A pipe band is a musical ensemble consisting of pipers and drummers. The pipers, or Pipe corps, play the Great Highland Bagpipes and the drummers, or Drum corps, play side, tenor and bass drums and sometimes other percussion instruments.
The band is led by the Pipe Major supported by a Pipe Sergeant and Pipe Corporals. The Drum Sergeant leads the Drum corps and is supported by a Drum Corporal. A band will often also have a Drum Major who leads the band in parades.
The bagpipers are responsible for providing all of the melodic material in the music of the pipe band. The pipers play a unison melody on their chanters with their drones providing the harmonic support and filling out the sound.
A large portion of the pipers play the melody of a tune with about one third of the pipers playing the harmony, sometimes referred to as seconds.
The drum corps consists of a bass section and a side (snare) section and supports the bagpipe music with a solid rhythmic foundation and sense of pulse.
The bass section consists of several tenor drummers and one bass drummer (sometimes two). Generally, the bass drummer provides a steady pulse, playing on the downbeat and on the strong beats of the bar. The tenors support that pulse, often adding supporting beats, accents and dynamic interest.
The side drummers provide a rhythmically interactive accompaniment to the bagpipe music being played. A popular pattern in many drum scores is for the lead drummer to play a phrase and the section to play in response.