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Hiring a Piper

Any way you look at it, or listen to it, a piper will add a unique quality to your special occasion.

But you should insist on the highest quality performance available. But most people haven’t hired many bagpipers, so here are a few things to ask about:

Behind the veil

Experience, Grade and Bands

The first thing to consider is the levels of quality and experience that a piper has attained.

Generally speaking, pipers are categorized by a piping association into a grade, either “Open,” or a numerical rating between five and one. Grade 1 and Open are the highest levels of accomplishment. A Grade 5 piper is a beginner or entry level piper. So the first question you may want to ask a prospective piper is: “What grade level of piping are you ranked at?”

You may want to ask the piper if they play or have played in a band. Pipe bands, like pipers, are graded from Grade 5 to Grade 1, with Grade 1 being the highest level of refinement. There is no better place to learn proper piping skills than in a pipe band. The better the band, the better the piper.

“Are you Experienced?”

A good follow-up question is usually: “How many years have you been piping?” Piping is a skill and a tradition that takes many years to master; some would say a lifetime. There is often a huge difference between a pipers’ ability to play just based on his or hers years of experience. You can usually hear a big difference between a piper with of 30+ years experience and someone with fewer than 10 years.

To be sure of what you’re getting, insist on a sound sample of the pipers playing. Even to the untrained ear there should be some noticeable traits and tunes should be recognizable. If possible, see if you can listen from a discrete distance during one of their performances. My audio files are on my musical portfolio page.

Appearance

Appearance is important as well. You want a piper to be dressed impeccably, but there are many different styles of Highland dress, from the popular formal Victorian-era sharply-pleated kilt, short jacket and coat and tie to the more rough and rugged Braveheart-era ancient or great kilt style. Ask to see a photo or video. You can see what I look like on my musical portfolio page.

References

Lastly, you may want to ask for references from past performances. Feel free to contact me directly if you’d like my references or if you have any questions!

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