THE PIPE CORPS
In the Pipe Corps you are taught the difficult art of playing on the bagpipes, while at the same time marching and drilling in figurations. The Thistle Pipe Band uses Queens Regulations and Pace Stick for proper drill training.
The stick is used to determine the correct length of the pace, distance between the ranks and to check drill movements. The instructor marches with the stick open next to the squad. By using the stick he can check the length of the pace and then lengthen or shorten the pace.
The main instrument, The Great Highland Warpipe, is, together with the uniforms and all other accoutrements used by the Band, procured in the United Kingdom.
A practice instrument, a so called Practice Chanter, is used for learning the technique and all melodies. Later you simply transfer the technique of playing onto the main instrument.
The Corps practises every week all the year round at the Military Academy of Karlberg, Stockholm. As a recruit you may aim for learning how to play a couple of tunes on the main instrument, using the best time of a year. A certain amount of devotion is needed from the beginning to master the technique needed to play. Once the technique has been learnt, the rest is fairly easy.
THE DRUM CORPS
The characteristic sound of a Pipes & Drums unit is produced by the Pipe Corps in combination with the Drum Corps.
The drums used by the Drum Corps of the Thistle Pipe Band are painted in a traditional regimental manner in the United Kingdom, but depicting Swedish battle honours and different mottos from the 17th century and onwards. The Corps is the oldest of its kind in Sweden (see history) and uses three different kind of drums. The Corps is furthermore asked to play on the bugles on occasions.
The side drum - When beating this drum - on a very tight drumskin - special technique is used. To learn this, the recruit is required to show a certain amount of devotion. The aim of the Corps is to get a recruit up and marching while playing within a years's practice. The more devoted the recruit, the more time is spent on him by the Band.
The tenor drum - This drum may be compared with a kettledrum. The pitch of the tenordrum is somewhere in-between the pitch of the side drum (see above) and the bass drum (see below). The technique of beating the tenor drum is not as difficult or advanced as the one used when beating the side drum. The beating is however always done in an elegant manner and so attracts the admiration of the crowds.
One might say that beating the tenor drum is as much a musical as a visual experience, since you are required to swivel and spin the drum sticks in the air in a special way, executing so called flourishes, in-between the drum beats. Traditionally, the tenor drummers wear leopard skins above their uniforms.
The bass drum - There is only one bass drum within the Corps and you may say that it constitutes and acts as the heart of the Band. The bass drummer indicates the tempo for the music to be played and the relevant march to be executed. The bass drummer also acknowledges the different signs given by the Drum Major, thus confirming when to change melodies or tempi - or stop playing altogether.
Out of tradition, the bass drummer, just like the tenor drummers, wears an animal skin above his uniform. In the Thistle Pipe Band, this skin is always the skin of a tiger.
THE BUGLE CORPS
This Corps does not normally constitute a part of a Pipes & Drums unit of a Scottish battalion in the British Army, instead being the traditional instrument of a Light Infantry unit. In the Thistle Pipe Band however, it has been found convenient from time to time to have a separate Corps playing the bugle, thus relieving the Drum Corps of the task of keeping trained and fit for this particular instrument.
The bugle, always tuned in B, could well be likened to a short trumpet. It is traditionally used for the playing of distinctive signals and calls, from early morning reveille to evening lights out, to help the troops unite in the relevant action demanded. A bugle may however also be used for playing specially composed bugle marches in different styles and fashions.
The Thistle Pipe Band has always used the bugles for both of the purposes indicated above.
THE DRILL CORPS
Within a normal British Army battalion, the different companies would fill the part that is taken by the Drill Corps within the Thistle Pipe Band, i.e. acting as a marching and display unit behind the Pipes & Drums at ceremonial or recruiting occasions.
This Corps is not occupied with musical difficulties, since it does not play any instruments whatsoever. Instead, the Corps excels at sword drill and the drill of marching.
The Thistle Pipe Band has, in all probability, the largest array of Scottish Broadswords in Europe, outside the United Kingdom and these swords, with the model year 1831, are put in good use at the sword exercises performed according to British Army regulations.