We’ve all heard this old adage but is it true? I’ve been bagpiping for over 20 years and been doing professional gigs for a number of years as well and this adage was proved true for me in a resounding way just last week.
I was approached by a vendor to play in a popular parade here in So Cal. She requested two pipers to escort their float and I brought another bagpiper who I know is competent. He and I arrive, and we are tuned very closely, looking smart and ready to play. Suddenly another piper comes forward and indicates that he has been hired to play too.
Surprise, surprise!! This is not the first time this has happened to me. It presents some issues as you now have to tune two pipes together that may be significantly different but not impossible- that is until this parade.
The bagpiper in question is a low baller. He consistently undercuts other bagpipers to get gigs. His bagpipe sounded horrible. He was out of shape and couldn’t maintain the bag pressure to give the bagpipe that nice hum you hear- instead the tone was up and down and the chanter screeched and chirped badly. To complete the parade, we shut off all his drones and put him between us two so hopefully the audience could not hear his pipe.
To add insult to injury his appearance was farcical. He was a mish mash of different styles. A chain mail tie, homemade bag cover for pipes, a white kilt with pockets and horizontal chains. I thought he looked like a buffoon. Embarrassing to say the least.
So after some reflection I came to a couple of conclusions:
- Gig sites offering bagpipers and other performers do not assess the competence of bagpipers. So please do your homework- check their performances, and look at reviews and make sure reviews are current.
- I always wondered how this piper could charge so little to perform- the answer is that he devotes zero time to his craft. He doesn’t maintain his pipe or himself and does the client a great disservice. In truth he should not be bagpiping for money.
- Lastly this bagpiper destroys the marketplace. He perpetuates the stereotype of a screeching bagpipe played poorly and he erodes consumer confidence and is a poor representation of a bagpiper. In all honesty, he ticks me off because he does not honor the tradition of the bagpipe or value the great sound of the Great Highland Bagpipe and he is a poor representative of all of us that do.
- So the old adage is true in the case, you do really do get what you pay for.