Time to get composing!

The Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust, which provides funding for Preston Lodge High School Pipe Band, has launched a great competition to find a new hit tune for the pipes!

Have you ever tried composing your own tunes? Would it make you feel proud to hear other musicians playing a piece of music that you wrote? Or even hearing it online or on the radio? If you think you could compose a piece of music, suitable for our national instrument, the Great Highland Bagpipes, then this is the opportunity for you!

Piping Hit 2018 is open to every school pupil in Scotland and it will showcase some of Scotland’s young musical talent whilst unearthing some great new Scottish tunes. And there are some fantastic prizes up for grabs!

We’re asking pupils to get their musical thinking caps on and come up with a tune that can be played on the pipes. Entrants must provide a recording of the tune played on the pipes however they don’t have to be able to play the pipes themselves. They can also provide another recording of the tune featuring any other instruments they like for the chance to win an additional prize. The tune must be an original  piece of work  and can be as traditional as Scotland the Brave or something more contemporary, crossing various genres.

Kenny Forsyth,  chair of the judging panel and  SSPDT  trustee , said: “We have some fantastic young musical talent across Scotland and we are looking forward to what our young people compose. The pipes are used in so many different types of music now and we want to encourage all pupils to get involved, whether they play the pipes or not! The tune doesn’t need to be what is considered  a typical traditional Scottish melody, it could be as modern as Ed Sheeran or Katy Perry – its up to the composer! The judges will be looking out for tunes that have the power to connect with an audience.”

“The winner of the competition will receive £250 as well as £1000 for their school’s music department. The winning tune will also be performed at the Scottish Schools Pipe Band Championships in March 2018 – the world’s largest competition of its type.”

Lorne MacDougall, piper, composer and member of the judging panel, added: “I started playing the pipes when I was at school and I am very lucky that it is now my fulltime career. There are lots of opportunities for musicians in Scotland and composition can lead to lots of exciting prospects. I’ve written and performed music for TV and film including Doctor Who, Brave and How to Train Your Dragon and it all started with getting involved with piping when I was at school!”

SSPDT will be posting lots of hints and tips on writing your own music over the next few months as well as advice from some of the top pipers and musicians so be sure to follow them on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

The deadline for entries is the 19th  January 2018 and full competition rules are below.


Entry details

  • Any school pupil in Scotland can enter.
  • Up to two pupils from the same school can collaborate to compose the tune.
  • Composers do not necessarily have to be pipers.
  • A pupil can enter only one tune.
  • The pupil’s school music teacher or head teacher must know about, and support any entry to the competition.
  • More than one pupil from a single school can enter.
  • Please email info@sspdt.org.ukwith the transcription and recording of your entry. You may do this from your email provider or via WeTransfer.
  • The deadline for entries is Friday 19th January 2018.

The Tune

  • The tune must be entirely original and must not reproduce a tune that has already been created for any other type of music, including orchestral, traditional or contemporary.
  • The judges will only judge the tune itself, and its ability to connect with others. The technical aspects of the recording will not be judged
  • The tune must be playable on the Great Highland Bagpipes (GHB).
  • The tune can be in any time signature and the time signatures can change within the piece. The core melody must be between 16 and 32 bars long.
  • Whilst the competition aims to create music for the GHB, it could equally be applicable to other Scottish bagpipes using the same scale including Scottish Small Pipes and Scottish Border Pipes.
  • Entrants must provide a title for their composition.


  • The tune must be transcribed in bagpipe notation with bagpipe gracing on a single side of A4 paper and saved as a PDF.
  • An adult can help with the transcription, but must not change the tune itself in any way.


Essential: recording of the tune

  • The tune must be recorded, played twice over, by a single piper (GHB, Border or Small), in a format that can be emailed/WeTransfered. Maximum file size 10MB
  • An adult can help with the technical aspects of the recording but must not influence the melody itself. The melody does not have to be recorded by the entrant.
  • Recordings must be no longer than five minutes.
  • The recording of the melody may contain repeats of parts (e.g. as would be standard in a 3/4 march). A repeated part does not count towards the 16 – 32 bar limits.
  • The recording of the melody may have second time phrases, e.g. an additional four bars played to replace four bars played first time through. A second time phrase does not count towards the 16 – 32 bar limits.

Optional: arrangement with other instruments/ vocalist, and recording

  • Entrants are encouraged also arrange the tune with other instruments, vocalists and pipers and send a recording of this with their entry.  This is not an essential part of the entry though and will not affect the judging in any way.
  • The arrangement can be recorded live or arranged electronically on Sibelius (or similar composition platform.) Adults may help with the recording.

Copyright and publicity 

  • The composer(s) will retain copyright. However, by entering the competition, composers accept that the Scottish Schools Pipes and Drumst Trust may publish the tune and/or the arrangement, and may share it with the media and other third parties for the purposes of publicising the competition and advancing support for piping by young people.
  • By entering the competition, the composer(s) and their school agree to take part in reasonable publicity organised by the Scottsish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust.


  • £250 will be awarded to the pupil/s who compose the winning tune
  • £100 will be awarded each to pupil/s for second and third place
  • £1000 will be awarded to the winning pupil’s school music department. The school prize money must be spent on the encouragement of piping and pipe band drumming at the school.
  • Judges may award a discretionary £500 for the best arrangement. This prize will be awarded to the school.
  • The winner will be announced at the Scottish Schools Pipe Band Championships on Sunday 11th March 2018 where the melody will be played at the Prize Giving Ceremony.

Judging panel

  • Chairperson of the panel of judges is Kenny Forsyth, a Trustee of SSPDT, member of the Vale of Atholl Pipe Band, and former touring member of the Tannahill Weavers.
  • Lorne MacDougall is one of Scotland’s leading contemporary bagpipers and composers. He is known for seamlessly integrating his sounds in to television and film scores, with credits including Brave, How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Doctor Who. Lorne has recorded alongside Billy Connolly, BA Roberston, Susan Boyle and John Barrowman and was a driving force behind the creation of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers.
  • Iain MacInnes is a Scottish folk musician and producer of the BBC Radio Scotland’s Pipeline. He has played with several bands including The Tannahill Weavers, Smalltalk and Ossian. His recordings include Tryst and Sealbh.
  • Ian Duncan is one of the leading figures in the modern pipe band movement; a solo piper and a teacher who has passed on his piping skills to innumerable young pipers. The older son of the great bothy ballad singer and tradition bearer Jock Duncan, Iain began to play the pipes when he was eight years old. Under Ian, the Vale of Atholl Pipe Band progressed from small town pipe band to Grade 1 winners. Ian won Music Tutor of the Year title at the Scots Trad Music Awards in 2009 and has since worked with the Scottish Power Pipe Band, Drambuie Kirkliston Pipe Band and the Lothian & Borders Police Pipe Band.
  • Steven Small leads the Pipers’ Trail for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo following his service as director of the Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming in Edinburgh. Steven learned to play the pipes with the Duns Pipe Band and served with the Black Watch Regiment.

Variation to the rules

The Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust reserves the right to vary these rules. We will respond to feedback where we can but we will vary rules only if we believe we can act fairly to all those taking part.

Leave a Reply