Playing The Drums

Keeping the Beat of the Band

The Importance of Drums in a Pipe Band

The drum sections keeps the beat for the bagpipe band, but that isn’t it’s only job. The bagpipe is an instrument that can only be played at one volume level. There are no mechanisms for increasing or decreasing the volume. Everything sounds the same – LOUD! The drum section provides the illusion of the band playing more quietly or more loudly. This musical effect is referred to as “Dynamics”. A good drum section will work together, playing softer or louder parts together. The tenor and bass drummers may accent (strike more loudly) a beat that will compliment the accents that the snare drummers play. The snare drummers will often play parts or “chips” throughout the music to further enhance the dynamics within the ensemble.

Attend our practice

Best off is to come and see us at practice one Tuesday night at the Ambulance Victoria Training Centre – Brady Street – South Melbourne – contact us at

Which drum is that?

There are 3 different drums. Learn more about them:

Snare drum

This is the most prominent sounding drum in the drum line. The snare drum that is used in a bagpipe band is different from the snare drums that are used in other bands. The pipe band snare drum has snare mechanisms on both the top and bottom drum heads. The drum heads are also tensioned much higher than on a normal snare drum. This results in a very high pitched and crisp snare sound which compliments the notes played on the bagpipe “chanter”.

Tenor Drum

This is the drum that fills in the middle tones in a pipe band. The tenor drum is usually pitched the same as the bass drone on the bagpipes. Some bands may have multiple tenor drums and pitch them to various notes on the chanter scale.

Pipe bands can have two types of tenor drum players:

“Flourishing” tenor drummer does fancy “swings” with his/her mallets which visually compliment and add excitement to the band’s performance. A flourishing tenor drummer also plays rhythmic beatings which fill in the overall ensemble sound.

“Rhythm” tenor drummer focuses on rhythmic beating which compliment the music. A rhythm tenor drummer usually plays within a pattern framework (ex. Hard, soft, medium, soft) that helps set the “groove” for the band.

Bass drum

This drum is the heartbeat of the band. The bass drum is usually pitched to the bass drone of the bagpipes, but an octave lower than the tenor drum. The bass drum sets the pace of the music as well as adding the harmonic “bottom” tone of the band. The bass drummer must have a strong sense of rhythm. A good bass drummer will set a strong “groove” for the band that makes it easy for the pipers and drummers to play together.

Want to book the band?

Please contact Graham Mummery – President

Ambulance Victoria Pipes & Drums Band