What Pipe Band Adjudicators are Looking For – Part 4

In concluding his informative articles on pipe band adjudication former judge Alistair Aitken OBE identifies specific factors associated with pipe band assessment. This should serve as a ‘ready reckoner’ for all bands competing and non-competing. Mr Aitken splits his list of ‘requirements’ into three sections, drumming, ensemble and piping which where he begins.


  • No sound from drones until 5th beat of 3-pace rolls
  • All drones in together accurately and as one
  • No chanter sound until 7th beat
  • “E” sounding from all pipes in unison
  • No tonal distortions
  • Continuation of 3-pace roll tempo into opening march

Integration and Technique

  • Clarity and precision of execution
  • Integration between all members of pipe corps
  • Technique and quality of basic rudiments/movements
  • Expression, rhythm, phrasing, fluency, confidence, composure etc.
  • Correct use of note values
  • Clean breaks

Get help for your band from the RSPBA’s fund – click here


  • Style and interpretation in relation to time signatures (authenticity, emphatic, spirited, laboured, deliberate etc.)
  • Impact of breaks/bridges/transitions between tunes
  • Rhythmic definition and musical effect
  • Impact of harmonies/counter melodies
  • Musical theme
  • Drum corps influence


  • Chanter pitch and unison
  • Drone balance and consistency
  • Tonal balance with drum corps
  • Sustained tonal quality
  • Sound projection

[wds id=”2″]



  • Accuracy of execution as a corps (and in relation to pipe corps)
  • General timing and phrasing of 3-pace rolls
  • Roll quality
  • Integration between each section of corps (snares, bass and tenors)
  • Balance of weight between instruments
  • Continuation of 3-pace roll tempo into opening march

Integration and Technique

  • Clarity and precision of execution (snares, bass and tenors)
  • Integration between all sections of drum corps and precision of breaks
  • Technical content and quality of basic rudiments
  • Degree of difficulty
  • Expression, dynamics, rhythm, phrasing, note values, fluency, aggression, relaxed playing, confidence, composure etc.

[wds id=”9″]


  • Influence on the melodies (musical effect, musical balance)
  • Style of playing
  • Accuracy of time signatures and impact of breaks/bridges/transitions between tunes
  • Balance of weight between sections of drum corps and with pipe corps
  • Emotional effect overall
  • Musical theme


  • Clarity and quality of drum sound from all drums
  • Tonal balance within drum corps and with pipes
  • Sound projection (which can be affected by player positioning)
Pipe band judges ….our favourite people


Introduction (as a collective unit)

  • Precision and accuracy of the collective impact of all instruments – bagpipes, bass drum, tenor drums and snare drums
  • Continuation of 3-pace roll tempo into opening march

Integration (as a collective unit)

  • Precision and co-ordination of the technical execution throughout performance
  • Clarity, phrasing, unity and breaks
  • Obvious failings in technical aspects should not be ignored

Interpretation (as a collective unit)

  • Arrangement of the melodies
  • Expression, style of playing in relation to time signatures, musical theme etc.
  • Rhythm, melody and harmony
  • Rhythmic clarity, fluency, phrasing, dynamic effect, impact of breaks/bridges/transitions between tunes
  • Musical balance
  • Collective musical effect

Intonation (as a collective unit)

  • Overall sound quality of band (richness, fullness, resonance, brightness, harshness, clarity, sound carrying power)
  • Pitch balance between instruments 
  • Harmonics, overall stereo effect
  • Weight balance between instruments (which may vary during performance for musical effect – musical balance)

Read the earlier articles in this series here.

[wds id=”8″]
Posted in News   

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *