Pipe major

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An early photograph of a Pipe Major of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

The pipe major is the leader of a pipe band, whether military or civilian. Like the appointment of drum major, the position is derived from British Army traditions. During the early twentieth century, the term sergeant piper was used instead. The pipe major is often assisted by a pipe sergeant, who has similar duties in the band and leads the band in the absence of the pipe major.

Duties and responsibilities[edit]

The civilian Simon Fraser University Pipe Band led by Pipe major Terry Lee on the right of the band and Pipe sergeant Jack Lee on the left

The pipe major leads the band musically, providing the rhythm by tapping his foot. Whilst marching, the pipe major is normally at the front right of the band.

British Army[edit]

A pipe major's position is by appointment, and is not a military rank. An appointee is required to attain a senior non-commissioned officer rank of sergeant, staff sergeant, colour sergeant, or warrant officer and to have successfully completed the pipe major's course at the Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming. Since the pipes and drums of an infantry regiment are typically assigned the military duties of a machine gun platoon, the pipe major is also responsible for:

  • Command (or second-in-charge) of the platoon during military exercises or battle
  • Maintenance of military discipline in his platoon
  • Purveyance and promotion of regimental custom, tradition and history

He is customarily addressed and referred to as "Pipe Major", not by his service rank. The insignia of appointment is four point-up chevrons worn on the lower sleeve, usually surmounted by a bagpipe badge and often by a crown or other badge, dependent on rank and regiment.

Canadian forces[edit]

"Pipe Major" in the Canadian military is also an appointment, not a service rank. Pipe majors are appointed by the commanding officer of a unit or formation. The insignia (a four-bar chevron with bagpipe badge) is usually surmounted by the service rank badge.

Most pipe majors in the Canadian forces are also responsible for regular-force volunteer bands or primary-reserve bands, and there are two pipe majors posted to Regular Force Brass & Reed bands; the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF)Band, and the Royal Canadian Artillery (RCA) Band.