Practicing Subdivisions in each of the Five Pipe Band Styles

As a rock drummer, it is helpful to know a little bit about many different styles of music. Understanding, and playing different styles helps drummers to create their own style, based on what they take away from each new one they learn. A good rock drummer should have at least a working knowledge of rock, funk, fusion, disco, punk, metal, swing, blues shuffles, reggae, train beats, latin/Afro Cuban, second-line and odd times among others. The more a drummer becomes proficient in each style, the more they bring to the table as a musician.

In pipe band drumming, we also need to master different styles--five to be exact. They are marches (including 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, 5/4 and 2/4 pointed hornpipes), round reels (including round hornpipes), jigs (including 9/8 slip jigs), 6/8 marches (including 9/8 and 12/8 marches) and strathspeys.

Each of the pipe band styles has its own "feel". This "feel" is created by a primary underlying rhythm that permeates both the pipe tune and the drum score. This primary underlying rhythm is known as a subdivision and it is the pulse to which almost everything in the pipe tune or drum score is connected.


In a march, the underlying subdivision is a dot/cut sixteenth/thirty-second note rhythm--known to owners of The Bare Bones book as "Bay-bee Bay-bee".


The underlying subdivision of a round reel is the eighth note pulse--"ti-ti ti-ti".


The jig subdivision is "jig-gi-ty jig-gi-ty" (the groupings of three eighth notes).


The 6/8 march uses the dot/cut triplet rhythm "Am-ster-dam Am-ster-dam".


And the strathspey... well... the strathspey is a pain in the you know what. Strathspeys use multiple subdivisions (three to be exact) and that's why they are so confusing stylistically. In most strathspeys, subdivisions alternate between dot/cut eighth/sixteenths, eighth note triplets and rolls that are often pulsed with sixteenth notes--although sometimes triplets are used in certain passages. Yep, strathspeys are confusing!

For subscribers to the mailing list I've placed five subdivision sheets in the "subscribers" section of the site. You can find them under the heading "Five Long Minutes of Subdivision". Click on the images of the sheets to download the PDF. These sheet are also linked to videos on the YouTube channel.

Besides the primary subdivision in each style there are several other ways that each style can be subdivided. Every sheet contains at least five different ways to subdivide within a given style. Some of the subdivisions are easy and go right with the "click" of the metronome. Some are more difficult and seem to happen between metronome "clicks". Have patience with yourself as you progress through the subdivisions of each style. It takes time to get comfortable but the time you spend will help you familiarize yourself with the unique "feel" of each style. If the YouTube videos are too fast for you, go to the settings on YouTube and choose a slower speed.

Have fun subdividing and hopefully these sheets can help you through this period of isolation that we're all experiencing. Stay safe and get some good practice time in. Until next time...

Happy Drumming!

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