Dunno Dunoon



The Cowal Highland Gathering has, quite rightly, employed the excellent PR agency that Piping Live! uses to bolster its image. As the current pipes|drums poll indicates, Cowal is considered the second-most-important pipe band competition next to the World’s, so it’s clearly well regarded by pipers and drummers as an event, if not for its venue, which the bands outgrew a few decades ago.

Part of the Cowal media campaign included some excellent publicity shots, designed to get the attention of mainstream newspapers and the like. As much as anyone, I can appreciate that. The shot here, though, reminded of the story about a prominent pipe-major in the 1970s recommending to his pipers that they stand in a filled bathtub to play in their new chanter reeds. The rising humidity, he thought, would break them in faster.

This picture is just begging for a witty caption, so submit yours using the Comments system. I’ll choose the best one and award the person an open-ended subscription to pipes|drums, worth, depending on your age, as much as $700!

A few contest tips

A few people wondered why the last post about golf was on a blog purportedly about piping and drumming. Good question. The blog is really about whatever I want it to be, but, sure, the vast majority of content pertains to the Highland musical arts, as you of course know.

So, I suppose there should be at least equal time given to piping and drumming competition etiquette and decorum. These points are based on years of competing in and, more recently, judging piping and pipe band contests. Perhaps they will help:

  1. In a solo piping competition, if you can’t get your instrument in tune after four minutes it won’t ever be in tune. Just start. The judge will appreciate it.
  2. When warming up your instrument before competing, make sure you are at least 50 yards from any competition going on.
  3. Remember the name(s) of the tunes you’re submitting to the judge. If you have problems remembering names, write them down. Standing there with a brain-cramp not only rattles a competitor, it irritates the judge.
  4. At least pretend you’re having a good time. Okay, you’re nervous and all that, but put on a happy face and make like you really love competing. If you’re about to throw up, you should reconsider the whole thing.
  5. Unless you’re a soldier competing before an officer of a higher rank, skip the saluting business. It’s an antediluvian hold-over from piping’s long gone military roots.
  6. If you make a slip in your tune, just get back on track and keep going. I and a growing number of judges would rather give a prize to someone who went off the tune than to someone who was never on it. (Credit goes to Andrew Wright for that line.)
  7. Wear it well. No one relishes wearing the kilt and all its uncomfortable accoutrements. But, if we have to do it, we may as well do it well. Get a piping/drumming suit that fits. If in doubt, ask The Style Guy for assistance.
  8. Similar to the first point, if there’s a lot of piping noise around your competition, and you’re having trouble hearing your drones, the judge is having the exact same problem. Don’t stand there screwing at them to no avail. On such days, just do your best to get them close and get on with it. After the event, be sure to express your concern about the closeness of events to your association. They need to understand when competitors (the body of the association) are not pleased so that they can work with the games committees to improve conditions.
  9. Arrive in plenty of time and don’t try to fiddle the draw. If you frequently make up reasons to play later, you’ll get a bad reputation very quickly.
  10. Treat your steward with respect. These people are mainly volunteers. They are doing the best they can. If there’s something they can do to improve, politely let them know after the contest. And a simple “thank you” goes a very long way. Besides, it’s just good manners.

So, there you are. Ten points to consider. Have a good games!

To the fore

Okay, this isn’t about piping. It’s about golf. It’s friendly advice to the many pipers and drummers who partake in the world’s second-most-frustrating Scottish pastime:

  1. Before you ever set foot on a golf course, please read the first page of the rule book.
  2. Don’t take more than one practice swing. It isn’t the freakin’ Open Championship. One swing to get the feel of the club; another to hit the ball.
  3. If your ball is within a foot of the hole, just pick it up. It’s a gimme.
  4. Power-carts slow the game down and are for the frail. If you’re able, walk the course. If you’re too out of shape to walk the course, get in shape.
  5. Watch your ball. When you hit a shot into the hay or the woods, keep watching it, and walk straight to it. You should be embarrassed making your playing partners spend time looking for your ball more than once a round.
  6. Wave through faster groups. This concept is well understood in Scotland, but I can count on one finger the number of times that I’ve been waved through in North America.
  7. Unless you’re a single-digit handicapper, play from the front tees. No one is impressed that you want to play from the tips.
  8. Leave the rake in the bunker (not a “sand trap,” by the way). Having your ball hit a rake outside of the bunker is really annoying, and often makes the ball go in the bunker. The rake goes in the bunker.
  9. Fix your pitch-marks. Leaving them on the green is completely antisocial.
  10. If you have to swear, do it under your breath. Golfers yellings F’s and C’s should just go home.

There, I just needed to say all that. Have good round.