At a Highland Games individual bagpipers are judged on the following two elements: 1. the ability to tune the bagpipe 2. the ability to play the bagpipes. When judging tuning, the assessor is determining whether the chanter (the part the piper blows into) properly produces 9 notes in b flat, whether the reed being used is the correct one for the conditions, and whether the drones (the three shafts near the shoulder) are set for proper blending of the bass drone and two tenor drones. Finally the judge determines if the chanter tone and drone tones are compatible. These parts of a bagpipe are illustrated below.

Playing ability is determined by assessing finger control and disciplined, regulated blowing into the bag. It is said that getting the chanter melody and background tone to complement one another takes considerable talent. Of course, each contestant is judged on whether the tune is executed as written.