I have been playing gigs on a full-time basis for the last 25 years.  Here’s what I have found:

 People who aren’t prepared don’t stay in the market.

  1. They don’t have enough technical ability
  2. They don’t have enough repertoire.

 When I started my “Bagpiper For Hire” business, I wanted to not only stimulate the audience but stimulate myself.  The only way that I was going to play for long periods of time was to be able to play a variety of tunes, meters and styles.  Bagpipe music has a lot of variety.  If the only thing that you are playing are marches in 4/4 time, then you are missing out on a lot great music. 

 When someone hires me to play, they hire in 15 minute intervals.  Playing at the opening of a ceremony is a 15-minute gig.  A prelude at a wedding is a 30=minute gig and a golf outing is a 60-minute gig.  What I needed were 15-minute sets, combined to reach the amount of time required. Here is my formula:

 4/4 set

6/8 set

2/4 set

Strathspeys 2-2part

Reels 2-2part



Retreat set

 With this formula, the listener and I get a change of meter at the right time, as well as variety.  I’m building the set to a frenzy and doing the “cool down” with a set of retreats.  I have 6 of these sets that I play depending on the event.  Here is one of my sets:

 Blue Bells of Scotland

Bonnie Charlie

Johnnie Scobie


Bugle Horn

Bonnie Dundee

Mucking on Geordies Byre

High Road to Gairloch

The Brown Haired Maiden

Because He was a Bonnie Lad

Lady MacKenzie of Fairburn

The Piper of Drummond

The Fairy Dance

Paddy’s Leather Breeches

Tim’s Mushrooms  (a tune I wrote)

Green Hills of Tyrol

When the Battle’s Over

I have practiced and played this set over and over so that it is totally automatic at this point.  I personally like 2=part Strathspeys and Reels.  I have bunch of Strathspey and Reel sets.  People like them because they are different. 

The point is:  If you want to make money as a bagpiper, nobody’s going to pay you to play Scotland the Brave 60 times in a row.  If they do, it will be the last time.  Word gets around fast about bagpipers who aren’t prepared to perform.  Don’t let that be you.


Need more music?  Start with these books.