How To Join…

Have you always wanted to join a pipe band?  Broome County Celtic Pipes & Drums would love to have you!  We are currently accepting experienced musicians, or enthusiastic new students interested in learning drums (snare, tenor and bass) or bagpipes. We will work with you to get the tools you need to become a potential member of the band. To find out more, visit the Contact Info page or visit us during a regular Tuesday rehearsal and we’ll be happy to give you further details.

Current member and band treasurer, Tim Ward, wrote a great piece on what being in a pipe band is all about. You can read his locally published article below.


Published April 15, 2009 in…

So, you want to join a bagpipe band

By Tim Ward

With all the articles and coverage, especially this year, regarding bagpipe bands, here are some points of interest to consider before joining a Pipe & Drum band.

As the old saying about bagpipes goes, “There are only nine notes – how hard can it be?” Here’s the inside scoop:

To begin with, you’ll learn the notes on a “practice chanter,” (fingering is quite similar to the recorder you used in grade school music class) learning from sheet music, and followed by practice and instruction.

As you progress, you eventually join the experienced members of the band as they practice. This is very important, as just learning to play the pipes is not that difficult – but learning to play with other members lets you become a participating/contributing member of the band.

Once you learn and memorize the notes on the chanter, you move onto the pipes. New skills and coordination are required, and developing them can be frustrating.

Awkwardly at first, you inflate the pipes, learning to breathe and squeeze with consistent pressure, eventually producing even tone from the double reed chanter. Next you add the pressure needed to also produce an even sound from the drones, adding each of the three, one at a time.

Once you master this process – and it can take a while – you add in the memorized melodies on the pipe chanter. At this point, piping becomes a passion, and you practice like there is no tomorrow, determined to make music from noise!

This requires yet another asset – the forbearance of your family, pets and neighbors. (A very large vacant parking lot or field is perfect, until you’re allowed back into the basement or garage.)

The frustration hasn’t ended. Now you must learn to march while breathing, squeezing, playing, listening to a drum beat, and paying attention to the drum major’s commands. This also takes time and practice to pull together. It is imperative to practice with fellow band members on a regular basis; you cannot practice this part on your own. The reward comes with your first parade and the camaraderie of the piping community.

We offer our newer folks the opportunity to carry flags or our band banner in parades. This familiarizes them with marching in formation and the drum major’s commands. Practice with the band on a regular basis develops your marching so that you will be in step with the rest of the group. (The bright white spats around your ankles ensure that everyone will notice if you are out of step – trust me.)

This is also an opportunity to hear our bagpipe tune sets over and over to get a good feeling for the tempo and melody flow of the tunes while marching.

For the drummers, a similar, disciplined approach is required. Scottish band drumming is a specialized form and needs hours of practice on the drum pad, followed by hours with the drum line. The crisp starts, stops and rapid rhythms characteristic of the top bands do not come without practice. The flourishing of drum sticks can be another level of showmanship acquired with practice.

When you master your instrument, the practice never ends, on your own time or on Mondays with the band.

Almost anyone can learn to play the pipes and drums (and with years of effort, even quite well), but the real test comes when the band all plays the same notes at the same tempo and marches to the same beat.

Bagpipe bands tend to be smaller than other musical groups in a parade. This permits the group to be more precise in music and movement. The goal is to sound like a single set of pipes, and it is easier to do this with 12 to 15 people practicing together on a regular basis. This applies to drummers as well.

For competition bands, six to eight pipers is the normal size, usually drawn from the best musicians of the band (or from several bands). It is also more effective for the pipe major or pipe sergeant to tune the chanter and drone reeds prior to a performance on a smaller group.

The most important part of our pipe band or any band; learn to listen to and play with each member of the band. This is probably the longest learning curve, and the reason that commitment to practice on a regular basis is vital. You can be the most advanced solo player, pipes or drums, but if you can’t play with the rest of the band, you degrade the sound quality and overall volume of the band.

The time needed to learn and play with the band is one to three years, with an average of 18 months, depending on your practice habits. This is often the tough part for our younger students. By the time they learn the basics and can play with the band, they’re off to college.

It is sometimes difficult to commit to regular practice sessions, but any band only sounds as good as the effort put in prior to performing. To sound and look great takes a serious commitment.

We practice every week and may add additional practices for special events. Playing competitively (at Scottish Games, etc.) requires additional practice sessions, and some of our members also practice with a few local rock bands (this is fun).

Our band encourages members to play with competition bands and rock bands, to expand their repertoire and hone their playing skills. In addition to our regular practices, our band hires professional bagpipe and drum instructors on a regular basis to keep our sound up to a performance level.

Being a member of Broome County Celtic Pipes & Drums is by far the most fulfilling experience I have ever had. The people in the band are family. In addition to the thrill of playing locally with this highly respected group, we get together socially, for family picnics, and for out-of-town events (often including families). In addition to parades, the band plays for charitable gathering, weddings, funerals and other events.

BCCPD played for 10 years in the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, winning two awards. Last year, for the first time, we played in the Savannah, Ga., St. Patrick’s Day Parade (second-largest in the nation). We must have done a good job; they invited us back.

We also were honored to play for the Air Force Rugby Tournament in Savannah and have been asked to play again in July at their tournament in Saranac Lake. Pipe and drum bands make friends fast.

BCCPD is looking for a few good pipers and drummers. It takes practice and perseverance, but the rewards are worth the effort.

We accept new students in April and October every year, at the end of each of our two busy performance seasons. However, we do accept new or transfer students of all levels at any time. No need to be Irish or Scottish to join. We welcome anyone with the desire to learn and the willingness to participate.

We do ask that children be at least 12 and a parent or legal guardian must accompany students under age 21 on their first visit to understand our rules regarding minors’ participation.

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