Piping for Highland Dancers

Last Updated or created 2023-07-18

I’ve been playing a long time for Highland Dancers. And here are my tips for you.
If you have additions or corrections let me know.


  • Practice, with and without the dancers.
  • Get to know the tempo the dancers would like.
    (Have them practice the tempo mentioned in the piping books)
  • Start in time with practicing (see below)
  • I wanted to know what it takes to be a highland dancer, to understand what they are doing, so I learned to dance the Highland Fling myself.

Before starting

  • Alway sing/hum a few bars. So your on the same line with the dancers, and setting the tempo. (If they can’t hear you, use your hand for the tempo)
    Some dancers are prepared for the dance they have to perform in advance, a change in order can make them nervous.
    (Check lead dancer for a okay sign, with Anke I had a almost invisible nod, and I could see when she was not sure about the Tempo)
  • Are the Dancers distracted? Then I would hit the bag of my pipes to get attention.
  • Face your Dancers if possible.
    Playing with multiple pipers? Let them face you, ideal would be if they see the dancers also.
  • Are they doing the sworddance?
    Hit your bag to make a little drone sound to time their movements to place the sword on the ground.
    (I’ll post a movie about this when i find it again)

While playing

  • Watch the group, and look for signs when they are stuggling.
    When you play too slow, you see them wanting to have more time in the air. (Hangtime)
    When playing too fast, you will see them making little hops, instead of the higher jumps.
    (You get angry eyes from the lead dancer 🙂 )
    Adjust your speed (but slowly)
  • Always keep you eye on the lead dancer.


  • Always step forward when planning to stop playing.
    Sometimes we have to stop when a sign has been given, because of something happening or planned events. Then you will have to end at the end of a part or when playing a set, at the end of the tune. (Practice this!)
  • Sometimes you or the dancers can be mistaken with the number of repeats.
    When you or the dancers are messing up. Get a clean ending.
    When the crowd is unaware, keep it that way. Keep a straight face!
    When they notice, tell or make I sign that you are sorry. on some occasions you can start again.
    (Take away any blame from the dancers, they are also nervous, it helps them for the next dance)


Focus on the dancers, not the public.
Don’t play tunes you haven´t practiced enough.
(This is a common mistake, because the dancers want to perform them before you are ready. When they start practicing a new dance, let them have you informed if possible, so you can practice at the same time)

Tunes I play are in: (links to pipetunesearch, my search engine for tunebooks)