The drum is an ancient instrument of Eastern origin, where it was originally used for communication. In clan warfare, bagpipes only served as martial music. When Highland regiments were formed during the early part of the 19th century, the military role of the drums was combined with the traditional one of the bagpipes. Thus was created the forerunner of today's sophisticated pipe band.

Today, three basic sizes of drums are used. The Bass, which is usually carried on the chest, struck by padded mallets and given the awesome task of keeping a steady tempo. The Tenor, pitched an octave above the Bass, is also struck by mallets , but with great dexterity and showmanship and carried on the leg. The Snare or side drum is struck by sticks and is used to provide obligato patterns an octave above the Tenor drums.

Each individual competitor is judged on a variety of qualities and talents what when all combined will make the playing of his instrument sound pleasing to the ear of the listener. Each player has an individual style, and this style must please the judge before he can win a prize. The competing drummer will be accompanied by a piper, but only the drummer is judged. He may play only a march, or will play a series of musical pieces that will increase in speed the technical difficulty. This will be heard in the higher amateur grades, and in the open drumming, and is called the March Strathspey, and Reel competition.

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