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The drum corps of a pipe band consists of a section of drummers playing highland snare drums and the bass section. In the early days of pipe bands, rope tension snare drums were common, but as bagpipe tuning pitches became higher, a brighter tone was demanded from the drum corps. Pipe band drummers now play on drums with very tight, knitted kevlar heads, designed for maximum tension to create a very crisp and strident sound.

The pipe band drum corps is responsible for both supporting the piping with a solid rhythmic foundation and sense of pulse. The drum score is usually based on rudimentary patterns and can often be quite involved, with solo, unison and contrapuntal passages throughout. A popular pattern in many scores is for the lead drummer to play a phrase, and the section to play in response. This technique is known as chips.

While standard practice in pipe bands is for the pipe section to perform the traditional or standard arrangements of the melodies, including gracenotes, drum scores are very often composed by the lead drummer of the band.

The bass section (also referred to as a midsection) consists of a section of tenor drummers and a bass drummer. Their role is to provide rhythmic support to the entire ensemble. In this respect, the bass section allows the drum corps to delegate their timekeeping responsibilities and allows more freedom in the drum scores.

Generally, the bass drum provides a steady pulse, playing on the downbeat and on the strong beats of the bar, and the tenors support that pulse, often adding supporting beats, accents and dynamic interest.

Tenor drums in their modern form are a relatively new addition to the pipe band. Tenor drummers play pitched drums, and careful thought is given as to which pitches to use and at which times. The pitches help provide melodic or harmonic accompaniment to the bagpipes; creating a more dynamic flow between the drum corps and the pipe corps. The swinging of mallets also known as flourishing has developed somewhat into an art form, with drummers playing and swinging in unison or sequential flows.

The snare or side drum. The pipe band snare has a unique sound, higher in pitch and with a very short attack. They’re very similar to marching snare drums, but with an additional set of snare wires – the reason for their unique sound, instantly recognisable alongside pipe music.

Rudimental drumming is awesome. The physical and mental demands are intoxicating, the benefits can be felt in other areas of musical development, and a particular discipline is ingrained that can be carried into nearly all facets of life. Come join us and see for yourself!

The band subscribers to Rhythm Monster to supplement to our in-person teaching. Learn more about Scottish drumming from Michael Eagle at Rhythm monster HERE.