The 8 Secrets of Success—The Bagpipes Edition

Pipesdrums’ recent brief interview with Denny & Dunipace Gleneagles PM David Clunie highlights the very important challenges that face a band making the jump from Grade 2 to Grade 1. Rightly so, a higher grade can certainly become a “graveyard” and mean certain destruction for some bands. Clunie covers the very important nuts-and-bolts that should be the focus of an up-and-coming band: build good technique, good sound, etc. All the stuff that is required to make it in any grade. Is that really it, though?

Yes, it’s a challenge when pipe bands move up a grade, but what about the challenge to actually stay there? It’s not just about “making the grade” and the psychological effect of wins and losses. I would say that is a very small and shallow part of the challenge. There are plenty of bands already in the higher grade making a go of it—and keeping it together while doing so. How do they do it?

I think this short video from TED sys it perfectly:

When 500 extremely successful people share common aspects at the core of their success, it’s worth listening. What’s striking is success in any endeavor is never just about the nuts-and-bolts stuff. We bagpipers spend a lot of time dwelling on the quality of our technique, our music, and “what it takes.” All necessary mind you, but bands shouldn’t dwell on “what it takes” to play in a grade above, or whether wins will come their way. They should instead hone those qualities and attributes at the core of their own success, the things that got them there in the first place. Yes, developing the nuts-and-bolts of it—the sound, the technique, the music, etc.—are important, but those things can’t take shape unless the band is presenting certain core attributes, and committing themselves to those attributes as a group. I think if you looked at any successful pipe band in any grade, you will see all of these eight attributes in action. Let’s take a look:

Passion—Check. Is there any group of musicians who are more passionate about what they do than bagpipers and drummers?
Work—No band progresses without hard work, both as a group or individually. Period.
Good—This is where the nuts-bolts-enter. Working on your sound, your music, your technique, all of these help you become good at this thing we do.
Focus—Singleminded commitment to the group is a requirement for any successful band.
Push—Successful bands have leadership that pushes its members to be better in all ways. The best bands are never satisfied with where they are at and always strive for bigger and better things, and inspire the same thing in their members.
Serve—Put simply, the best bands serve up great music.
Ideas—Great bands typically have a unique approach to their effort that stands out. Unique ideas are few and far between in bagpiping but all the best bands put their own unique twist on the the things most of us take for granted.
Persist—This should be at the top of the list, really. Good bands take their competitive lumps and move forward, the great bands don’t even let wins and losses slow them down or deter them from their efforts. Persistence is as much a part of a truly successful band’s DNA as the color of their kilts.

The shorter advice? Working such things as technique and tone are only part of a broader list of things a pipe band should develop if they wish to be successful. Moving up a grade? Take these eight attributes and make sure you are developing each and every one in some way. If you do that, I would be so bold as to say that lack of success is impossible.

  • David

    Looks like one of those elements went over your head: Serve. Think “service.”

  • pipervin

    “Service” may be a simple thing, but harder to equate to success in bagpiping. We talk about that very thing in the latest Dojo Universe podast.

  • Thevoidboy

    “Ideas” is interesting. I would say “vision” or “mission”: what does the band want to do? what is the purpose? to be the best? why? is that all? what about the music? what new insights and ideas can be brought to the music that would make your band stand out?

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