Do Good Players Make Good Judges or Teachers? – Conclusion

The judging parameters for solo piping have traditionally been less regulated than those for pipe bands. (There has never been any formal criteria for solo drumming either.) 

Nevertheless there are grounds for arguing that the skill requirements for adjudicating solo piping and drumming are much the same as for bands. 

By Alistair Aitken OBE,
former RSPBA Adjudicator

With bands, these basic requirements and abilities should apply to every adjudicator, irrespective of discipline, piping, drumming or ensemble. 

Some requirements overlap with those of being a good player; some are quite different in terms personal capability and subsequent credibility as a judge.

It is absolutely essential that all adjudicators have the ability to:

  • Analyse multiple types of technical and musical performance consistently and accurately.
  • Place performances in an order of preference accurately, using consistent parameters.
  • Communicate constructively and legibly in a written critique and provide legitimate advice.
  • Complete official forms/placings/results accurately and efficiently.
  • Recognise different types/styles of performance irrespective of personal preference.
  • Operate professionally, confidently, confidentially, credibly and fairly.

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Preferable requirements for all those aspiring to judge may be summed up as follows:

  • A proven track record of competitive playing at a high level (i.e. a respected prize winning solo player or successful pipe band playing experience ideally at RSPBA Grade 2 at least).  Although perhaps not absolutely essential, the former level of playing inevitably will be a factor in achieving credibility as an adjudicator. Applicants should also have a recognised track record of teaching piping or pipe band drumming (ideally learners of all ages) so that they fully understand the fundamentals they should be assessing as adjudicators.
  • Knowledge of musical theory and notation to a high level, in particular its relationship to piping and/or pipe band drumming (normally a qualification equivalent at least to Higher National Diploma (HND) SCQF Level 8 in the Scottish education system).  
  • A detailed understanding of pipe bands and of how they are formed, their players developed, tunes selected and instruments tuned collectively; and including historical and current developments.  In my view this knowledge and experience is as important as having a high level performance-based piping or drumming qualification.
  • Confirmation of a reputation for fairness, good conduct, integrity, impartiality and reliability, by credible referees.
  • Good health and fitness. Pipe band adjudication can be a demanding process in terms of mental pressure as well as coping with long periods of listening, walking and standing, often in variable weather. Solo piping requires long hours of concentration sometimes on a games field.
  • An acceptance of the need for continuing skills development. Effective adjudication requires comprehensive initial training and inherent skills, but systematic continuous development and regular ongoing operational experience are also essential. Judging can only be improved through regular experience. 
  • Public speaking skills and a willingness to talk to competitors and fellow judges.

I would emphasise that what I have outlined is merely my attempt to explore the differences between playing, teaching and adjudicating.  I readily admit that my views on adjudication are influenced significantly by my previous involvement with RSPBA adjudicator training. 

I am sure some people may disagree with what I write; there is such a variety of different ways of teaching and adjudicating. 

I am also very conscious that there are individuals in local communities, not well known and some in their elder years, who, despite no formal qualification, have proved to be excellent teachers of piping and pipe band drumming.

There may be similar individuals who would make good adjudicators; but adjudication is rather different to teaching.

Most pipe band associations set specific entry and training requirements for band and solo adjudicators. As already stated, there is no doubt that adjudication skills need to be developed and maintained. This can only be achieved through the regularly undertaking the role. The same must also apply to teachers

  • Read the first instalment of this article here. It was inspired by a piece written by D/M J Catherwood for ‘Piping and Dancing’ magazine some 70 years ago. Read it here

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