Prescribed Tunes


The purpose of the Prescribed Tunes List is to provide tune selection options suitable for the designated RSPBA Grading of bands.

Major Championships – Grade 4B and Novice Juvenile B

  • 4 x 2 parted Marches from the RSPBA Prescribed Tune List
  • All tunes played must come from the RSPBA Prescribed Tune List

Major Championships – Grade 4A and Novice Juvenile A

Minor Contests:

  • Grade 4 and Novice Juvenile remains as stipulated currently – being 2-1/2 to 4-1/2 Minutes Quick March Tempo.
  • Grade 4 and Novice Juvenile A MSR Contests; Championship playing requirement change will also be applied.

These tunes have been carefully chosen to reflect the relative experience and ability of pipers and drummers in that specific Grade, presenting them with the opportunity to perform in contests, ‘on a level playing field’, as each piece is regarded as having equal ‘weighting’, and this should be borne in mind when making those choices for contest performances.

This is important in regard to the effectiveness of the performance. If the degree of difficulty in the tune, and drum-score, is set too high in respect of the band members experience and ability, the likely result may be ‘note’ and ‘timing’ errors by pipers and drummers, ‘cutting out’, uneven blowing, and difficulty in matching harmonic and drum accompaniment to the pieces being played. Through choosing, and practising, the most appropriate tunes, pipers and drummers should be able to focus on how the music is being performed, instead of thinking about how the technical elements are being handled. All of which has an impact on the ‘ensemble’ assessment, too. The old adage ‘A simple tune played well, is better than a difficult tune played not so well’, still has some relevance today.

In ‘musical’ terms, several issues should be considered to provide variety in the ‘set’ to engage the ‘listener’, whether the ‘listener’ is an adjudicator, or, an audience.

The use of ‘Tonality’ refers to the various scales in which tunes are written. Tonality is defined by the ‘Final’, being the last note of any piece of music. Therefore, selecting tunes which alternate from scale to scale, for example, ‘Corriechoillie’ followed by ‘The Pipers Cave’, adds ‘tonal’ variety to the ‘set’.

Tonality is also relevant in performing with other musical groups, such as Orchestras and Military Bands. The Bagpipe is a ‘Transposing Instrument’, which means that the sounds produced are different to what is written on the score. The ‘Low A’ on the Bagpipe is closely related in pitch to that of ‘Bb’ – called B ‘flat’. As a consequence, the Final of each tune has to be identified in relation to the kind of scale being used. A tune with a ‘D’ as its last note is in the scale, or ‘Key’, of ‘Eb Major’, and where ‘B’ is the ‘final’, the key is ‘c minor’.

Further information regarding Tonality and Transposition is contained in RSPBA Structured Learning Book 3, under ‘Scales’, and is available on the RSPBA website.

Each piece has its own ‘energy’ arising from its rhythmical and technical construction, and this aspect must also be carefully evaluated in matching tunes. Some tunes are ‘busier’ that others, and ‘sound’ quicker. Therefore placing a ‘busy’ piece before a less complex one may result in the latter sounding ‘slow’.

Where ‘harmonies’ are added, care should be taken to prevent over-complication of the ‘listening’ experience, and the execution of the harmony itself in time with the melody, and the contribution of the drum corps. Once again, ‘simple’ can be more effective, than ‘complex’.


The Tunes Group is a sub-committee of the Music Board that maintain the Prescribed Tunes List(s).

The Music Board agree the members of the Tunes Group annually and ensure they are notified / approved by the Board of Directors.

The tunes are continuously reviewed and additional tunes added to meet the requests for change received by the Music Board from the Bands via the Branches.

Bands who wish to have a tune added to the list of Prescribed Tunes, must make a request to the group via their branch Music Board representative or Director. The request will be passed to the Music Board and then on to the group.

A request should contain as much supporting detail as possible, such as the Name, Time Signature and supporting reason for the tune being added.

The originator of the request will be notified by the Music Board administrator if the request has been accepted or declined.

The group will consider the request ensuring it is in keeping with the musical appreciation of the tunes already on the Prescribed Tunes list.

If the tune has been accepted it will be added initially to the list on the RSPBA web site, without a link to a sample score, the sample score will be made available and linked on the web site as soon as possible. The reason for adding the tune to the list without a sample score it to notify all bands of its availability for use at the earliest opportunity.

RSPBA Music Board

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