Australia Adopts Set Tune Lists and Uniform Light Music Requirements for Solo Piping

Pipe Bands Australia has announced a sweeping reform of its solo piping competitions, marking the most significant change in over two decades, writes Scott Nicholson, Piping Principal.

The revised criteria, applicable across all grades from Novice to A, aims to align Australia with Scotland, New Zealand and Canada and to facilitate smoother participation for Australian pipers in prestigious international events like Oban and Inverness, while also improving the standard of Australia’s solo pipers.

Previously, varying grading standards and tune requirements persisted among Australia’s states. By standardizing tune requirements, the aim is to reduce discrepancies, particularly in lower grade competitions.

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In a historic move, piobaireachd set tunes will be introduced for the first time in Australia, initially adopting the 2025 Piobaireachd Society Gold and Silver set tunes.

The decision to adopt Piobaireachd Society set tunes reflects their esteemed status as the benchmark in the piobaireachd genre. Starting this year, competitors will be required to submit one tune from the set list alongside two of their own tunes. By December, this requirement will evolve to include two tunes from the set list and two of the competitors own tunes.

It is recommended that pipers join the Piobaireachd Society for information on the set tunes as a starting point.

Due to the staggered timing of each state’s solo competitions, the transition to these new requirements is expected to span a 12-month period. It is anticipated that all states will have implemented the changes in time for the 2025 Australian National Solo Piping and Drumming Championships.

This is a significant change in solo piping here in Australia and one of initiatives when I became the Principal of Piping last year. The majority of feedback has been positive from everyone, and I truly believe it will certainly improve the piping standards across the country.

Following comprehensive investigation and consultation, it became evident that there is a diversity in solo piping tune requirements across all our branches. Additionally, some branches delegate solo piping competition organization to independent piping societies.

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In addition to varied tune requirements, Australia faces a disparity in grading standards, notably in Novice, D, C, and B Grades.

This initiative allows pipers from one branch to competently participate in contests hosted by another branch, ensuring familiarity with the tune requirements and fair competition against players of similar grades.

While these tune requirements are obligatory for solo piping contests organized by Pipe Bands Australia, they do not prohibit promoters/branches from organizing specialized events. The Lachie McCabe U18 contest at MacLean serves as an example of such events.

It is hoped that independent piping societies, though not obligated to adhere to these tune requirements, will recognize their benefits and significance, eventually adopting them for the advancement of solo piping in Australia.

It is acknowledged that this will be a difficult process to commence, and it is hoped that pipers will embrace this new concept. It will take effect from the 1st of May 2024.

Timeline example: from 1st of December 2025, the 2026 Set Tunes from the Piobaireachd Society Gold & Silver list implemented. A minimum of two tunes for A Grade Pipers and 1 tune for B Grade Pipers from the Set Tune list will be expected to be submitted for all competions.

From 1st of December 2026, the 2027 Set Tunes from the Piobaireachd Society Gold & Silver list implemented. A minimum of two tunes for A Grade Pipers and one for B Grade from the Set Tune list will be expected.

Full list of playing requirements and timeline here.

1 thought on “Australia Adopts Set Tune Lists and Uniform Light Music Requirements for Solo Piping

  1. Wilst i am not a A grade piper, having just turned 55,i can play veterans in Australia, however NSWPB bought in the rule a few years ago,if you havent played competition in 2 years you get regraded back to D grade or Elementary, which is fine, now as a d grader playing veterans against all the 55yo+ A graders isnt really fair, veterans were supposed to be any grade not graded Open or A grade. The association has long been behing the eight ball on this, 5 elements 2 involving jigs but NO Air element, except in D grade. Grading is done on how many ‘wins’ you have at major contests over a 2 year window, not on your ability, then the theory aspect is rediculous as well, maybe i should learn the tune ‘ the judging was bad’? or was it my reed?

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