Introduction to Piobaireachd

... a Dojo University Core Course

Interested in Piobaireachd, but don’t know where to begin?
(or, do you just need a fresh perspective?)

 Learn the history of piobaireachd, technique fundamentals, and 12 classic Piobaireachds.

Simplify one of the bagpipe’s biggest musical mysteries!

Course Details
Enroll Now

Are you interested in playing Piobaireachd, but the mystique of it makes you hesitant to dive in?  

I’ve been teaching and performing bagpipes now for about 20 years all over the world. I’ve taught countless individual players, been a full-time instructor of junior bands, pipe-majored a grade 1 band that qualified for the world-championship final, taught workshops for dozens of intermediate bands - And, you know, one of the biggest "sore spots" for pipers of all ages and stages is - you guessed it - fear/dislike of Piobaireachd.  

Join the club! Piobaireachd is a very difficult aspect of piping to get involved with because, frankly, at the outset it’s a bit much to soak in. 

Take me for example. When I was a kid (see my picture to the right), I frankly didn’t like piobaireachd at all. I knew I needed it to be successful at solo competitions, but the whole thing was boring to me. I just didn’t get it. I liked the fast tunes. Reels, Hornpipes, Jigs, Marches. You know, the good bagpipe music!  

But, I had to take my lumps. I was in grade 3 solos now, and that required a full Piobaireachd. Most of my lesson time with Donald Lindsay and Jim MacGillivray was spent playing my Piobaireahcd over, and over, and over again. Try it this way, try it that way, this variation needs to be faster. Open up your Crunluaths. Etc, Etc, Etc. Somebody kill me now!  

The hard work paid off to be sure - I was winning my Grade 3 solo competitions - even in Piobaireachd. That part was fun. But the music of Piobaireachd was so hard for me to enjoy at all. 

A few years later, I had an interesting experience at the Invermark Summer School - Paula Glendinning, a famous piper from the Baltimore area said to me after I played the Battle of Auldearn (a fairly demanding Piobaireachd): “You know, even though you love the fast tunes, you are going to be known for your Piobaireachd playing.”  

This really kind of struck me, and it has stuck with me to this day.  

As much as I tried to put lots of feeling into my Piobaireachd playing, I really didn’t consider myself to be a Piobaireachd player. It was a chore to me. Something I had to do as a competitor. Still boring. Still not fun - not really, anyway.  

In retrospect - I was just a kid, and I think I was looking at piping the way many of us do as we learn - a two-dimensional pursuit consisting of playing marches with great rhythm and technique. It’s high intensity - kind of like you’re trying to tame an aggressive beast.

But piping is not just that. A type of serenity can be found with the bagpipe. A meditative, zen-like quality. Sometimes you can find that playing marches, but over time it’s occured to me that Piobaireachd is about seeking out this third dimension.  

There’s no way to properly explain what Piobaireachd is really all about. BUT! What I can tell you is, if you dive in and let it be part of your daily bagpiping life, it will open up a whole new aspect of playing that will transform your playing - and heck, it may even transform you as a person.

But here I go again - getting ahead of myself. Let’s do some brief Piobaireachd background before we go too much further:  

What is Piobaireachd? (in 30 seconds) 

You’ve probably heard the word “Piobaireachd” be thrown around here and there, but what is Piobaireachd, really? Here’s a super quick version for you.  

So, Piobaireachd is actually an entirely different paradigm than bagpipe “light” music. It existed before “Western” music had influence on the bagpipe music of Gaelic cultures. It was possibly less about music as it was about storytelling, socializing, and just plain entertainment.  

Piobaireachd probably, in many cases, evolved from traditional songs of Gaelic culture. These songs were probably not originally played on the bagpipes.  

Piobaireachd is just plain different from “Light Music” (you know, marches, jigs, reels, strathspeys, etc). The vast majority of light music tunes were composed post-Culloden, with plenty of western music influence. Also, these “light music” tunes had a heavy military influence - strong beats, high tempos, etc. are REQUIRED to fulfill a specific purpose.  

So, as we dive into Piobaireachd playing - realise that it’s completely different from what you’ve done before. Approach it with fresh eyes, be patient. If you don’t like it at first, that’s normal - piobaireachd is like wine, single malt, fine cheeses - an acquired taste.  

A super-brief History of Piobaireachd:

No one really knows for sure where piobaireachd came from. However, it’s generally accepted that, in the early 1600s (and probably earlier), the MacCrimmon family from Skye possesed the world’s best pipers, and as time moved forward they passed their knowledge of piobaireachd down the line (through family and their famed piping school in the highlands), in an unbroken line, all the way until the mid 1700’s.  

After the last Jacobite rebellion was put down at the battle of Culloden in 1745, Gaelic culture was heavily weeded out of Scotland. This isn’t to say that all of the Gaels were wiped out, but the pressure to conform to the new English way of life both socially and economically was quite literally impossible to withstand for most, and so, over time, the population of definitively gaelic people drastically diminished.  

Although it’s been disproved that the pipes were officially banned after the ‘45, it’s doubtless that being a piper was heavily frowned upon --- and this squelching of the culture of pipers that had existed up until this point continued for generations.  

Today, we play a form of Piobaireachd that has evolved through the efforts of groups of people (like the Highland Society of London and the “Piobaireachd Society”) to preserve the art form. Miraculously, the playing of Piobaireachd has survived, in an unbroken line, all the way to the present day.  

Indeed, if you were to take up Piobaireachd today (from here at the Dojo or elsewhere), you’d be connecting yourself to great teachers and performers of the past - perhaps more than 500 years in the past!

What You'll Learn in This Course

The "Introduction to Piobaireachd" Video course at Dojo University contains everything you need to know learn 12 classic Piobaireachds, along with all of the fundamental technique and knowledge you need to play them well - starting today. Each section of the Course Contains...  

“Lesson” Videos

During a lesson video, I teach the basic concepts in conversational style. Just watch the video, learn the subject matter, and then on to the next lesson!

Performance Examples

Each of the 12 tunes covered in the course was recorded in video-form by myself and special guests Callum Beaumont and Glenn Brown. As the course progresses, we introduce various videos to you so you can see what the finished product will sound like.

“Practice Versions” of performance examples.

Ah, technology! In addition to performance example videos, each tune is offered up at practice chanter pitch for you to practice along to!

“Tune Building” Looping Videos

Each and every phrase, of every variation, of every tune, has been recorded for you in video form. And, these examples automatically loop. So, you can practice along with me to perfect each part of any tune you are learning. This is huge! I wish I had this when I was a kid!

Technique “Speed Ramps”

To build the technique of Taorluath and Crunluath embellishments, we’ve build looping videos for you, increasing gradually in speed over time, to build-up the essential technique of piobaireachd playing from slow to fully up to speed.

“Director’s Commentary” of Full Tunes

One of the biggest challenges of playing a full tune on the pipes is understanding how to “pace” all of the variations. Each tune that we learn has a “director’s commentary” lesson where Andrew discusses the ins and outs of the pacing/transitions of the tune as it’s happening. 

Quizzes to Test Your Knowledge

Our state-of-the-art software tests your knowledge using online quizzes to make sure you’ve got the essential knowledge down pat before moving on. 


Your course is totally online, and you can learn using any mobile device or tablet.

Ready to start your Piobaireachd journey, TODAY?

Enroll Now

Tim Gatehouse, Pennsylvania

"Intro to piobaireachd... Where to begin, what is it, how the heck to you even say it?! I'm a maniac about piping, and I want to know everything I can about it, but sometimes the resources available on the internet are... unreliable... to say the least, and if you're not in possession of a huge budget, finding an instructor can be a bear, and there's so much to cover...  

Dojo University to the rescue! Andrew's conversational learning videos, "riff repeater" style Tune-Building videos, and clear, (often smugly humorous) concise language smoothly compliment his thorough reference material. I've learned the correct pace and feel of several variations of Piobaireachd that I wouldn't have otherwise been able to even locate, let alone play along with.  

Am I getting my money's worth? I've fooled with the idea of competing for several years now, finally taking the plunge. The second place Piobaireachd I just achieved tells me that I am indeed investing wisely. Hands down, Dojo's new course is something everyone should watch. Careful though, you might start humming "Hindo Rodin, Cherede..." at odd times...

Roberta Haworth, Texas

"The new Piobaireachd course available now on the Dojo is a very easy and enjoyable way to jump into learning piobaireachd! The explanations of the different structures, abbreviations, phrasing, and embellishments are wonderfully done and easy to understand. The best part are the phrase, line, tune building videos that automatically loop and repeat so you can practice a bit of technique or a phrase, line or whole part over and over until you’re ready to move on to the next part. Congratulations, Andrew Douglas and Dojo U for this remarkable achievement!"

Part 1

Historical Background, and your First Piobaireachd

The beginning of our course focuses on getting you up and playing piobaireachd as soon as reasonably possible. First, we cover some basic history of Piobaireachd, so that you have a bit of background regarding what we’ll be undertaking.  

Next, we get into the fundamentals.  

One of the tricky aspects of learning Piobaireachd is, actually, the fact that the beginning of the tune is the hardest part! That’s right, the “Ground” of the tune requires the most unique technique (say that three times fast!), but then the variations are actully quite a bit more simple (once you know the basics)  

So, what we’ll do in our course is learn the variations for each tune first, while discussing the fundamental technique required as we go.  

In Part 1, we look at a few types of variations to give us the essential building blocks of our first Piobaireachd - the “Dithis” “Suibhal,” “Taorluath” and “Crunluath” variation types are covered.  

Then, we learn the Ground of the “Company’s Lament,” which completes the material needed to play your first full Piobaireachd! 

Parts 2, 3 and 4

Filling in the gaps


Parts 2 through 4 of the course continue to develop Piobaireachds, learning the variations first. We learn about Singlings, the 4 different types of Crunluath variations, and various ways Piobaireachds are structured.  

Part 5

Canntaireachd, and Alternative Settings  


This day and age, a little bit of knowledge of Canntaireachd (the “singing language” of Piobaireachd) and of “Alternative Settings” of tunes is becoming a must-know element of being a successful player. We’ll touch on the basics at the end of the course. 

Enroll Now


Just $99


The Introduction to Piobaireachd Course is:

  • 5 Extensive Core Modules
  • 300+ Video Lessons / Demos
  • All tune classifications, special embellishments
  • 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


Let's bust some piobaireachd myths!

While uncovering bagpiping’s greatest mystery won’t happen overnight, I can help dispel some myths about Piobaireachd for you right here at the outset.  

Myth #1: Piobaireachd is “Boring.”  

Sure. Piobaireachd is definitely boring if you play the notes on the page. It’s simple, often repeated, musical phrases played over and over, with increasingly complex “variation.”  

From the outset, this may seem boring. Kind of like Single Malt Whiskey or Coffee or Beer or Wine tastes “yucky” to a 10-year-old. But, a little time spent “unpacking” what you are really experiencing reveals an infinitely complex and beautiful world of possibilities. Just how interesting and musical can we make this simple phrase of music? Can these four simple notes be brought to life by ever-so-slightly tweaking the expression?  

If all you care about is Marches, then sure -- Piobaireachd is going to be a boring pursuit. But, if you care about transcending the basic properties of your bagpipe, to explore what it’s really capable of, Piobaireachd might be the only thing you want to play from here on out, because it’s so infinitely interesting.  

Myth #2: Piobaireachd is Really Hard to Play.

Piobaireachd does have some unusual embellishments that come into play here and there. But, the way we approach these embellishments is the same way we approach light music embellishments! We identify the steps, and play those steps accurately, evenly, and (eventually) quickly.  

If you can play Scotland the Brave, you can play Piobaireachd, with just a little bit of practice.  

Myth #3: You Need a “Guru” to Learn Piobaireachd.  

It’s definitely true - I study with a Piobaireachd Guru when I am gearing up for a big performance or learning new Piobaireachd tunes.  


The basics of Piobaireachd can and should be learned before spending time with a great master. You can learn the basics of a Crunluath movement, or a Fosgailte variation, or the timing of a Breabach variation on your own, before going to a master, so that your time with that master can be spent on the intricacies of the tune, instead of working on the basic movements.  

That’s what our Introduction course is about, by the way; mastering the basics of Piobaireachd playing. It’s not trying to make you a master simply by taking the course. It’s giving you the fundamental knowledge and skill you need to take your playing to the next level - definitely with the help of a Guru or two.

Myth #4: I need to be an excellent piper BEFORE I should attempt any Piobaireachd.  

Couldn’t be further from the truth! Piobaireachd can HELP you get to the point of being an excellent piper.  

For example - what better way to develop your steady blowing than by practicing Piobaireachd grounds while producing a great quality of instrument?

What better way to master the art of playing embellishments than by perfecting the famous Crunluath movement?  

What better way to learn the subtleties of bagpipe expression than by mastering the flow of a Dithis variation?  

Indeed - Piobaireachd is part of a developing piper’s healthy balanced diet - get started today!  

Dive Into Our Introduction to Piobaireachd Course Today!

Enroll Now

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 the beautiful "big music" of piobaireachd together... 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 Our Introduction to Piobaireachd Course Today!

Enroll Now

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.