Scotlands Culture\|Scotlands Songs

Modern piping

Image of a person in a white shirt playing the bagpipes

Modern piping

Nowadays, bagpipes play a major role in many kinds of Scottish and traditional music, including solo playing in competition and more traditional styles; pipe bands and playing for dancing. Scotland’s National Piping Centre is based in Glasgow, and has a close connection with the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and its degree course in Scottish Music.

Electric amplification of live music and sound mixing techniques in recorded music have made it possible for pipers to play in bands alongside acoustic and electronic instruments without drowning the other instruments out. Some well-known bands that include the bagpipes include Ossian, the Whistlebinkies, Dàimh, the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and Breabach.


Breabach, a popular Scottish folk band, play the Full Booner.


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The Full Booner (Breabach)

'The Full Booner' performed by Breabach

From The Big Spree, Vertical Records, VERTCD081, Track 5


Some famous modern solo pipers include the MacDonald Brothers – Dr. Angus, Allan and Iain – Iain MacFadyen, Gordon Duncan, Stuart Liddell, John D. Burgess and Martyn Bennett.


Gordon Duncan was a young piper who helped create a modern contemporary style for piping which broke away from competition rules, and he also wrote many great tunes for the pipes. He plays four piping tunes: The Eradour Stagger, The Panda, The Soup Dragon and Roll out the Snake.

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The Eradour Stagger/The Panda/Dragon/Snake (Gordon Duncan)

'The Eradour Stagger/The Panda/The Soup Dragon/Roll Out the Snake' performed by Gordon Duncan

From Just for Duncan, Greentrax, CDTRAX297, Track 11



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The Rainbow (Ian Green of Greentrax)

Pipe bands

The Highland pipes are often heard in a Scottish Pipe Band. These bands were first formed by Scottish army regiments, but then pipe bands came to be formed in police forces, commercial companies, towns and other communities. Now these bands of pipers and drummers can be found in countries all over the world, especially in countries with strong Scottish links such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the USA. Some of the most successful pipe bands in the world come from outside Scotland, such as the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band from British Columbia in Canada.


Ian Green, from rural Morayshire, plays the Highland pipes in popular piping song The Rainbow.

'The Rainbow' performed by Ian Green of Greentrax/Rachel's Hornpipe

From On Home Ground, Volume 1, Greentrax, CDTRAX283, Track 1


There is no fixed number of pipers or drummers in a Pipe Band. The military background of the bands can still be seen, even in civilian bands, through the titles of the main performers – the Drum Major, who heads up the band in parade, leading them with a mace; and the overall musical leader of the band, the Pipe Major.

There are three kinds of drums used in the drum corps: snare, tenor and bass. The modern snare drums have loud, high-tension skins and the techniques and rhythms used can be very complex and syncopated. The pipes usually play in unison but an innovation in modern bands has been the creation of harmony parts, or 'seconds' for the tunes. The drums play rhythmic accompaniments that complement each individual tune. Band members are usually dressed in a uniform of kilts with jackets and different kinds of headgear.

Pipe bands usually march to the music they play, so it’s not surprising they often play marches. On this website, you can listen to an army band, The Pipes and Drums of the 1st Battalion, The Black Watch, play 'Wha Saw the 42nd', 'Devil in the Kitchen' and 'The Braes of Killiecrankie'. A West Lothian town band, Drambuie Kirkliston Pipe Band, play 'Will Ye No Come Back Again?'

Pipe bands

The Highland pipes are often heard in a Scottish Pipe Band. These bands were first formed by Scottish army regiments, but then pipe bands came to be formed in police forces, commercial companies, towns and other communities. Now these bands of pipers and drummers can be found in countries all over the world, especially in countries with strong Scottish links such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the USA. Some of the most successful pipe bands in the world come from outside Scotland, such as the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band from British Columbia in Canada.


Ian Green, from rural Morayshire, plays the Highland pipes in popular piping song The Rainbow.


Download Adobe Flash Player to listen to the audio online.

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Title
The Rainbow (Ian Green of Greentrax)

'The Rainbow' performed by Ian Green of Greentrax/Rachel's Hornpipe

From On Home Ground, Volume 1, Greentrax, CDTRAX283, Track 1


There is no fixed number of pipers or drummers in a Pipe Band. The military background of the bands can still be seen, even in civilian bands, through the titles of the main performers – the Drum Major, who heads up the band in parade, leading them with a mace; and the overall musical leader of the band, the Pipe Major.

There are three kinds of drums used in the drum corps: snare, tenor and bass. The modern snare drums have loud, high-tension skins and the techniques and rhythms used can be very complex and syncopated. The pipes usually play in unison but an innovation in modern bands has been the creation of harmony parts, or 'seconds' for the tunes. The drums play rhythmic accompaniments that complement each individual tune. Band members are usually dressed in a uniform of kilts with jackets and different kinds of headgear.

Pipe bands usually march to the music they play, so it’s not surprising they often play marches. On this website, you can listen to an army band, The Pipes and Drums of the 1st Battalion, The Black Watch, play 'Wha Saw the 42nd', 'Devil in the Kitchen' and 'The Braes of Killiecrankie'. A West Lothian town band, Drambuie Kirkliston Pipe Band, play 'Will Ye No Come Back Again?'

Related resources

Wha Saw the 42nd?

A marching song about the Black Watch Regiment but with an extra verse about tattie-howkers. There's also a Jacobite version called 'Wha Wouldna fecht for Chairlie?'

Devil in the Kitchen

Three recordings of a reel tune with several different names.

The Braes of Killiecrankie

This song satirising British government forces commemorates the 1689 Jacobite victory led by the Marquis of Dundee.

Will Ye No Come Back Again?

A sad Jacobite song wishing that Bonnie Prince Charlie could return to Scotland.