Scottish military drumming may date from around 1800 and the Napoleonic wars, but the true pipe band drumming stems from the years following the Crimean War when regiments began to integrate drum corps with their pipes and the modern pipe band was born.
Over the next 100 years or so, this marriage was to create an entirely new Scottish tradition and a new style of drumming that today we call side drumming.
Probably developed from the drumming used in fife and drum corps, pipe band drumming required development to successfully complement the highly rhythmic 2/4, 3/4, 4/4 and 6/8 marches and quicksteps, as well as the unique sound of the pipes. Innovations where devised in pattern and accent to help the pipers express or "point" the melody, and to serve as a flattering accompaniment for the pipes.
Today's side drummer plays the most technically demanding and difficult style of music for snare drum. Only with extremely precise control can a drummer execute the complex combinations of rudiments inherent in a setting of drum music. The drum corps of the pipe bands you will see at the Highland Games incorporate three types of drummers: bass drummers, who work with the pipe major to furnish the basis for the band's tempo; tenor drummers, whose unsnared drums embellish the beating of the bass drum and side drums; and the side drummers, whose playing adds the primary dynamic element to the pipe band.
Most of the solo drumming competitors have received private instruction, including basic training in the rudiments of drumming. Many additional hours of rehearsal are required for a drum corps to achieve the standard you will hear in pipe band competition.