I’ve said before that I don’t have much inclination to ever be a piping judge. I really enjoy listening to pipe music, and I love to sit down and watch a contest, solo or band, all the way through. There are things that I like about every performer, and to have to compare them to each other and subjectively rank them severely takes the enjoyment out of the music for me.
That being said, it is fun to be an armchair judge and come up with my own rankings for a contest. Listening critically to performances is the best way to train your own ear, and when you turn that ear on yourself it can really improve your own playing.
For the past two months or so, Andrew Douglas and Vince Janoski have been doing a live weekly radio show called Dojo Universe (also available for download as a podcast), and the episodes from June 6 and June 13 were both “you be the judge” shows. They took recordings of bands from a contest and played the audio, then ran a poll and discussed the performances with their live audience. I also recommend going back to listen to the recordings again after the discussion.
I won’t spoil anything by naming the contests that were recorded, but the June 6 episode featured some entries from a recent grade 4 band contest, and June 13 was a recent grade 1 band contest. I recommend you check it out and try your own hand at judging.