Hire a Bagpiper

How do I Hire a Bagpiper?

How to Learn the Bagpipes

These days it is rather easy to hire anyone for a service. Obviously a lot has changed in the last few years thanks to Google. In regards to bagpiping, before the internet, it was a rather hidden service. Perhaps you knew of a friend of a friend in a pipe band and you could reach out to them. Perhaps the funeral director or church had a go-to person. All these things changed with the internet. After all, you are reading this article now on the internet and getting info on something that was once (and still remains) a bit arcane.

Due to the luxury and ease of hiring so many services on the internet, the real question is how do I hire a good bagpiper? I would suspect that if you are reading this article that you enjoy the sound of the bagpipes. However, that is not the case with everyone. There is a saying: “you either love the bagpipes or you hate them.” I’ve often wondered if the real reason why those who fell into the hater's category is because often bagpipers stink. As I mentioned in this article on how to properly learn the bagpipes, many bagpipers do not receive adequate training. Many of them lack expression, let alone basic rhythm and pitch. A bagpiper with really bad pitch can make one cringe. To a person unacquainted with a musical education, perhaps they won’t be conscious of these sorts of things. But to a person with a musical background, they may perhaps be offended. After all, there was a poor bagpiper who gave a terrible performance at a very well known U.S. senator’s funeral. I say this not to trash the poor guy, but to demonstrate that even a U.S. senator can end up with a poor bagpiper. Part of the reason why I established NYC Bagpipes was to make sure you don’t have to suffer hiring a poor bagpipe player.

After all, there is nothing quite like a well tuned and well played bagpipe. Some call it the glorious effect. Here is an example of a stellar bagpipe performance. Granted, this is from one of the finest pipers on the earth, but I wanted to give an example of what is capable.

When hiring a bagpiper, you might want to consider:

Do they compete as a solo player? If so, what grade are they in? I would suggest a minimum of grade 2 to ensure a memorable experience. If the piper is below grade 2 they may still be good, but grade 2 is usually a strong indicator that the piper is proficient and puts hard work into being a good player.

Do they study with a master instructor? A good bagpiper may be continuing their learnings with a master, even if they’ve played for decades. At the very least, they should have learned from a master at some point in their career.

These below actually don’t necessarily make a big difference!

The amount of years a bagpiper has played. Some players play for a short time but receive adequate instruction and become good players quickly, while other bagpipers “play for decades”, only pulling out their bagpipes once a year to get drunk after some St. Patrick’s parades in March. They like to party but they don’t like to take their bagpipe instrument seriously.

They play in a popular bagpipe band. As far as I’m concerned, what's in a name? Perhaps the band is decent, but that doesn’t mean the piper is a good solo player. A strong player can make a bagpipe sound good; a person in a band may have to depend on someone else for help. A band player may also not be a good individual performer, aka a “solo player” or “soloist”, something that would be important for a wedding or funeral.

They have a history of playing bagpipes funerals and weddings. Although it is somewhat reassuring that a person has a history of playing publicly because it shows they are confident enough to play at an event, playing a hired event is lucrative for the player. Have they really earned being a good player, or are they just trying to make good money for a gig?

These are just a few things to look out for. You can always ask for a sample from the bagpiper player, which they ought to be able to provide in this modern day of technological ease.

After you have decided on a particular bagpipe player to hire, the rest is usually pretty straight forward. The bagpiper may request a deposit. NYC Bagpipes does so because sometimes people will want to book for the same time slot. Putting a deposit down ensures that your event is booked, but be aware that these are usually not refundable if you wish to cancel.

I also strongly suggest a short phone call to the bagpiper. A short 5 minute phone call usually irons out all the details rather than having to email back and forth. This is usually the best time to let the know if you have any tune or special requests for the performance.

On the day of the event, the piper should be there early to tune the instrument to ensure a good performance. After the performance is over, you can pay them the balance due, usually via cash or PayPal or Venmo.

I hope this article helps to demonstrate some tips on hiring a good bagpiper, since not all bagpipers are created equally and not all take the craft with the same degree of seriousness. Here at NYC Bagpipes we do!

Have any questions? Shoot me an email.