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Bugles, Pipes and Drums

The Bugles, Pipes and Drums are the face of the Battalion. They carry forward the Regiment’s history and Irish heritage. But they are also full-time soldiers employed as Assault Pioneers providing a vital military capability.

Their training is split and they receive musical training from the Army School of Music in Edinburgh. Musical development continues in camp under the supervision of the Pipe Major and the Bugles, Pipes and Drums are often employed to represent the Regiment both in the UK and abroad.

For their core role they receive specialist engineer training to enable them to explosively breach into buildings, to construct obstacles and destroy things that stand in the way of the Battalion and its objectives. They enable the Battalion to do its job effectively.

They are held in high regard throughout the Regiment and the wider Army for both their musical talent and pioneer capability.


Training a piper normally requires a lot of dedication and hard work by the person who is attempting to learn the instrument. Training normally starts in the confines of the Battalion and then eventually onto a Class 3 course which lasts six months and is held at the Army School of Bagpipe Music in Edinburgh.

The potential student would learn the basics of the practise chanter starting off with learning the scale and progressing onto other embellishments, depending on the musical ability of the person it would on average take about six to eight weeks before a person would be in a position to commence his first tune.

The natural progression of learning tunes is to start with the simplest of tunes i.e. a slow march and then a quick march later on once a repertoire of tunes has been established moving on to more sophisticated tunes like jigs, reels and strathspeys. Once a soldier has returned from his six-month course he would then begin to learn the regimental and duty tunes that are played on a regular basis within the Royal Irish.

At some stage within the following year it would be usual to find a new member of the pipe section making his first appearance in the WO's & Sgt's mess or the Officers mess for a taste of his Mess job. Normally about a year after completing a class 3 course he would be expected to attend a class 2 course that lasts about three months. With the normal progression of a piper it would not be expected that a piper would be ready for his Pipe Majors course till around his twelfth year of piping.


Training a Drummer normally requires a reasonable amount of rhythm and a bit of hard work. Training normally starts in the confines of the Battalion and then eventually loaded onto a Class 3 course which lasts six months and is held at the Army School of Bagpipe Music in Edinburgh.

The regimental drummer begins his course by learning basic rudiments and exercises, stemming from the positioning and grip of the drumsticks to controlled alternative single stroke development exercises. This is followed with a week 5 assessment by the senior drum instructor who will evaluate the student's progress and make a decision if they have the making of a drummer or not.

In the weeks ahead the student will be taught pipe band foot drill and bugling, along with more advanced exercises, before the introduction of 'drum scores'. A confident drummer will have at least 5 drum scores memorised, each with different timings and with relevant piping tunes, on arrival back to their parent regiments.

Once back to the regiment, the newly qualified drummer will learn new drum scores relevant to their Regimental tunes, i.e. Faugh a Ballagh, Green Glens etc. The drummer will most likely find himself on St. Patrick's Day Parade, medal parades and mini band jobs.

Within a drum section there is one bass drummer and at least two tenor drums, all of whom play equally important roles within the pipe band, they would accompany the side drummers, of which there would be a maximum of six. The bass drummer lays down the natural beat to the score with the tenor adding in 'off beats'.


To train a bugler up to the required standards to be able to be competent enough to play solo would take four months. The bugler would start with some theory on the bugle itself; he would also learn basic written music.

Playing of the bugle itself takes some patience on both the bugler and instructors side, the most frustrating part being the beginning when the bugler must strengthen his lips in order to play all the notes clearly and precisely. Not all learner buglers find this part of a course either easy or interesting, however it is a necessary part of the course and a part which can't be rushed as to do so would hinder further progression of the bugler.

Once everyone's lips are strengthened to the standard required they will go on to learn all the duty calls played within an infantry battalion, doing this will help build the buglers confidence up and will also further strengthen their lips getting them ready to learn and start playing some fanfares which is always one of the most rewarding parts of any bugle course.

As on any bugling course there will also be some marches learnt by the buglers which can be played with military bands, although with the disbandment of many military bands this will sadly be a rare occasion.

On the completion of four months of intense bugling, both theory and practical, the buglers should return to their unit as fully playing buglers who should be able to perform solo and mass bugling jobs. Once this course is finished there would be no need for a bugler to go on any more courses, as anything else he can learn should be able to be done by him as he will now be able to read and understand basic written music for the bugle.

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