I grew up in a home where playing the bagpipes was a family business along with participation in a pipe band and competing at Scottish highland games. My dad plays the bagpipes as does my grandfather and his father before him (I could keep going). As I grew older, I realized that the bagpipes are not as common in the general population as they are in my home. Most people are therefore apprehensive about finding and hiring bagpipers because they don’t know what to expect. If you are looking to hire a bagpiper, you likely have had one of the following questions:
How much does a good bagpiper cost? Is there a limit to the amount of songs I can request? I want him to wear a typical Scottish outfit and kilt, but will he? What does a bagpiper normally play for a funeral? How about at a wedding?
If you have any of these questions, you are in the right place. My family has teamed up to put our collective 60+ years of professional bagpiping experience to answer all your bagpiper inquiries. If your question is not answered in this post, then comment below and we will respond.
So, let’s get to the questions!
Hire a Bagpiper FAQ
The going rate for one bagpiper is anywhere between $200 to $350. My father and I live near Atlanta, Georgia and typically charge around 250 dollars as long as the job is within about 45 minutes driving distance. If the job is farther, we will typically charge closer to 300 dollars. However, bagpipers, like most professionals, adjust their fee schedule relative to the local cost of living. Expect to pay more in places like Los Angeles or New York, and less in lower cost areas.
The cost of each job is determined by the details. As expected, costs go up with time. Thus, in general, a standard wedding costs more than a typical memorial or graveside service because weddings usually involve more consultation, emails, phone calls, and coordination. The normal rate (between $200 to $350) is for a single event, and both weddings and funerals can have unique details that might drive up the cost. For example, many wedding planners insist on having the bagpiper present at the rehearsal to fine tune timing, cues, flow, and locations. For a funeral, a client may request a bagpiper be present at both the memorial service and a graveside that adds time and distance. These requests would increase the cost of hiring a bagpiper.
In general, no. Bagpipers do not charge extra for a requested song. Good bagpipers should know many hymns, jigs, marches, etc., and learning or refreshing a particular tune for a job is standard. More on music later though.
The two most common factors associated with a price increase are additional driving distance and time. The only jobs in which I charge more for my time is when you want me to play in the morning and in the afternoon and in the evening, which only happens for an all-day festival or party. A typical job timeline is a funeral where I arrive 30 minutes before the event, like at 10:30 AM for an 11 AM service, and leave by about 12:30 PM, depending on the length of the service.
Most bagpipers will require a deposit payment for events scheduled several months in advance. Expect the advanced deposit to be about half of the total payment. Good bagpipers are usually overbooked on Saturdays and Sundays during peak wedding season. Thus, to ensure that the event is certain for both the client and the bagpiper, an advanced payment is requested.
Yes, most bagpipers should offer samples via YouTube videos or online music clips. For example, I refer all my customers to my father’s website as well as additional YouTube videos in which I play the bagpipes to prove that I am a qualified bagpiper. I would be wary of any unknown bagpiper that does not refer you to a website, LinkedIn profile, YouTube channel, etc. Even bagpipers with YouTube clips may play the bagpipes poorly. To defend yourself against these wannabe bagpipers, check out this post in which I identify the easiest ways to distinguish a good bagpiper from the bad. I have many humorous/horror stories of awful bagpipers that still get hired, but those are stories for a later time.
A bagpiper can play for as long (or as short) as you want, within reason. Once we agree upon a fee, the music is all inclusive, so it’s up to you and your vision for the event how much I play. For example, some customers want me to play before, during, and after a funeral while other customers want me to only play one or two songs during the funeral.
Absolutely! Just keep in mind that the bagpipes only has 9 notes so many songs are impossible to play (well) for us. Songs like Free Bird and My Heart Will Go On might not be the best songs to request. If you have a question about a specific song, comment below and we will let you know if it is possible.
Scotland the Brave, Highland Cathedral, Amazing Grace, and Danny Boy.
Yes, most good bagpipers can play for 45 minutes with breaks. Playing the bagpipes requires lots of energy, stamina, and air. If a client wants me to play for an extended period of time, usually I will play straight for ten to fifteen minutes, take a three to five minute break to catch my breath and drink some water, and continue this cycle until I play for the requested amount of time.
Part of hiring a bagpiper is having the opportunity to see a typical Scottish or Irish outfit. Unless you request something different, most bagpipers will dress in a traditional kilt outfit including a kilt, belt, sporran, knee high socks, flashes, ghillie brogues, sgain dubh, and some combination of vest and jacket.
The bagpipes are indeed loud. However, a bagpiper can perform indoors when the space is large enough for the sound to spread out. Many churches have high ceilings and spacious rooms that are perfect for a bagpiper. Conversely, when the room is small and there are lots of people packed inside I opt to play outside of the room instead. Usually I open the doors when playing outside so that the sound of the bagpipes may reach all guests