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Standard instrumentation for a pipe band involves 6 to 25 pipers, 3 to 10 side drummers, 1 to 6 tenor drummers and 1 bass drummer.

Occasionally this instrumentation is augmented to include additional instruments (such as additional percussion instruments or keyboard instruments), but this is typically done only in concert settings.

Pipe bands have also been established in countries with few Scottish or Celtic connections such as Thailand, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina.

As a result, in addition to being musicians, members of the pipes and drums must also be qualified fighting soldiers.By the time World War I broke out, the pipe band represented a popular image of Scotland, both internally and externally.Military pipers were killed and injured in significant numbers in the Great War, before the War Office banned the practice of playing in the trenches in 1915.To be qualified as a pipe major or drum major in the pipes and drums of a regiment of the British Army, candidates must successfully pass a series of courses at the school.The music played by pipe bands generally consists of music from the Scottish tradition, the Irish tradition and the Breton tradition, either in the form of traditional folk tunes and dances or music from the Western tradition that has been adapted for pipes.

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Unlike civilian pipers, however, pipers in British military bands have additional military responsibilities.

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