Bagpipes, the "auditory spotlight"


Building a Brand

Those who've followed "Piper Jonas" over the years might recognize some major changes. While all brands undergo some natural evolution, there are also times when a more dramatic 'refresh' takes place. Somewhat poetically, the Piper Jonas brand has grown and developed in parallel with my bagpiping skills and experiences.

In the last year, however, I've devoted more attention to creating a separate brand identity. In the past there has been a bit of co-branding - layering Piper Jonas over the branding of the band I was affiliated with at the time - including several different band kilts and other uniforming pieces. But this "refresh" is meant to create a distinct look wholly unto Piper Jonas. 

Embroidery example of custom logo

Some of these components have already been rolled out including the logo, website, and collateral, but more is still to come. The next major focus will be on uniforming and "onsite" presence. I've taken a first step in designing and ordering a custom bagpipe bag cover from who are the same bag cover makers for Simon Fraser University (SFU) Pipe Band, St. Laurence O'Toole (SLOT) Pipe Band, and Inveraray and District Pipe Band. For those not familiar with the World Pipe Band Championships held in Glasgow, Scotland each year - these bands combined have won the Grade I Championships seven times and tally twenty-one 2nd and 3rd placing trophies over the last 32 years.

Douglas Modern Blue tartan

Following the bagpipe bag cover, I will also be updating my uniform from head to toe to match the color scheme of a new kilt being made in Douglas Modern Blue tartan. The new uniform will draw on more of the navy blues highlighted with more royal blues and whites. In addition to the uniform, I will also be considering a new set of fully-engraved sterling silver bagpipes. I haven't decided on the bagpiper maker yet, but for any of my piping friends who have recommendations - I'd appreciate your input!

Most of the changes are planned to be completed before the 2018 season.

Carry on,

Piper Jonas

In Bagpiping: Always Choose Quality

"These are bagpipes. I understand the inventor of the bagpipes was inspired when he saw a man carrying an indignant, asthmatic pig under his arm. Unfortunately, the man-made sound never equalled the purity of the sound achieved by the pig." -Alfred Hitchcock

Whether Alfred Hitchcock's quote was meant as a joke or a comically earnest critique - his quote expresses an all too uncommon impression of bagpipe music. Over many years of playing the bagpipes, I must have run across every permutation of this "joke" (although most versions typically replace the pig with a cat).

While in the past I considered such jokes the result of either a sarcastic sense of humor or a futile attempt at conversation - now my perspective has completely changed. Instead of brushing off jokes or being annoyed, I've come to wonder: could it be they've never experienced truly great bagpipe music?

Now, I realize that I could be completely off - but maybe, just maybe if they heard a concert performance by any of the top performers of our time - would they still reuse the same jokes? Having been fortunate enough to attend such events myself I can attest to how a live performance can place the instrument in a different light. Maybe their only interaction with the bagpipes was a beginner practicing in a park outside their house or they attended an event where the drones double-toned and the notes of the chanter all played too sharp.

That's why when playing I'm cognizant that for some in the audience my performance could be that first impression.

In the bidding process, service rates (quantity) are oftentimes weighted more heavily than skill level or experience (quality). Here are some other points to consider:

  • Does the piper have a successful competition background? Competition generally leads to better playing
  • Does the piper have leadership experience within a pipe band? Leadership positions typically denote they're within the top percentile of performers in the band
  • Years of playing doesn't necessarily mean a better player - it depends on whether those years are spent actively improving

As in most cases - especially in the service industry - the adage of "you get what you pay for" still holds true. Sure, one might still get that 'memorable' performance, but maybe not in the way they expect! So when it comes time to consider hiring a bagpiper - always choose quality whenever possible.

Just as Alfred Hitchcock said bagpipes were less pleasing than squealing pig - I can't help but wonder if Mr. Hitchcock had had an opportunity to listen to Stuart Liddell, Jack Lee, or any of a number of world-class pipers - would he have found the bagpipes more praiseworthy?

Paying the Piper

"He who pays the piper calls the tune"

Eliminating obstacles in the payment process can not only make for a much better experience from the client’s perspective, but can also make a huge difference in cash flow for the piper. While each performer has a slightly different approach and method to collecting on a gig, here are several things to consider:


Deposits are typically recommended for piping gigs. Not only do they help solidify the contract between client and performer, but also provide some liquidity for costs that the arise prior to the event, such as gas, uniform cleaning, equipment repairs, etc. I usually ask that events booked a month or more in advance pay 30-50% of the total quote as a deposit although other pipers choose to use a flat fee for the deposit. For short-notice events inside of a month (especially funerals), I usually waive the deposit — opting to have the client pay in full on the day — as it tends to make the process easier on both parties.


The rule of thumb is to allow the client to pay by whatever method works best for them. This means that the days of the cash-only method are gone. Not only does expanding available methods to include credit and debit cards, PayPal, or other “FinTech” platforms sometimes more convenient for the client, but they also improve cashflow and can be easier to track for reporting purposes.

I mentioned in my Tools for Bagpiping Gigs post about how I use Invoice2go to handle both card payments and record keeping, but other services are available too. Especially if the client wants to pay by card on the day of the event — having a handheld payment system like PayPal Here or Square can mean the difference between getting paid on the spot or waiting for a check in the mail a week later.

While I haven’t been asked yet to be paid by Bitcoin, it might be worthwhile to start looking should the need arise.


After talking about the merits of card and electronic payments — there is the drawback that typically all transactions will incur a processing fee. While new users usually enjoy a promotional period where the processing fee is waived, the transaction costs eventually creep into any digital payment method. If you are wary about paying fees, you may consider extending the payment period or offering a small discount if the client pays by cash or check.


Tipping isn’t too common an occurrence for bagpipe gigs, but if you are fortunate enough to get a little extra - be sure sent a special ‘thank you’ email or card!

Pipe on friends,

Piper Jonas

The "Gigmaster's Toolkit"