Scottish Dancing and Pipe Tunes

This section looks at pipe tunes I know that are used for, or associated with, Scottish Country Dancing.  A separate page (to follow) covers the very different discipline of highland dancing.

It may come as a surprise to non-dancers that it is not particularly easy to do Country Dancing to the pipes, mainly because of the lack of a pronounced rhythmic component (ie the snare drum found in most Scottish dance bands).  But the limited dynamic range of the pipes compared with dance bands is also part of the challenge.  Finally, as a solo piper cannot play the opening chord played by dance bands, something must be improvised to tell the dancers when to start.  

By contrast, for Highland Dancing, the pipes are almost essential.  The piper may emphasise the beat by stamping his (or her!) foot quite loudly and instead of an opening chord, there is a standard short introduction which lets the dancers know when the actual tune is about to start. 


It is quite a few years since I actually participated as a competitor in any kind of bagpiping competition. 

In this section I describe the pipe tunes which I have learned in relation to competitions in which I or my band played.

Tunes highlighted in bold are ones which I still play.

Burns and Bagpipes

It is indeed appropriate that Bagpipes play a key role in Burns Suppers.  In his most famous poem, Tam O'Shanter, Burns describes how his hero comes across a ceilidh of warlocks and witches in an old ruined church, dancing to the music of the pipes played by the devil himself "Auld Nick, in shape o' beast".  Recitation of this poem accompanied by slides and sound effects, is my only party piece.  At Burns Night suppers on or near the 25th of January every year, the haggis is piped in (as long as the organisers thought about booking a piper early enough!) to the tune of "A Man's a Man for A' That" (Burns' peon to the virtues of the common man).  Every year, I receive requests to provide this service in the final months of the year, when I am already fully booked for the whole of the week surrounding the Bard's birthday. 

Piping-wise, Burns' Suppers are not very demanding.  "A Man's a Man" is a very simple tune, as is Scotland the Brave, which I usually play to lead the haggis back to the kitchen.

The first time I piped in a haggis was in 1964 at the age of 16.  The location was my father's golf Club (Hagg's Castle in Pollock in the South of Glasgow).  As I was (at least theoretically) too young to toast the haggis with the traditional dram, I did so (possibly for the first and only time) with advocaat and lemonade.

I have performed this service, sometimes also addressing the haggis too, many times since.


Stewart playing various tunes on either the practice chanter, the pipes or his Deger electronic bagpipe.