Over the years, there have been groups that have formed on Facebook looking for free bagpipe sheet music. Most people wouldn’t think anything of that. It’s free so it can’t be bad, right? Not necessarily! I’d like to take a moment to explain to you why those groups could be detrimental to your bagpipe music education.
If you want to become good at the English language, you read good books and good novels written by people who know how to speak and write English properly. You can tell as you meet people how educated and well-read they are by the way they speak and use language. The same is true with bagpipe music. The best bagpipe music arrangements make you a better player, because they teach you the proper use and placement of grace notes, doublings and other ornamentation.
The best investment that any bagpiper could make, in my opinion, is the Scots Guards Books, especially Volume 1. These tunes were written by well-seasoned pipe majors and bagpipers. This is the same reason why other instrumental teachers teach music of “Classical Composers” so that you learn proper notation and phrasing.
The problem with the free sheet music is that the arrangements have been dumbed down so as to make the music playable to everyone in the band, instead of pulling that newest person up to the next level. Being able to play all genres of bagpipe music in all meters make you an accomplished bagpiper and playing music that is altered is not to your benefit musically.
If you think about other hobbies people have, they are willing to spend whatever it takes to support that hobby. Why wouldn’t it be important for you as a bagpiper to have spent some money on good quality music arrangements? I have purchased a lot of books in the last 45 years. They are an investment, not an expense. I know that I have benefitted from playing from these books.
Take the high road and invest in books. There ain’t no free lunch. You get what you pay for in sheet music. If you feel this argument has validity, and you don't have a Scots Guards Book in your library, Because I believe so much in the value of this book, I'll save you some money any of these books to help you establish a new leaf.
Gary Guth is a professional bagpiper with over 45 years of playing experience and has been teaching bagpipes full time for the last 20 years. He has written "Bagpipes For Beginners", "the Bagpipe Hymnal", and " A Piper's Christmas".