Master Bagpipe Theory, Composition, and Arrangement

... a Dojo University Core Course

An in-depth course de-mystifying the seemingly-complex world of bagpipe music theory. Learn the core tenants of composition and arrangement for the pipes without hocus-pocus!

Course Details
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When You're Done, You'll Walk Away With a Plan For Composing


... utilizing The Six-Phase Learning Process for Bagpipe Composition.

What if, instead of trying to "copy" others' harmonies, or take a wild "stab in the dark" at writing them yourself, you understood the process and could make beatifully unique arrangements all on your own?

I (Andrew Douglas) often get hired to write harmonies for bands. To be honest, it's not my favorite thing to do.

Why not? Well, sure - it's a lot of work. But that's not the reason. (For my own music, I LOVE doing the work when it comes to harmonies and arrangements).

I'll never get to perform these arrangements - but that's not the reason either.

The real reason I don't like writing harmonies for bands very much is because writing harmonies is a personal, joyous part of the repertoire building process!

Some of the best times I've ever had playing in bands was working through musical arrangements and writing harmonies. It truly is a special, rewarding experience that we all deserve.

The trouble is, most people are "blocked" from being able to experience this awesome part of bagpiping because they think they don't have the music theory knowledge (or "talent") to do it themselves.

They're wrong!

FACT: If you can understand the sheet music for Scotland the Brave, you have the music-theory foundation to compose tunes, harmonies, and arrangements.

That's right. "Hidden" in what we already know about bagpipe music are the "secrets" to composing tunes of our own, writing harmonies, playing with other instruments, arranging great medleys, etc.

The trick is in unpacking the music theory concepts that exist in all tunes so that we can understand it and can use it.

You see, bagpipes are the same as all other instruments when it comes to their relationship with the basics of music theory. We play the same scales, the same notes, the same rhythms, etc. There are just one or two things we have to understand before that becomes perfectly clear.

Once we understand that we are the same as everyone else (when it comes to theory), we can use what others are doing to influence our own music making.

So, how do you fill in the blanks that you need in order to become a great bagpipe composer?

Well, that's where this course comes in.

By the time you've finished the Composition Foundations "Core" Course here at Dojo U, you'll have developed a keen sense of the relationship the bagpipe has to the rest of the world of Western Music.

With this course under your belt, you'll be able to mold unique, personal, inspiring compositions, harmonies, and more with your band (or as a soloist).

The era of playing strictly the compositions of others has come to an end!

What You'll Learn in This Course

How to Speak the Language of Western Music.

You've been speaking the language of music theory for a long time already - you just don't know it yet. When you harness the knowledge of scales, keys, chords, chord progressions, etc., you'll realize that the potential is literally infinite when it comes to how you can apply your creativity to the bagpipes.

How Bagpipe Tunes and Harmonies are (actually) Created

You'll find you had a lot of misconceptions about how tunes are actually composed. It doesn't have all that much to do with divine providence - instead, it's simply having a bit of fun with the basic building blocks of our music. Understand the basic building blocks, and you too will have "what it takes" to create your own amazing music for the bagpipes.

How to Use Technology (Properly) To Become a Composer/Arranger

In this course, we'll teach you to use the power of various technologies to aide in your composition journey. From digital recording, to engraving software, to the good ol' fashioned piano, we're going to teach you the ins and outs of all the tools you could need to write tunes, harmonies, suites - even arrange for OTHER instruments.

Suites, Medleys, and Playing with Other Instruments

In this course we'll study some existing famous pieces of music so that you'll have plenty of context to create music of your own. Throughout our 6-phase learning process, we'll be writing tunes, writing harmonies, writing our own "Suite" of bagpipe music, arranging the perfect pipe band medley - even producing chord-charts to jam with other instruments.

Dive Into the 6 Phases of Bagpipe Composition Fundamentals Today!

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Eric Evenhuis, Utah

"Since taking the composition course, I have been able to compose pipe tunes much easier, the tunes are more musical, and I am able to both write tunes with or without my practice chanter in my hands. I went from composing 2 tunes a year to now having written around 50 in a year and a half. I’m able to express my music in a logical way and using the tools the course has given me it's no longer a painful process."

Jens Olsen, Denmark

"The composition course starts you off with some basic understanding of music theory, and the way chords work. Good knowledge to have, not just when working on compositions, but also when playing music in general. The course has a practical view on the subject and by following it, you will be able to put something creative down on the blank music sheet."

Module 1

Essential Theory & Chord Progressions

  • Setting up the Staff, Basic Rhythm, Time Signatures
  • Getting to know the... Piano????
  • Chord Theory
  • Introduction to Chord Progressions
  • Chord Progression
  • Case Studies
  • Quiz and Assignments

Module 2

Bagpipe Tune Composition

  • Understanding and Observing "Idioms"
  • Reviewing and Observing Scale Navigation
  • Reviewing and Observing the Bagpipe Articulation System
  • The "Borrow a Bar" Approach to Composing Bagpipe Tunes
  • The "Pick a Progression" Approach
  • When Inspiration Strikes...
  • Bagpipe Tune Composition - Unit Test

Module 3

Writing Harmonies

  • Introduction - A Natural Extension
  • "Static" Chord-Note Writing
  • Simple Counterpoint Harmony
  • Advanced Counterpoint Techniques
  • Dissonance, Suspensions, "Forced" Chords
  • Rhythmic Variation in the Harmony Line
  • Bagpipe-Specific Logistical Concerns
  • Conclusion - Using Your Whole Arsenal
  • Writing Harmonies - Unit Test
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Module 4

The Suite

  • Introducing the Suite
    The Theme, and Arpeggio "Combing"
  • Ostinato
    Process-Based Compositional Techniques
  • Accompaniment
  • Acquiring Inspiration from Other Forms
    Tips for Creating Your Masterwork (and Conclusion)
  • The Suite - Unit Test

Module 5

Pipe Band Medleys

  • Reviewing the Medley
  • Balancing Creativity and Competitiveness
  • The "Reprise" Format
  • Thinking About Ensemble
  • The Successful Medley-Harmony Checklist
  • The Successful Medley Construction Checklist
  • Pipe Band Medleys - Unit Test

Module 6

Miscellaneous Composition Techniques

  • Composing/Integrating with Other Instruments
  • Improvisational Composition Technique
  • Notating Non-Conventional Techniques
  • Understanding Bagpipe Transposition
  • Concluding the Course
  • Miscellaneous Composition Techniques - Unit Test
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Module 7:

Bonus Material

  • Andrew's Tune Vault
  • The Bagpiper's Finale Software Tour
  • Multi-tracking Software and Audio Manipulation for
  • Field Testing Your Arrangements
  • Watch Harmony Being Composed by Andrew



Just $199


The Bagpipe Composition Course is:

  • The Bagpipe Composing Foundations Course
  • 7 Core Modules
  • 30+ Video Lessons
    PDF Lesson "Handouts"
  • Quizzes after each lesson.
  • Final Exam at the end of the course

Course Details:

Level: Intermediate through Advanced (you should have a few years of experience on the full bagpipes before attempting).

Setting: Online/Virtual

Course Length: 25-30 Hours

Expected Completion Time: 1-3 Months


Why Should You Take This Course?

If you're a soloist...

...this course will add a whole new dimension to your bagpiping experience.

As pipers, the vast majority of us will only ever play the compositions of others. We'll rarely play with other instruments, ever.

With the composition course, you'll be able to explore the rewarding world of creating your own music. You'll be able to create things that are uniquely yours - and it's a great feeling.

The bottom line: It'll bring you a far more enriched bagpiping experience.

This is the exact process I (Andrew) have used to create well-known bagpipe tunes, suites, and medley arrangements.

I've held nothing back in this course. This is the playbook.

So, if you want to:

  • Enhance your enjoyment of piping
  • Create music that's uniquely yours
  • Play with other instrumentalists, arrange medleys, write suites, and more...

...this course is for you.

If you're in a band...

For bands, this course address a very real pain-point - how do we make our music sound unique to us?

How do we make our competition material stand apart from the pack?

How do we put on concerts that are musically exciting, instead of the same old stuff all the other bands are doing?

This composition course puts all of the tools to answer these questions right in your hands. With a little bit of understanding of how bagpipe music relates to the bigger world of music theory, you'll be able to

  • write rich harmonies,
  • create original tunes,
  • produce suites and other great concert material
  • integrate with other types of instruments.

This course will be a huge leap forward for you and your band!

Dive Into the 6 Phases of Bagpipe Composition Fundamentals Today!

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About your instructor

“My name is Andrew Douglas and I'm the founder of the Piper's Dojo and creator of Dojo University, our online learning portal for bagpipers. I'm super excited to be your guide as we drill into some of the most esstential fundamental elements of bagpipe composing and arranging... So glad to have you aboard!"

— Andrew Douglas

  • Founder, Creator, and CEO of the Piper's Dojo and Dojo University
  • 2017 & 2019 World Champion with Inveraray and District Pipe Band
  • 2017 Winner of USA Silver Medal for Piobaireachd
  • 2008-2013 Pipe Major of Grade 1 Oran Mor Pipe Band
  • Multi-prize winner, Silver Medals at Oban and Inverness
  • Former Winner of B-Grade Strathspey/Reel at Oban (2004)
  • EUSPBA Adjudicator
  • Certified Teacher and Examiner with the Scottish Qualifications Authority

Frequently Asked Questions

Dive Into the 6 Phases of Bagpipe Composition Fundamentals Today!

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Dojo University Is Different.

Yes, you can find bagpipe instruction elsewhere on the internet and in person, but a Dojo University course is unique because it's built and taught by real-world bagpipers who have actually built these courses based on real-world experience (read: successes).

In other words, we aren't people who couldn't do so we made a course instead. We've been in the trenches teaching AND performing - we detest untested theory and believe that the best way to learn something is to roll up your sleeves and get your hands a little dirty. If that sounds appealing, then welcome! In Dojo U you've found your bagpipe home.