Simple Structures

With the exception of Pibroch, the classical music of the Highland bagpipe, nearly all pipe tunes are rather simple in structure.  This reflects two facts - the limited range of the notes (all 9 of them!) and the single key in which the great majority of tunes are written (though tunes can be written in the key of D); and secondly, the need for tunes to be learned by heart.  You do not often see pipers playing from a musical score (in contrast to orchestral players, who seldom need to learn a piece by heart).  Other reasons for the mostly simple structure of pipe tunes are that:

  • many derive from folk music;
  • many have been composed for military situations (usually involving marching);
  • some have developed to accompany Scottish dancing (either Highland or Country) where a predictable and repetitive bar structure is essential.


Some of my favourite tunes have been in my repertoire since my mid-teens.  Others have been picked up after hearing them live or in recordings or as a result of participation in the National Piping Centre summer schools.