This is a paper that I wrote to provide greater understanding of pipe band percussion.

The Percussion Instruments of the
Scottish Highland Bagpipe Bands

Take my drum to England, hang it by the shore,
Strike it when your powder’s running low,
If the Dons sight Devon I’ll quit the port of Heaven,
an’ drum them up the Channel as we drummed them long ago.
				
				Sir Henry Newbolt
	This paper will discuss the different percussion instruments of the Highland
Bagpipe Bands of Scotland.  These instruments include the Side Drum or Snare Drum, the
Tenor Drum, and the Bass Drum.  I will discuss the instruments’ origin, application, and
stylistic qualities as they apply the Highland Pipe Bands.  I will also indicate the
differences the instruments have when compared with the American Drum Corps
instruments.
	The percussion instruments which make up the Highland Bagpipe Band drum
section are somewhat different than that of our western drum corps.  Old traditions,
strange rudiments, and different instrumentation make this section very unique and
honored among the Scottish and the world.  To better understand this style of drumming,
we must first examine the origins of the instruments that make up the pipe band percussion
section.
	The most prominent and widely known Scottish percussion instrument is the side
drum or snare drum.  The drum is referred to as a side drum because it is hung at one’s
side by a shoulder or waist strap.  The term snare drum applies to the gut, nylon, or metal
cord that is stretched over the bottom and top head of the drum.  This gives the drum it’s
snappy and cutting sound.
	The tabor was the side drum’s immediate predecessor.  This was the most
common form of the drum found during the Middle Ages.  Gary Cook states that “In
general, they were double headed rope-tuned drums and by the sixteenth century had
cords, or snares, stretched across the head.”  In 1642, Rembrandt portrayed these drums
in his painting The Night Watch.  The painting shows the side drum or tabor being hung at
a 45 degree angle at the player’s waist (Cook 25).  After time the side began to distinguish
itself from the tabor.  The side drum began to be played with two sticks instead of one like
the tabor.  Also, the snares moved from the top head, as found on the tabor, to the bottom
head.  The tension of the heads was also increased, thereby, facilitating the development of
the long roll, a characteristic rudiment of the side drum (Blades 212).
	As early as 1332, the military side drum had become the partner of the fife.  The
instrument combination extended from Europe during the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries to the newly formed America.  In America the fifer and drummer were
responsible for giving orders, announcing the daily activities, and entertaining the troops at
night (Cook 25).  Likewise, the French Military used the drummers for just about every
daily action.  According to James Blades, “...The French make use of the drum to beat the
rhythm to which the soldiers must march.  Niccolo Machiavelli, in his Art of War (1560),
states that the drum commands all things in a battle, proclaiming the commands of the
officer to his troops.”  
	In the sixteenth century, the Scottish were using the side drum by itself when
marching the soldiers into battle.  In 1533, the Scottish side drum was known as the
Swasche talbum.  It wasn’t until later that the fife was added to play the rhythmic lines
along with the side drum (Peters 34).
	Sometime after the Crimean War (1853-1856), the British allowed the combined
use of the side drum and the bagpipes in the Scottish regiments of the British Army.  The
side drum had long been a national instrument of Scotland and the British probably
allowed the use of the drums because of the success of the French field music.  The side
drum combined with the fife had found great success in Scotland.  This was, however,
nothing like the popularity that the side drum and bagpipes would achieve (Boag 2).
	The purpose of the first military pipe band was to assist the soldiers in marching by
providing a good, solid marching rhythm.  Because of this the drummers were very
structured and relied highly on the standard, established drum rudiments for there
beatings.  The civilian pipe bands, which made their appearance shortly after the
regimental pipe bands, are responsible for the innovation and development of both the side
drum and the Scottish style of drumming (Boag 2).
	  .  The tenor drum is also the descendant of the tabor or tabor-pipe.  Unlike the
side drum the tenor drum lacks the snares or snare mechanism, thus producing a duller,
more heavy timbre.  The tenor drum is usually larger than the side drum and is struck with
timpani or large yarn mallets depending on the style of play.  Also, unlike the side drum,
the tenor drum is tuned to match the bagpipes drone pitch, which is today somewhere
between A and B flat (Peters 39).  
	During the Middle Ages the tenor drums ancestor would have been about as large
in diameter as it was deep.  The tenor drum would have had calfskin heads and would
have been struck with only one stick.  Gordon Peters states that, “Their ribs were of
wood, and the membranes were stretched with the aid of cords.  While the kettledrum was
the knightly instrument, the double-headed drum has been the pacemaker for the infantry
since the late Middle Ages.  Since it was especially favored by the Swiss mercenaries, who
fought all over Europe, it came to be known as the Swiss Drum.  The French called it
Tambourin de Swiss or Tambour de lansquenet:  the Scots knew it as a Swesch.”  
	The tenor drum also took the place of the small kettledrums that were used by
marching regiments in the 18th century.  It wasn’t until the 1800’s that the tenor drum
found it’s place as a distinct and separate instrument.  In 1802, the French listed a tenor
drum, caisse roulante,  in the band of the Garde Consulaire.  Infantry bands in Prussia
around 1818 had tenor drums as well as side drums.  It is unclear when the British started
to use the tenor drum.  However, the tenor drum was established in British service
sometime before 1834.  It was around the mid-1800’s that the Scottish also began to use
the tenor drum along with it’s bagpipe and side drum bands (Peters 39).
	The bass drum has the longest history out of all of the Scottish percussion
instruments.  There is evidence that the Assyrians had a large bass drum that measured six
feet in diameter.  This drum was used at this time for mainly ceremonial and religious
occasions.  The bass drum was either carried on the back of the person in front of the
drummer or was attached to the chest of the drummer.  Little has changed with the bass
drum.  It is still attached to the bass drummers chest and is still struck with a large, mallet
type stick.  Bass drums range in size from a very narrow Scotch type bass drum to a very
wide and deep drum know as the long drum (Peters 40).  
	The bass drum was used in the Middle Ages throughout the Middle East.  In the
sixteenth century, a painting by Carpaccio, illustrates a Turkish musician playing a large
drum similar to the military bass drum of today.  In 1782, Mozart called for the use of a
bass drum or long drum in his Il Seraglio.  Haydn, also called for the use of a bass drum in
1784, in his Military Symphony.  It wasn’t until the end of the eighteenth century that the
bass drum or then termed, Turkish Drum,  was introduced into the French, British, and
Scottish army bands (Peters 40).
	There is little known about the early styles of Scottish drumming.  It is thought
that the drumming is closely related to the military and the fife and bugle corps techniques. 
Many of the civilian drummers were retired military musicians and had no other training
outside of what they had been playing in the army bands.  The evolution of the styles of
play was long and slow and changed little until the introduction of the Pipe Band
Competitions.  According to G. F. Boag, a Scottish percussionist for over forty years,
“following 1918, when the World Championships at Cowal Highland Games became a
Mecca for bands, a few bold enthusiasts began to develop special techniques for the
drums, by using accented strokes in unusual places and linking basic rudiments to give a
new effect.”  Due to the fact that the new civilian pipe bands were not marching bands but
exhibition bands, the percussionist had the freedom to explore and develop unique patterns
and place accents in critical places of the song.  These stresses in the music were arranged
in such a way to help “point” the melody for the pipers, thus achieving an ensemble style
of performance (Boag 3).
	This idea of countering and accenting the piping melody was very new and
exclusive to the pipe bands.  The true function of the pipe band drummer is to emphasize
the pipe music and not to stand alone as a single individual.  The reason that the Scottish
side drummers rudiments are different from that of the military or American drum corps is
that instead of developing them for the drum, they were developed for the music.  With
the pipes playing so many gracings and triplet figures, it was necessary for the drummer to
incorporate this swung feel into their playing.  New rolls emerged, now having a triplet
pulse.  The stickings and notes were crushed into the bar, making the percussion music
more lyrical and not so mechanical.  A standard rudiment was placed in a spot that was
only half of it’s duration, yielding a double-time effect.  This aided the pipers and added a
smooth and attached sound to the music.
	  Likewise, the Scottish tenor drum style represents a visual interpretation of the
pipe band music with the movement and flourishing of the tenor mallets.  This particular
style of play came about because of the pipe band competitions.  Visual excitement was a
big part of the competition.  By having the tenor drums emphasize what the pipes or side
drums are doing, a visual sense of the music is added to the performance.
	At the end of the 1930’s, only 50 to 100 years after the first full pipe band drum
section was formed, the drummers had created a style of play that contained a variety of
rudiments.  These rudiments were linked together, played in unusual sequence, and
accented  the “wrong” places.  During the 1950’s, pipe band drummers started to
experiment with shading and dynamics.  The drummers rudiments and beatings were
becoming simpler, while gaining dynamic control and expression.  The idea of color and
articulation  began to take hold, thus producing an even more musical sound than before
(Boag 6).
	The roles of the pipe band drum sections were now defined.  The side drummer
was the aural accentuation of the pipes and melody.  The tenor drummer was the visual
accentuation of the music, both rhythmically and melodically.  The bass drummer, playing
only on the beat and never stepping outside of that, was the pulse which pushed the music
forward.  In this short time Scottish drummers had already produced a style which was
exclusive and specialized (Boag 4).  
	Scottish and American drum sections have few similarities and many differences. 
The snare drummer or side drummer of a Scottish band plays traditional grip exclusively,
while the American snare drummer has the option of matched or traditional grip.  This is
mainly because the Scottish drummer still utilizes the shoulder strap, placing the drum a 45
degree angle from the body.  This necessitates the use of tradition grip.  American snare
drummers have gone to a shoulder harness which places the drum in front of the body,
thereby, allowing the player both sticking options( The Instrumentalist 127)..
	Tenor drummers are rarely seen in American drum lines.  This is because the
multi-tom or quint player has emerged.  This drummer is able to play a variety of sizes of
toms at the same time, facilitating more intricate parts.  This is not to say that the Scottish
tenor drummer is anything but intricate.  Although, the drummer is playing on only one
drum, they must flourish the melody and accent the side drummers part.  This allows the
tenor drummer to be both a showman and an ensemble player (The Instrumentalist 551).
	The Scottish bass drummer is probably the most important player in the Scottish
drum section.  Scottish music is usually played in sets which may include up to five
different pieces, all with differing tempos.  The bass drummer has to have a solid sense of
rhythm and timing.  The American bass drummer is more of a melodic player than their
Scottish counterpart.  American drum sections usually have tonal bass drums.  A set of
five is standard, each tuned a minor third apart from each other.  This provides a more
active and exciting bass line.  It is the bass drummer’s role to fit into a bass drum
“melody” that most times has little to do with the pulse of the song (The Instrumentalist
143).  
	The Scottish pipe band percussion instruments are as unique as the instrument they
accompany.  The material remains to be very complex, yet of simpler and better
construction.  The style and grace in which the instruments are played makes them stand
out but still blend with the music.  The Scottish drummer is a master of strange rudiments
and unmistakable dynamic control.  The style of play is  hybrid mixture of many
techniques, and is now being recognized as purely Scottish.

From this simple beginning, an entirely new style of side drumming
technique was to evolve within 50 years, and within 100 years was to
become a tradition in Scotland and was to make its mark world wide as
being probably the most skillful and phenomenally difficult style of 
playing to be heard anywhere as a purely side drum technique.
				W. G. F. Boag


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