A well-played pipe sings it’s message. It is evocative – romantic, sad, joyful. Whatever emotion you wish to draw forth. It will do it every time IF AND ONLY IF it is played well.
Really bad bagpipers are the plague of the piping profession. And especially, they plague our clients. There are very many pipers who are just plain not good at it. Some take a few lessons and present themselves on the market as experienced, even expert. By the time their poor musicianship is discovered, the damage has been done. The dignity of the wedding or funeral ruined. Guests talking more about the “horrible bagpiper” than about the tender moments. Precious memories are forever polluted.
There is so much to a good bagpiping performance that it would take many pages to describe it. It goes far beyond being able to tune well and play with good musical expression, yet most so-called “professional” pipers cannot do even those basic things (not to mention show up sober, stand up straight, and be polite).
Here is an example of what can happen when good people say, “We only need one easy tune. What could go wrong? And besides, this piper costs $50 less than that piper. Let’s hire the less costly one. NOBODY WILL KNOW THE DIFFERENCE.”
Amateur pipers count on that statement: NOBODY WILL KNOW. But people do know, even if it vague or hard for them to describe. When I meet someone who says to me, “I have never really liked bagpipes,” I know they have probably heard bad piping. So choose carefully, dear prospective client. Choosing the piper is no time for misguided thrift. The added cost of hiring a professional is minimal (usually $25 – $75).
See my blog entry “How to hire a qualified piper” for easy questions to ask that will keep you safe from embarrassment.