Like any other professional instrumentalist, Bagpipers have a lot of money tied up in the costs of the bagpipe, the uniform,
maintenance of both and practicing to reach a professional level.
With the years of experience we have, we can say, without question, that the simplest performance (playing one tune) takes just as much time in preparation (warming up, dressing, traveling) as compare to playing for a few or more hours.
Hiring a Bagpiper for one tune at a wedding or funeral that starts at 4pm.
From the Bagpiper's perspective:
3:00pm - Arrive at the church one hour before. This guarantees a timely start and allows time to check the "layout" for unforeseen issues and final tune up of the bagpipes.
2:00pm - Leave for the church. This allows in hour of travel in late afternoon.
1:00pm - Dress in uniform.
12:00pm - Warm up bagpipes.
As you can see, there is the minimum of four hours just in the preparation.
$100-$300 per hour for DJ.
$80-$150 Automotive Labor rates per hour nationwide.
$100-$350 Organist service fees. (one hour for service only)
$400 Harpist fees for one hour before wedding reception.
$535 Fully serviced wedding cakes start at $250. Average wedding cake price in 2012 was $535; with prices ranging from $250 to $1385.
With the information above, you should be able to create a budget with regards to hiring a Bagpiper.
Not All Bagpipers are Equal
OK, I got the budget, now how can I tell one Bagpiper's talents from another.
All Bagpipers have the opportunity to develop their skills through competitions. Bagpipe competitions are set to
different grade levels. Grades V - I are amateur, whereas "Open" is "Professional".
Data below is from the Western United States Pipe Band Association.
Grade IV - 57% of the bagpipers you hear are at this rank. These Bagpipers may or may not be able to tune their pipes.
Grade III - 28% Bagpipers play at this level. Must be able to tune their own bagpipes.
Grade II - 9% Bagpipers should be able to play tunes from Jigs, Reels, Hornpipes, and other tunes.
Grade I - 4% Crop without the cream.
Open - 2% Cream of the crop.
What to ask before hiring.
What was the last Grade Level of competition you competed at?
Are there any solo recordings of you playing?
If the price is "too good" to be true, listen to a recording of them. Then listen to one of our recordings. If you cannot tell the difference, then you should have a good Bagpiper.
Professional Bagpiper? You decide. This is NOT one of us. You will first notice, he hits the door with his base drone, causing it to fall apart. As he places the base drone back into position, he does a good job adjusting the base drone to harmonize with the other two tenor drones. As you listen, you will hear the notes (melody of the tune) sound "different". This is because his Chanter (the device his fingers are on) is not properly tuned with the drones and thus poor harmonization with the drones. Basically, the bagpipe is out of tune. The other thing you hear is the music cutting in/out. This is called a chock making the tunes loss their rhythm. Every Bagpiper, at one point during their career, sounded like this. This is why you practice. Classification for this Bagpiper would be Grade IV.
From start up to finish, the Bagpipe should sound pleasant, warm, exciting, not loud, harsh, high pitch and squeaky.