5 Steps to Smooth Solo Bagpipe Competition

The competition season is upon you. You’ve been practicing hard and your bagpipe is singing and ready for the upcoming games. While music and instrument are certainly the most important elements of your bagpipe competition experience, games day itself brings in a bunch more—none of which can be practiced for standing in your living room, bedroom or band hall. Highland games can get pretty hectic and ruin your focus. One of the most important things you can do to make your competition day smooth is to stay calm. But, how do you do that with all the hubbub of your typical Highland games? Well, you can start by “ritualizing” your games day activities, that is, make a habit of the things you do the second you arrive to the festival grounds to the second you’re finished with your last performance. Those rituals can be formed around the following five steps below for smooth bagpipe competition.

1. Make base camp. Your car is going to be far away most likely and makes a less than ideal place to linger as the day goes on. Haul your gear into the grounds and find a quiet corner away from the hubbub where you can get dressed and warm up your instrument.

2. Scout the grounds. Head to the registration area and grab a map of the games grounds. Check the posted times, your order of play, and areas for your competitions and take note of the judges judging those contests. Then, head out and scout the competition area. Take note of the distance between your areas and how far you will have to walk. Imagine where you will need to be for final tune up. Pick a central location that is near enough to all of them and go there when it is time.

3. Check in with the stewards. Every judge on the day should have a steward managing their list of competitors. When you head over to your chosen location in the competition area, check in with the stewards of your events. No is going to come and find you. Make sure they know you’re here and where you will be tuning up so they can fetch you accordingly.

4. Locate the nearest drinking fountain or water source. Most games days in the eastern US summer are broiling by 9 o’clock in the morning. Between the adrenaline, the heat, and pounds of heavy wool around your waist, you will need to stay hydrated to keep your focus. Always carry a bottle of water around with you and know where you can fill it or get more.

5. Keep it fun. Try to remember that this is a fun activity. Do what you need to do to keep it so. Take a moment before you gear up to relax, greet friends, watch some piping, or browse some Celtic schwag leading up to your competition times. Do what you need to do to stay calm and centered.

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