Pipe Bands: How to Breakthrough

June 5, 2007 on 8:17 pm by Michael Grey | In Pipe Bands, Tips | Comments Off on Pipe Bands: How to Breakthrough

The original subject was “breakthrough to win”. I thought that a bit crass, knowing that in making music it’s all about the performance, right?

Like competitive figure skaters (part of a subjectively judged sort of thing that is often compared to competitive solo and band piping) we’re so often heard to say (publicly), “I was happy with that. I did it for me. I got through it. It felt good” – regardless of the outcome.

Whatever. Or, as they say in these parts, “not so much”.

The truth is it’s not really about performance alone.

In attitude, it’s often all about prevailing. Winning. Beating everyone else. Sewing it home. Slaying the competition. The competitive pipe band world is especially brutal when it comes to this way of seeing things. Who gives a rat’s if your team blootered their way to oblivion. As long as the trophey lands in the right hands, eh.

By the way, you’ll know I’m broad-brushing here to make a point.

Anyway, to that point: it’s not to talk about motivations connected to performance; just a few suggestions – or reminders – to anyone interested: if you’re going to try and win, go about it in a well-planned way (aka “strategic“, to those working in the corporate or military worlds).

And this hard-learned advice (speaking of my hard-learning, now) is directed mainly to competitive pipe bands – though you might easily apply a lot to competitive solo piping:

5 Tips for a Pipe Band Breakthrough:

5. Be positive and don’t blame politics. Yeah, the odd time you might get screwed but mostly you suck, er, have “significant areas for improvement”. Most adjudicators really, truly will not hold it against the band – or you – because in 1992 a back-rank piper on your team threw-up on his shoes.

4. Practice well and practice often. Focus on the performance and try and avoid the constant temptation to stop the band after every error or misaligned moment of ensemble. This rule includes not practicing too long where you hit the curve of diminishing returns; this usually includes pissed-off bandsmen, sodden instruments and ringing ears.

3. Have a vision and stick to it. This has a lot to do with patience but more often is connected to passion, enthusiasm and commitment – surely the backbone of any winning team.

2. Learn from the best but be true to your own vision. There’s only one FMM or SFU or Shotts or whoever. Learn from what they do well but don’t treat their own recipes for success as some sort of divine template and trace your team’s plan around what makes them great. It will not happen.

1. Do it differently when it makes sense. The definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Good practice alone won’t cut it. Get a fresh ears involved. Enlist proven experts or just try something new. So for years you’ve tuned up in the sun for an hour with drones shut off and never seem to attain a stable pitch? Hmmm…try a different approach.

In the end … get ready for the platitude: have fun.It’s a pipe band we’re talking about here.

Break a leg.


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