Knowing a tune is good.
Knowing a set is better.
Being able to play a good sounding set that also lets you check the tuning on your pipes is the best.
Having a good tune, or set, that allows you to make sure everything sounds correct, but you can also use to entertain, kills two birds with one stone and gives your repertoire depth.
The tunes “Islay Waltz” and “Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shores” are lovely slow tunes that are good to mix into any performance, and have a great range of notes to test tuning while you get your fingers and lungs into gear.
“Lord Lovat’s Lament” is also a great classic tune, as is “The Circle of the Ocean.” These tunes work through a nice range of embellishments and help you get your fingers warmed up. They can be played nice and slowly in front of the judge as you warm up and they both sound great in front of an audience.
If you dig a little deeper into the tunes you can find some tunes that work well as sets and also let you check the tuning between your chanter and your drones. My personal favorite set is “Shoals of Herring,” “Castle Dangerous,” and "The Dream Valley of Glendaruel.”
These three tunes, all 3/4 retreat marches, work well together. When you play all three tunes you cover every note on the scale and most of the main embellishments. They also play off each other well. “Shoals of Herring” and “The Dream Valley of Glendaruel” both have some nice dot-cut sections so you can work on your ALAP/ASAP too.
“Castle Dangerous” is more rounded but gives you a great D-throw work out and has a couple of bars that let you really hear the High A. There is a nice progression of key changes throughout all three tunes so they don’t run together but still work well.
If you want to stretch you muscles a bit, a great tune is “Torosay Castle.” This is a great four-parted 3/4 tune. It hits almost every note on the scale, covers a ton of embellishments, and features some great ALAP/ASAP runs.
“Torosay Castle” also has good opportunities to work on scale navigation. The 4th part has a series of high As that drop down to the bottom hand. This allows you to check for over/under blowing.
All of these tunes are great for tuning and warming up. The Dojo U Library is full of many more tunes that will work as well, and many have accompanying classes to talk you through their history, idiosyncracies, and some great ways to tackle their expression.
Ultimately, you should aim to compile a set for your tune-ups that will not just help to warm up your fingers, but also to warm up a crowd – because as any piper knows, with an instrument as loud as ours, you're rarely ever practising without an audience.