 Carradale Bay
79 52 27 Donald Cameron
78 57 21 Pipe Major Willie Gray’s Farewell to the Glasgow Police
77 44 33 Brig. Gen. Ronald Cheape of Tiroran
74 53 21 The Argyllshire Gathering
72 51 21 Colin Thomson
70 53 17 The Lochaber Gathering
64 41 23 Jimmy Young
53 33 20 Lord Alexander Kennedy

STRATHSPEYS

RSPBA prescribed two-part Strathspeys:

124 112 12 The Inverness Fiddler
120 98 22 Lady MacKenzie of Fairburn
126 99 27 Munlochy Bridge
117 87 30 The Oyster Wives’ Rant
113 65 48 The Keel Row
111 79 32 Because he was a Bonny Lad
111 91 20 Nellie’s Strathspey
111 95 16 The Marquis of Huntly’s Highland Fling
109 74 35 Colonel MacLeod
109 95 14 The Maids of the Black Glen
108 77 31 The Cowal Society
107 93 14 The Inverness Rant
102 60 42 Highland Harry
102 61 41 Molly Connell
100 62 38 Orange and Blue
99 75 24 Campbelltown Kiltie Ball
97 72 25 The Smith’s a Gallant Fireman
95 61 34 Dornie Ferry
95 75 20 O’er the Bows to Ballindalloch
93 85 8 Archie Duncan
92 65 27 Castle MacGillivray
91 81 10 Arniston Castle
89 59 30 The Spirits of Old Pulteney
89 67 22 Struan Robertson
88 59 29 Strathconon
88 72 16 The Marketplace of Inverness
87 64 23 Lady MacKenzie of Gairloch
85 68 17 Lady Carmichael’s Strathspey
85 57 28 Louden’s Bonnie Woods and Braes
83 37 46 Maggie Cameron
83 55 28 McPhedran’s Strathspey
82 53 29 A.A. Cameron’s Strathspey
81 54 27 Captain Colin Campbell
80 42 38 Clementina’s Strathspey
80 51 29 J.F. MacKenzie of Garrynahine
80 19 61 Pipe Major Hector MacLean
78 71 7 Dalnahassaig
75 40 35 Captain Horne
76 32 44 Jennifer Finlayson
75 50 25 Kathleen Mala
74 58 16 Dorrator Bridge
72 64 8 The Caledonian Canal
70 59 11 Aspen Bank
70 69 1 Donald Bane
64 45 19 The Fiddler’s Joy
63 51 12 Dora MacLeod
60 48 12 Miss Jackson
60 38 22 Susan MacLeod

RSPBA prescribed four-part Strathspeys:

105 87 18 The Marquis of Huntly’s Highland Fling
92 60 32 Dornie Ferry
91 68 23 Struan Robertson
90 48 42 Highland Harry
89 79 10 Archie Duncan
89 55 34 Lady MacKenzie of Gairloch
88 67 21 Pipe Major Hector MacLean
83 61 22 Captain Colin Campbell
82 73 9 The Caledonian Canal
79 62 17 Cabar Feidh
79 59 20 Dorrator Bridge
77 37 40 Jennifer Finlayson
70 51 19 John Roy Stewart
69 42 27 Kathleen Mala

Higher-level Strathspeys:

101 80 21 The Ewe with the Crooked Horn
97 68 29 The Shepherd’s Crook
90 73 17 Arniston Castle
85 71 14 Inveraray Castle
81 58 23 The Islay Ball
73 34 39 Maggie Cameron
68 54 14 Bob O’Fettercairn
67 30 37 Monymusk
66 58 8 Atholl Cummers
66 47 19 Dora MacLeod
59 31 28 Susan MacLeod
58 52 6 The Caledonian Society of London
54 39 15 Blair Drummond
52 31 21 Tulloch Castle
49 39 10 The Cameronian Rant

REELS

RSPBA prescribed two-part Reels:

110 61 49 The Brown Haired Maiden
110 75 35 MacKay from Skye
110 75 35 Piper of Drummond
108 72 36 The Auld Wife A’Hint the Door
106 71 35 Over the Isles to America
106 67 39 Eastwood Cottage
102 81 21 Marion and Donald
101 84 17 Johnnie MacDonald’s Reel
100 70 30 The Sound of Sleat
99 77 22 The Fairy Dance
99 83 16 Molly on the Shore
99 89 10 Willie Murray’s Reel
98 58 40 High Road to Linton
98 72 26 Major David Manson
96 68 28 Thomson’s Dirk
95 65 30 Colonel MacLeod
94 56 38 The Circassian Circle
93 87 6 Alick C. MacGregor
93 76 17 Flora, Mrs MacLeod of MacLeod
92 74 18 Caber Feidh
92 58 34 The Ale is Dear
89 83 6 Duncan Findlay’s Reel
89 77 12 Lexy McAskill
89 79 10 Mo Chuachag Laghach Thu
88 66 22 Forrest Lodge
87 59 28 Miss Girdle
86 39 47 Ca’ the Ewes
86 73 13 The Famous Ballymote
82 63 19 Capt. Lachlan MacPhail of Tiree
82 65 17 Lord James Murray
82 77 5 Sheila McMurchy’s Dance
81 77 4 Angus MacLellan
80 74 6 Jock Wilson’s Ball
80 61 19 The Blackberry Bush
77 41 36 Pipe Major Callum Campbell
76 27 49 Tail Toddle
74 65 9 The Bridge of Garry
70 44 26 Bessie MacIntyre
69 38 31 Kalabakan
69 58 11 The Man from Glengarry
64 38 26 Sleepy Maggie
57 38 19 Lt. Col. D.J.S Murray

RSPBA prescribed four-part Reels:

110 93 17 MacKay from Skye
110 63 47 The Brown Haired Maiden
99 67 32 Colonel MacLeod
99 82 17 Molly on the Shore
99 93 6 Murdo Lamont’s Spree
98 56 42 Fiona MacLeod
97 85 12 Gena MacLeod
92 87 5 Duncan Findlay’s Reel
90 72 18 Capt. Lachlan MacPhail of Tiree
88 69 19 The Blackberry Bush
88 63 25 Thomson’s Dirk
87 74 13 Jock Wilson’s Ball
84 70 14 Lexie McAskill
84 71 13 Willie Cummings Rant
83 68 15 Flora, Mrs MacLeod of MacLeod
83 57 26 The Sound of Sleat
81 76 5 Sheila McMurchy’s Dance
80 46 34 Pipe Major Callum Campbell
76 72 4 Angus MacLellan
73 47 26 Bessie McIntyre
66 55 11 The Man from Glengarry
65 32 33 Kalabakan
58 44 14 Sleepy Maggie
56 40 16 Lt. Col. D.J.S. Murray

Higher-level Reels:

103 62 41 The Brown Haired Maiden (six parts)
101 68 33 Over the Isles to America
97 84 13 Willie Murray’s Reel
94 78 16 Pretty Marion
91 81 10 Cabar Feidh
91 79 12 Charlie’s Welcome
91 66 25 John Morrison of Assynt House
90 67 23 Dolina MacKay
88 76 12 Johnnie MacDonald’s Reel
86 60 26 McAllister’s Dirk
83 78 5 Alick C. MacGregor
80 38 42 Ca’ the Ewes (four parts)
80 72 8 Mrs. MacPherson of Inveran
79 65 14 Major David Manson
77 37 40 Ca’ the Ewes (six parts)
71 41 30 Loch Carron
71 41 30 The Smith of Chilliechassie (6) – MacLellan
66 44 22 John McKechnie
59 45 14 The Smith of Chilliechassie (Ramsay setting, eight parts)
49 27 22 The Sheepwife

Now in his sixties, Alan Jones began learning the side drum at the age of 12 with the Manawatu Scottish Pipe Band, in Palmerston North, New Zealand. By his early twenties he had achieved a national solo drumming title, two national pipe band drumming titles (as a corps drummer), and had travelled to Scotland for a year to play a full competition season in Grade 1. Upon returning home to New Zealand, Alan and his wife (whom he met in Glasgow) settled in Hamilton, where he was to become the lead-drummer of the local Grade 2 band, a position that he held for many years. A teacher of Mathematics and Gifted-and-Talented children for most of his working life, Alan has always had a great interest in working with young people, with much time invested, and success achieved, over the years with various drum-teaching initiatives. Although now retired from bands, he still assists locally as a learner-drumming tutor or score-writer, when required.

 

We hope that subscribers have enjoyed Alan Jones’s interesting and scientific approach to attempting to discover what might make a composition more conducive to more effective ensemble.

Again, there’s no replacement for enjoying the challenge of a subjectively appealing composition, but, if you like the idea of finding an edge in competition, this and all detailed analyses and approaches can only provide alternative approaches to the game of winning.

 


Related

What Makes Ensemble Click: Is this the end for “Lord Alexander Kennedy”? – Part 1
May 23, 2021


What Makes Ensemble Click: Is this the end for “Lord Alexander Kennedy”? – Part 2


What Makes Ensemble Click: Is this the end for “Lord Alexander Kennedy”? – Part 3


What Makes Ensemble Click: Is this the end for “Lord Alexander Kennedy”? – Part 4
June 6, 2021

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