This is only a very quick intro to the world of printed bagpipe material, but hopefully it will provide a useful core from which to grow.
Some of these books will be available on Amazon and eBay, and those are likely to be the cheapest options.
- Standard Settings of Pipe Music of The Seaforth Highlanders
- First published in the 1930s, this is an excellent first collection of pipe music. It contains a good variety of tunes in generally good settings, and makes an excellent source for repertoire and also for sight-reading practice.
- Scots Guards Standard Settings (3 volumes)
- These three books are relatively expensive, but are perhaps the most useful single collection of pipe music available. The first volume represents the classic core of the tradition, the second book extends it and includes many excellent mid-20th century tunes, and the 3rd volume brings the collection up to modern times.
- William Ross (5 books)
- These small books overlap considerably with the Scots Guards collections in content - not surprising, as Willie Ross was a Pipe Major of the Scots Guards for many years and supplied much material to the first volume of their collection. However, they include different versions and many extra tunes as well. They are not expensive so could easily be acquired as needed.
- Donald MacLeod (6 books)
- Donald MacLeod was one of the finest players and composers of the 20th century, and as well as including many excellent settings of traditional tunes, these books contain a large number of his own compositions. Like the Willie Ross books, they are not too large or expensive and could easily be acquired one at a time.
- The Piobaireachd Society Collection (16 books & Introduction)
- These books are essential for piobaireachd players. Although there are sixteen books in total, it’s easy to progress by purchasing one at a time, and it’s probably true to say that some of the books are consulted much more often than some of the others. As well as the books, there is a useful introduction by Roderick Cannon that discusses the series and how it was produced. They are quite large but thin books, and the binders sold by the Piobaireachd Society to contain them are a useful investment if toting them around.
There are many other books of pipe music, but these I think are the stalwarts that should be in any serious enthusiast’s library. One thing I often say about pipe music is that it can be difficult to predict what will stay in print: many of my favourite collections of music are no longer available. If something takes your fancy, I recommend buying it now rather than later!
There is a surprisingly large literature about the bagpipe and its music, and while some of it is definitely for the specialist, the background it provides can be enormously helpful.
- The Highland Bagpipe and its Music (Roderick Cannon)
- This was the first book to attempt a survey of the culture of piping and pipers, and to portray the nature of the music for a non-specialist audience.
- The Book of the Bagpipe (Hugh Cheape)
- This very small book, often found on tourist stalls, is an excellent short treatise on the history and development of the bagpipe, in and beyond Scotland.
- Pipers (William Donaldson)
- Describes itself as “A guide to the players and music of the Highland bagpipe”. DOnaldson is an academic historian and makes great use of source material, and the book is worth it for the photographs alone.