Most of us would rather perform and compete in temperate climates but, when it comes to the world’s top-quality pipe bands, generally, the colder the climate, the higher the density of good bands. It seems to be true on both sides of the equator.
The closer the climate is to that of Scotland, it seems, the more likely you are to find a higher standard of playing. There are exceptions, and by no means is this a rule. It just appears to be true, at least today. It may change in the future.
If there is a case to be made for this premise, it’s probably because the Highland bagpipe was designed and tweaked over hundreds of years to work best in a mainly damp, temperate climate like Scotland’s. There’s a reason why sheepskin bags and cane reeds were ultimately chosen for the bagpipe in Scotland: they work the best.
As the popularity of the pipes and pipe bands has spread to other areas, so too have the gizmos and “technology” created in an attempt to tame the instrument. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the more non-Scottish the climate, the more likely you are to find thingamabobs to help players overcome problems presented by the instrument as it was designed for play in Scotland.
And now it seems that bands – at least those serious about competing in Scotland – are realizing that synthetic-whatevers possibly aren’t ideal for getting the best sound in the instrument’s native land. Plastic what-nots may be a great solution in Timbuktu, but they don’t necessarily adapt well to Glasgow.
The drier or hotter the climate, it seems, the more pipe bands are at a disadvantage. The Highland bagpipe in its natural form is not designed for a warmer arid environment and bands unfortunate (or fortunate, depending on your perspective) enough to be in these places face an uphill battle.