Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pipe Band Forum 3/4/07

Piping standards for public/paid performances (a topic I started and got a lot of interesting responses to)

I have read comments here and there about being able to play to a certain standard before playing in public or performing for money. The piping "school" I attend has a recital once a year and of course, most of the students are still squeeking and squawking, but that is to be expected in that setting. In public however it is embarrassing to hear a piper skip, sputter and die. On the other hand even good pipers have bad days (ie AG at Ford's funeral)To any of you who do any busking or play for pay, or if you even have an opinion about it, at what point could one consider such an activity? I have heard that busking or paid performances should be left to pipers who are solid grade 3 or better. Any thoughts? and please explain.

I asked the question because I had heard some very strong criticism of some who would attempt to do any busking or paid performances who hadn't "paid their dues" so to speak. I'm not exactly sure what was meant by that - it was left largely undefined - but attempts were made and I didn't agree with many of them. I like what I have heard here thus far, and I agree with the postings. I have purchased and regularly listen to music from the world's best pipers and I know that I am not one of them (no where near in fact), but I compete and enjoy performing. Who would play this loud, in-your-face instrument and not want to be heard? I plan on busking when I get a non-band kilt (taking a kilt making class in April) because I believe band uniform should be used only for band performances - this isn't always practiced.I heard a definition of an environmentalist as "someone who already has their cabin." In otherwords, I'm already here and I don't want neighbors. Nothing against environmentalists, I just think there are a lot of buskers and wedding and funeral performers who don't want anyone horning (or piping) in on their business.

Further Followup:
Paying dues means putting in the time to learn the instrument to a minimal level of good presentation. You don't have to win anything to be hired to pipe a bride down the isle to Scotland the Brave, but you do have to know how to make the bagpipe, sound like a bagpipe and not an arsenal of squacking cats.

That's a good definition, but some pipers just don't hear themselves that way. At least presenting yourself before a competent judge allows you to see some constructive critisim about your piping. My take is that if a piping judge feels you are playing "at" Grade IV level, you are at the minimal level of good presentation. If you can't please a judge at Grade IV then perhaps you shouldn't be getting paid to play and if you're willing to expose yourself to a paying audience and say you're a piper then why not expose yourself to a pipe judge and see if you're right?!

More Followup:
I wouldn't even go that far in saying that you have to expose yourself to a piping judge to seek approval. All that's needed is a word from your instructor that they think you have reached a level where it's good enough for public performance. Playing STB, AG, GH, Or Bonnie Dundee doesn't require a medal to play in public, just a nod.

No arguement about the "doesn't require a medal". In fact, even if you are competing you don't need a medal to be considered at grade level. The only problem I have with getting the "nod" from your instructor is that there is no standard to be a pipe instructor - heck, I could even start instructing tomorrow if I wanted to and I could pick up three paying students today (three co-workers who have asked me if I teach). Judges on the other hand (at least in our Association) do have to meet a minimum standard and it's fairly rigorous.

Competition is only one venue a piper has available to them, it proves nothing other than it's a learning tool.

I agree it is only one venue, but I think it is a very important one. I believe competition at anything is much more than just a learning tool and it does prove something. As we have all seen, you can sometimes fool the public with a poor pipe performance, but you won't fool a judge. It takes guts to present yourself before a knowledgable judge and be held to a standard of playing. I think competition builds character and competance that is difficult to do elsewhere.You can be a good piper and never compete, but I would hazard a guess that amoung the ranks of the better pipers, they have all competed at some time in their piping career.Saying that it is just a learning tool and doesn't prove anything is like saying that the Olympics is just a learning tool for athletes and winning it is no big deal.

I agree and don't dispute that good and even great performances can and are given by non-competing pipers. In fact I really don't want to suggest that you HAVE to compete to be qualified to play for pay. It suggests a level of arrogance that I detest. At the same time, I hear pipers on this forum and others, moan and complain about the bad name that piping gets from poor pipers performing in public and I tend to agree.If the real judge is the public and if they are pleased and willing to lay down the cash, who are we to criticize. If, on the other hand, there is a standard of play (which seems to be the concensus) then what is the best way for an individual piper to determine they have reached that standard?The pipe instructor is certainly one way, but I'm simply suggesting that the best way for a piper to find out is to see what a qualified pipe judge says. You don't have to win medals to get approval from a judge.

Does the judge at a competition give you a good sheet?Yes - means you can hold your nerve in front of a judge and play fine on the day.No - means you cannot hold your nerve in competition OR you had a bad day.Either way this gives no indication of your ability to play in public when you are not under pressure. Playing in a competition does put you under pressure.

There is pressure in competition, but you must feel a lot more comfortable playing in public than I do 'cause I think there is a lot of pressure ... "stage fright" wasn't a term coined just for competition performances. Our band has a concert on Saturday and I'm feeling a lot of pressure.

A judge at a competition will only tell you how you played on the day. He is not in a position to say how you play overall.

You're right, but you have to admit that the better overall pipers are going to have consistently better score sheets.

Your tutor and more importantly yourself know (or should know) when the time comes.Try and keep things simple.....can you do the gig or not? Yes or no? Your choice. The simpler you make things the easier it becomes.

What about this guy …

I know of a person who has a certificate, you don't want to hear him play!

PB007 doesn’t think he should be instructing, but he is and he obviously thinks he’s good. It’s interesting that the fact this band was dead last in a grade IV competition is a measure of their playing ability.Again, I hope you'll read all my posts on this thread before thinking I'm a jerk about this. I honestly don't believe you have to compete to be a great piper, but for someone who wonders or worries about their ability, competition is a great way to find out if you have it or not and as PB007 has indicated in his last post, your instructor may not always be the best person to determine that. Too bad for this guy's students.

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