The branch of my local pipe band organization is hosting a solo bagpipe competition in two weeks, and I’m working hard to get a decent turnout.
It seems to be a widespread problem. Solo bagpipe competitions do not have as big of a competitor pool as they once did.
When I was younger, I know the solo grades were filled with 15-20 solo pipers in each grade. That was at the little local contests. What happened? Every piper in every band used to sign up for the solos.
My theory is that lower grade pipe bands are putting too much pressure on their players to focus exclusively on band material. Players don’t feel they have the time to work on both band and solo material, and I don’t think the leadership is stressing the importance of solo competition enough.
Don’t get me wrong. I find lots of pleasure playing in a pipe band. I certainly put a lot of pressure on my bands pipers to work hard on the band tunes. But, through experience, I know that a competent solo competitor is more likely to practice regularly, get regular private lessons, and constantly attempt to improve their musicality, execution, bagpipe set up, and blowing. This is going to come back to the band, and the ranks will be filled with well rehearsed pipers.
Simply put, good solo pipers make good band pipers.