Brass Band Arrangements of Pop Songs - Your Opinions!

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by TrumpetTom, Aug 14, 2012.

  1. TrumpetTom

    TrumpetTom Member

    Something for disscussion! Although I just want to say before I carry on that this isn't directed at any particular piece, or any particular arranger or is meant to offend anyone and I have good friends who do these arrangements.

    What do people actually think of shall we say pop songs (you should know what I mean) arranged for brass band? Personally I think they sound cheesy nearly all of the time. Also, the fact that most of them don't have a good tune, with many repeated notes, makes them sound abit naff really when played by a brass band. They work as songs, because they have lyrics which you can take in and different syllables have different sounds.

    I can see why arrangers would rather arrange popular music than classical music, as (for the majority of the time) I would imagine there's more leeway in what you can do with the music and it is much simpler to do!

    Are these just my opinions? Are they shared widely? Can it be said that they are wrong or not so good musically? Can anything be wrong or not so good musically?...........

  2. DRW

    DRW New Member

    I agree that transcriptions of inappropriate pop songs are generally cheesy and not nice. They are however suitable for some events / audiences / bands.

    Good arrangements of appropriate pop songs (usually ballads) work well.
  3. Red Elvis

    Red Elvis Active Member

    As above - Philip Harper's and Sandy Smith's stuff generally works well - fun to play and the punters seem to enjoy it (even when IMHO the original source material sucks like unto a sucky thing!!).

    However , I am still suffering a degree of mental trauma having been introduced this summer (courtesy of my chums at Ipswich and Norwich Co-op) to the monstrosity that is the Baernaerts / Obrasso rendition of "It's raining men".
  4. Backrowdiva

    Backrowdiva Member

    If the songs are well choosen and arranged they can work, but the basic structure of verse, chorus, verse, maybe a middle 8, chorus repeat chorus to fade can be a big problem imho, repeative both to play and listen to unless the arranger has done something interesting rather than just a modulation for the last chorus.
  5. its_jon

    its_jon Member


    The problem is that - 'brass band goes pop' has become our main repotoire and somehing we are now renowned for...or notorious for in most people eyes.

    We (most front line bands) play everyone elses music 95% of the time be it pop or classical as that is what we think our limited audience wants to hear.

    Maybe we should ponder why our audience is so limited.

    There was a time and a place for this repotoire... Pre 1980.
    When Hammond Organists stopped recording cheesy pop covers,
    Brass Bands should have stopped as well

  6. MoominDave

    MoominDave Active Member

    Have Hammond Organists worked out what to do since then? Maybe their path could offer us a few pointers.
  7. phildriscoll

    phildriscoll Moderator Staff Member

    You should get a good idea of what the Hammond players do this days by having a listen to an edition of Nigel Ogden's 'The Organist Entertains'
  8. DRW

    DRW New Member

    I was just about to say the same. They do pretty much the same as always. The audiences for such performers tend to be limited to specialist 'keyboard / organ clubs'.
  9. simonium

    simonium Member

    Malcolm Bennett's arrangement were fantastic - it's the Obrasso / Bernaerts orgy of arranging that has devalued the whole affair. Some of Derek Broadbent's arrangements are great - I personally think his version of Music is much better than Zphilip Sparke's. I do think however, when someone suggests, for example, Baggy Trousers for brass band, common sense should prevail and it should be left well alone. Some of Philip Harper's work well too.

    Personally unless it's a suitably epic song, I cringe when hearing bands having a go at pop songs.
  10. DRW

    DRW New Member

    When I read / hear such views, I always think of a parallel with the music played on Classic FM versus Radio 3. Classic FM plays well-known tunes which appeal to the masses. Radio 3 plays more specialist, obscure music, intended to broaden listeners' minds and to stimulate intellect.

    I think a) each band needs to decide whether they want to be Classic FM or Radio 3 and b) players need to choose a band which suits their preference.

    Personal frustrations will arise if a player has chosen an unsuitable band. This doesn't mean that the whole brass band movement has to change to suit that person.
  11. its_jon

    its_jon Member

    The adoption of more modern instrumentation and styles
    Instead of been renowned for performing cheesy pop covers the keyboard/organ was reinvented as the synth...and became known for its Original voices.
    Instead of poorly emulating classical stringed, woodwind and brass instruments,
    'Organists' became noted at the forefront of Original music.


    New School Enthusiast (Embracing a modern world)

    Old School Enthusiast (Performing an Original Hammond work = Not Cheesy .... Cool ! ) Notably his mixture of vintage and modern technology

    My Point... If its Original it is of more value

    Brass bands do FAR Too much Cheese.

    Ronald Jenkees is a internet sensation for his Original works ... If he were pumping out pop covers he would not have achieved the hero status he has attained.
    Others cover HIS works. He is pure inspiration for millions.
    Something that has not yet with a brass band work.
  12. its_jon

    its_jon Member

    Not my point at all .... Both Classic FM and Radio 3 air Original works 95%+ of the time
  13. Gazabone

    Gazabone Member

    All sorts of things to consider here; yes, pleasing our audiences should be top of the list but also, as bandsmen and women, we are voluteers - we play because we enjoy banding. Therefore we need to play music that entertains us too. I can think of a few arrangers that (other than the tune), once you've played one of their arrangements, you've played them all.

    This is a shame and (imho) encourages careless playing (or discourages attention to playing to your highest standard) which leads to the small, but often noticable, deteoration that many bands experience over the summer - and yes, there are things you can do to stop this but a decline in musical standards seems almost inevitable.

    There are some great arrangements of some great "pop" songs - Bohemian Rhapsody, McArthur Park etc but the routine churning out of the latest "hit" where (in the mid brass parts) you get to play bar after bar of dotted crotchet quaver or similar sort of "pop" motif does quickly get boring!
  14. KernowSop

    KernowSop Member

    I'm sure there will be some kind soul who will be able to do a nice Euph solo of Baggy Trousers - Euph players need bring down a peg or 2! :)
  15. DRW

    DRW New Member

    Sorry, I didn't make my point clear. 'Original' implies 'unfamilar' and my comparison was based on whether audiences want to listen to familiar or unfamiliar music.

    Brass bands that pursue original music will be pursuing a limited, specialist audience. This seems counterproductive to the argument that you seem to be making.
  16. its_jon

    its_jon Member

    Weather a Brass Band plays an obscure Rachmaninoff number in full as played on radio 3 or a popular excerpt of william tell overture as played on Classic FM that Brass Band is covering the Original work.

    So... this is saying that unless a brass band performs popular music from outside its own world (be that normally played on Classic FM or Radio 1 or 2) the Brass Band will only be limiting its performance to a specialist audience ?
    If I understand correctly, the speciallist audience will be a minority ?
    And a minority who have come to listen to original brass band music ?
    So... out of the small audience we have, it would be a minority of that audience who may appreciate original brass band music ?

    Not sounding good for Brass Bands :-?
  17. DRW

    DRW New Member

    I would have shared this view at one stage in my banding career, however these days I'd much rather hear a good, appropriately stylised arrangement of a 3-4 minute pop song than another uninventive transcription of 'epic classics' such as Bohemian Rhapsody, Music and MacArthur Park.
  18. DRW

    DRW New Member

    Sorry again, my analogy has confused the point. I'm not talking about brass bands covering music that you would hear on Classic FM or Radio 3. I'm simply saying that there are audiences that enjoy familiar music and those that like the more unusal, and that Classic FM and Radio 3 are examples of media that satisfy the respective audiences for the classic genre.

    I believe your summary is correct apart from the last last point "not sounding good for brass bands". I see the opposite as the opportunity exists to appeal to both sets of audiences. It just sounds like you need to find like-minded players, form a band or 2 to play and promote original music and then we will have all bases covered.

    Your original post suggested that playing original music would help remove the perceived limited audience. How do you see this working?
  19. its_jon

    its_jon Member

    The small niche audience is not 'percieved' .... It IS small by comparison to many other musical activities.

    The audience we have now, turn up expecting to hear arrangements of 3/4 min covers of pop songs.
    But.... that audience is additionaly made up (for a majority of brass bands in the UK) by friends and family of the brass bands members.
    It is actually a big Turn Off for many (with no connection to a brass band) to endure 2 hours of bubble gum pop played by a brass band.

    I haver no interest in listening to a hammond organ concert where the repotoire is "Happy Hammond goes 1985" (baggy trowsers / Don't stop me now.. etc)
    ... however, if it were a family member tinkling the ivory's I would probably appear to offer support, clap and tap ones foot.
    This is the very same way our concerts are viewed by the outside world.

    Exceptions would be world standard performances by a few virtuoso musicians in the worlds best auditoriums. I may concider going to see that.
    As... some outside the banding world may concider going to hear Dyke in a classy venue.
    I would of course be dissapointed if I diddnt hear Original Organ music...
    and I guess people would find it odd to pay money to hear a brass band play the beatles (unless they were unfamiliar with beatles songs)

    Whats the point of going to listen to a brass band play a um parr version of a pop classic.
    Have you ever bought a CD in error containing covers of popular tunes instead of the original artits ? ... same thing, very dissapointing no matter how well produced.

    We appear to be hanging onto our niche audience by the tips of our fingers.. afraid to play anything original that may not be what they expect and thus loose them.

    Why pander to a niche ? (that is rapidly diminishing in size)

    Surely we should be striving to reach out to a new audience ?

    It is concievable that an Original 3/4 min brass band work could also be popular you know !
    even outside our banding bubble.

    The only way to do that (as a musical movement) is to offer something NEW and Unique to Brass Bands.

    Don't think Old
    Think New !
  20. simonium

    simonium Member

    That's something Goff Richards sussed over thirty years ago!

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