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Learning to Listen

Learning to Listen


The World Pipe Band Championships is the ideal venue to hear pipe bands at their best. Bands build their performances throughout the year to peak at just the right time in August so that all things fall into place for Glasgow Green. So, how do the judges pick winners?

So many bands, so many great performances. It’s quite a challenge for the piping judge on the field. Having finely honed listening skills are certainly vital for the piping adjudicator, but learning and developing those listening skills are also as vital to us individual players as playing a good D throw.

As this year's Worlds approach, many here in this part of the world will be eagerly watching the live stream online. Having good listening skills is vital if one is to play computer screen judge.

What follows is a listening exercise to flex your piping knowledge-muscles. The three bands that follow form the top three winners in piping scores from the Grade 2 final at the 2016 Worlds—all of whom will be playing in the Grade 1 in 2017. Good performances all, but have a listen and see if you can detect what piping elements would have caused the two piping judges to separate them the way they did. This in no way questions the judging that took place. There are no "right" answers either. The exercise tests the limits of your own piping knowledge as well as identifies areas where perhaps a bit more learning is needed. It's also an exercise you can do with the latest results from this year's majors in any grade. Looking back, we can listen critically and use these performances to play the role of adjudicator and hone our own skills in the process.

Johnstone (piping placings: 1 & 1)

Police Service Northern Ireland (piping placings: 2 & 4)

Buchan Peterson (piping placings: 3 & 3)


Vin Janoski Vin is a long-time piper based on the east coast of the USA. He has been on the Executive Committee of the EUSPBA and been the editor of the acclaimed Voice magazine. Recently, he has played in the Grade 1 Oran Mor Pipe Band, and the Grade 1 Stuart Highlanders pipe band. He currently produces the websites Pipehacker.com and WhiskyTunes.com.... And, needless to say, he spends way too much time than is allowed for any one person playing, writing about, and thinking about bagpiping.