Learn to play Bagpipes and drums

Join our band

The Nelson Mandela Artillery Pipe Band extends a warm invitation to individuals who are interested in joining our esteemed bagpipe band. If you have a passion for learning to play the bagpipes or drums and desire to be a part of an exciting and dynamic group, we would be thrilled to welcome you into our ranks.

Our band comprises members from diverse backgrounds and walks of life, creating a vibrant and inclusive community. We are dedicated to providing comprehensive tutoring in all aspects of the pipe band, ensuring that our members receive the necessary guidance and support to develop their skills and reach their full potential.

If you have recently matriculated and are planning to study in Cape Town, joining our pipe band can be a fantastic opportunity to engage in a fulfilling extracurricular activity while immersing yourself in a rich musical tradition. To express your interest and begin your journey with us, we encourage you to reach out to Grant Scheffel at grant@bagpipes.co.za.

We’re here to guide you on your musical journey.

Any questions? Please contact us!

Learn to play the bagpipes

No matter your age or level of experience, you have the opportunity to learn the captivating art of playing Scottish bagpipes in the heart of Cape Town’s CBD. Begin your musical journey with the Nelson Mandela Artillery Pipes and Drums, where we offer a comprehensive training program tailored to individuals at all stages of their bagpiping adventure.

The bagpipes hold a special place as Scotland’s national instrument, resonating with people around the globe. Learning to play the Great Highland Bagpipe, whether as a solo piper or as a member of our esteemed band, opens the door to an extraordinary musical journey, offering learning outcomes and experiences that extend far beyond mere musical performance.

Our grass-root training program ensures that beginners receive a solid foundation in bagpipe playing. The journey begins with mastering the practice chanter, a vital instrument that lays the groundwork for technique, finger placement, and understanding the fundamental principles of bagpipe music. As you progress and gain confidence, you will gradually transition to playing the bagpipes themselves, unleashing the iconic sound that has captivated audiences for generations.

What is a practice chanter?

A practice chanter is an essential component of learning to play the bagpipes. It is a double-reed woodwind instrument.


The practice chanter serves as a foundational tool for aspiring bagpipers, providing a platform to develop technique, finger placement, and familiarity with bagpipe music. It is a smaller instrument compared to the full-size bagpipes, consisting of a cylindrical tube with finger holes and a mouthpiece that contains the double reeds responsible for producing sound.


As a standalone instrument, the practice chanter allows beginners to focus on mastering the basics of bagpipe playing without the added complexity of managing the bag, drones, and additional components associated with the full bagpipe setup.

Learn to play the bass drum

The bass drum holds a significant role in a band, often described as the heartbeat of the ensemble. As the physically largest instrument, it commands attention and makes a powerful statement. In a pipe band, the bass drum’s unique position is to pitch one octave below the bass drone of the bagpipes, establishing the foundation and setting the pace for the entire band. The bass drum contributes a harmonic bottom tone, adding depth and richness to the band’s overall sound.

Placed in the middle of the band, the bass drummer plays a crucial role in keeping all musicians in sync and playing as a cohesive unit. With an exceptional sense of rhythm, the bass drummer’s every note holds immense importance. They provide the tempo and stability that guide the entire group, ensuring that all members play together harmoniously.

In contrast to bass drummers in other marching bands, a pipe band bass drummer employs large soft beaters and performs in an up and down swaying motion. This technique allows for variations in volume, with the bass drummer strategically adjusting the strength of each beat. By doing so, they introduce depth and dynamics to the melodic composition, enhancing the overall musicality of the band’s performance.

Learn to play the tenor drums

In a pipe band, the tenor drum assumes the role of filling in the middle tones within the drum corps. Unlike the snare drums, which are typically pitched the same, the tenor drum offers the versatility of being pitched to various notes. This unique characteristic allows the tenor drum to contribute melodic and stereophonic elements to the overall sound of the drum corps.

The tenor drum serves as an important component in enhancing the musicality and complexity of the drum section. Its ability to produce different pitches adds a dynamic and harmonious dimension to the rhythmic foundation laid down by the bass and snare drums. The melodic aspects provided by the tenor drum enrich the overall texture of the drumming ensemble, enhancing the listening experience for both musicians and audiences alike.

In a bagpipe band, there are typically two types of tenor drummers. 

What is the difference between rhythm & flourishing tenor drummer?

A rhythm tenor drummer’s primary emphasis is on maintaining a solid and consistent rhythm within the drumming ensemble. They adhere to a pattern framework, which may involve variations in the intensity or volume of their beats (such as hard, soft, medium, soft). By following this framework, the rhythm tenor drummer helps establish the groove and pulse for the entire band, ensuring that the drum section maintains a cohesive and synchronized rhythm.


A flourishing tenor drummer adds visual flair and decorative elements to their drumming performance. While they also contribute to the rhythmic beats like the rhythm tenor drummer, their primary focus is on incorporating fancy swings or “flourishes” with their mallets. These flourishes are visually captivating and complement the music being played. The aim of the flourishing tenor drummer is to enhance the visual appeal and dramatic impact of the band’s performance, captivating spectators with their skillful and artistic drumming style.

Learn to play the snare drum

The snare drum holds a prominent position in the drum section of a band, known for its distinctive sound and crucial role in complementing the notes played on the bagpipes. Its name derives from the snare mechanisms located on both the top and bottom drumheads. These mechanisms consist of tightly stretched wires or snares that produce a characteristic buzzing sound, adding a unique texture to the drum’s overall tone.

Snare drums are recognized for their high-pitched and crisp sound, which beautifully harmonizes with the melodies of the bagpipes. The notes played on the snare drum are characterized by their rapid and precise nature, enhancing the rhythmic complexity and intricacy of the music.

When embarking on snare drum lessons, you will dive into the fundamentals of proper stick grip, distinct from that of a kit drummer. The focus will be on developing speed, control, and precision by mastering the utilization of your fingers in conjunction with wrist and arm motions. This technique allows for the execution of swift and accurate drumming patterns, enabling you to maintain the intricate rhythms and dynamic beats required in a bagpipe band.

Learn to be a drum major

When it comes to hosting a memorable corporate event, ensuring the happiness and engagement of your guests is paramount. The choice of corporate event entertainment plays a significant role in achieving this goal. And what better way to make a powerful musical statement than with the resounding presence of the Great Highland Bagpipes?

The Great Highland Bagpipes are renowned for their ability to evoke a range of emotions, from soothing the soul to stirring deep feelings within. Their majestic sound and timeless appeal bring a touch of elegance and sophistication to any corporate event or function, adding a sense of professionalism and formality to the atmosphere.

Imagine the awe and delight on the faces of your guests as the resonant melodies of the bagpipes fill the room, instantly captivating their attention and creating an atmosphere of intrigue. The bagpipes have a unique ability to command attention and leave a lasting impression on those in attendance, making your corporate event stand out from the rest.

The powerful sound of the bagpipes serves as a remarkable backdrop for various moments during your event. Whether it’s welcoming guests upon their arrival, creating an ambiance during networking sessions, or providing a grand entrance for key speakers or executives, the bagpipes offer a powerful and engaging musical experience that sets the tone for the occasion.

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