Bagpipes: History, Repertoire and Performance

The National Piping Centre and Glasgow University have created a unique opportunity for international students who wish to come to Glasgow University to study and to develop their piping as a part of a wider academic programme, centred in Glasgow – the home of piping.

Pipers have the opportunity to take a credit rated course in piping at the National Piping Centre as part of their programme. This flexibility ensures a broad academic experience and allows you to match your study abroad options with your degree course at home.

The course provides a tailor-made opportunity for students to develop their bagpipe performance whilst simultaneously studying the socio-cultural history of the instrument.

The National Piping Centre

The National Piping Centre (Patron HRH The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay, KG, KT, GCB.) was founded in 1996 and is located in Glasgow city centre at the top of Hope Street.  The National Piping Centre houses twelve practice and tuition rooms and two larger ensemble rooms, all with full soundproofing. The Centre auditorium seats 180.

The Centre also houses the Museum of Piping, which contains the National Museum of Scotland’s Piping Collection. In addition, the Centre has a library and audio resource, which together with the museum, offers students a wealth of archival information.

Piping staff

Semester students will receive individual and group lessons from one or more of the following teachers:

  • Roddy MacLeod MBE (Principal of the National Piping Centre)
  • Finlay MacDonald (Semester Programme Leader)
  • Chris Armstrong
  • Margaret Dunn
  • John Mulhearn
  • Glenn Brown

Eligibility and application

Musical requirements

Whilst the course is ideal for those students already experienced in playing the bagpipes, who wish to continue with the instrument to a more advanced level, it is also suitable for beginners. The individual tutorials will permit students to progress at their own level, see the programme structure section for further details. The National Piping Centre welcomes students who have no prior experience of playing the bagpipes but although not essential, it is preferred that students have a reasonable musical background.

How to apply

General entrance requirements for the Study Abroad Programme still apply:

Study Abroad applicants interested in Bagpipes: History, Repertoire and Performance course should note interest with the Visiting Students team who will provide details on enrolment.

Programme structure

Students are taught bagpipes in individual one to one and group lessons and take an historical survey of the bagpipe that places it within its social context. The January to June semester also has the added advantage of leading into the major competition season for pipe bands and solo pipers.

Students will enrol in 2/3 of their overall semester study, taking classes at the University of Glasgow. The additional 1/3 will be made up by taking the Bagpiping Course at the National Piping Centre.  The Bagpiping course is worth 20 Scotcat (University of Glasgow) credits and is taught at level 3 (third year). Students have three contact hours a week taking the modules listed below.

1:1 tuition

Individual, hour-long weekly lessons at the NPC are tailored to the ability of the student and they will be assessed by their teacher and by sitting a Piping and Drumming Qualifications Board performance examination appropriate to individual ability. Depending on ability, each student will be taught both Piobaireachd and Light music that will focus on improving their technical and musical ability. 

Group Tuition

Students also engage in one hour of group tuition at the NPC that focuses on widening their repertoire and introducing them to some more diverse piping styles. Throughout the individual and group tuition an emphasis is placed upon improving the sound of the pipe. 

Bagpipes: socio-cultural context

This specialist piping course is delivered through hour-long lectures over the 15 weeks of each semester. It provides an understanding of the socio-cultural history of piping in Scotland. You will learn how piping, and the people involved, have changed and contributed to the instrument from the early 19th century until the present day.

During the semester, you will learn how the change from an oral tradition to present-day literate tradition is reflected in the musical sources. Students also gain an understanding of the varied repertoire of the bagpipes making full use of the extensive recordings and library at the National Piping Centre.