Highland Games Preparation


As competition season begins to approach, here are a few tips that may be useful for your Highland Games preparation.

Make sure that you join your Piping Association. Send in your registration for competitions as soon as possible, as those who sign in last often perform first. Select an appropriate tune that you can play well. It's better to play an easy tune well than to play a harder tune poorly. Play in front of others to get the feel of it. There are many distractions at these events, so the more the tune is internalized, the better prepared you will be. Watch other competitions to see how they run and how other pipers perform. You should check to see if there are marching requirements and, if so, practice with marching. It's a good idea to have a back up reed ready, just in case. Try on your entire outfit and practice in it. Double check your instrument to make sure that the stock joints are tight, tuning pins are sliding correctly, and any hoses are not kinked. It's also a good idea to have directions to the games and print off a map, just to be sure.

You will want to leave early to give yourself at least an hour on site before your competition. Find the competition area and check in. Make sure that they have you registered for the correct events. Check the playing area for any possible hazards, like holes in the ground. Check your drone and chanter reeds. Warm up with some exercises to get your tuning in place and your fingers warmed up. Don't overdue it, though, so you still have enough energy for your performance. Check to see if the event is progressing on time. Occasionally, they can be ahead of schedule, or behind schedule, so it's a good idea to keep checking in.

When it is your turn to perform, walk up to the judge. Make sure that you've left some room for them to finish scoring the last piper. The judge will often make eye contact with you to signal that it's your turn. Walk up to the judge, make eye contact, introduce yourself and state the tune you will be playing. Then, take your time before starting to play. If you need to do any last minute tuning, turn away from the judge. When ready, face the judge & give a nod to signal that you are ready. Although you may want to rush through it to get it over with, try to take your time and try to keep the correct tempo. Try to keep your focus and avoid looking at the crowd or judges, which may distract you. When finished, pause briefly before exiting. Make eye contact with the judge and say thank you. About an hour or so after the event is over, results will be posted and you can get your evaluation.

If you still need some more information, here are some pros and cons that might help to make up your mind!


Competitions can be highly stressful. Some people do not perform well under pressure and don't like performing in front of crowds of strangers. If you don't have a good performance or don't get a great review, it can be discouraging. You have to be prepared to be compared to other performers.

Another thing to consider is that competitions may not be available in your area. Travelling can be expensive and time consuming. Practicing in preparation for a competition will also take up a lot of your time. If you perform at weddings, funerals, and other engagements, you may need to give them up in order to attend competitions.


Preparing for a competition gives you a specific goal to work towards. You may be more focused and pay attention to details because you will want to do your best. Although you may get feedback from friends and fellow pipers, at a competition you will get an objective view of your performance and will receive constructive feedback on what you need to work on.

Performing at a competition will help you to overcome any pressure you may feel about performing in front of others, especially a large crowd of strangers! Competitions are great places to meet other pipers, who can give you tips and share competition stories. Their performances may inspire you to keep practicing. If you do well, they will acknowledge your great performance. If you don't do so well, they will offer support and encourage you to keep practicing and competing.

The most important things to remember are try to relax and have fun!

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