Why so few E flats?

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Chat' started by worzel, Oct 8, 2009.

  1. worzel

    worzel Member

    First off, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the standard make up of a brass band, and am fully aware that that could be considered sufficient to answer my question. Nevertheless, I'm still curious.

    If I were told to assemble and ensemble from some new form of instrument that came in 6 ranges, I'd probably start off with an equal number of each, or maybe fewer as the range got lower if that meant bigger instruments that produced more volume. But in a brass band we have three tenor horns sandwiched between 7 rather loud BBs below and and army of cornets above. And a lonely sop on top.

    It just seems odd to me. Does anyone know the history and/or rationale behind it?
  2. Mesmerist

    Mesmerist Well-Known Member

    Is there any rationale behind the invention of the tenor horn?

    (sorry - only joking).

    Why can`t we use french horns instead?
  3. ronnie_the_lizard

    ronnie_the_lizard Active Member

    It's not quite as uneven as you make out. There may only be three 'tenor' saxhorns but there are also the two baritone saxhorns and the flugel in the same 'family'.

    So - 4 'Bass' tubas + 2 'Tenor' tubas (euphs) + Bass trom on the bottom,
    6 saxhorns and 2 tenor trombones in the middle and
    10 cornets on the top.

    If anything this seems a far better balance, and with more subtle differences in range \ texture than the Bass\'Cello\Viola\Violin ratio of an orchestral string section
    = 8:10:12:30
  4. worzel

    worzel Member

    Yeah, I didn't think of it like that. Would you say, then, that the timbre of a given pitch is more affected by the type of instrument playing it (tuba, saxhorn, cornet, etc.) than the instrument's range ?
  5. ronnie_the_lizard

    ronnie_the_lizard Active Member

    That's why you have a flugel rather than just an extra cornet (though there are lots of players who sadly make a flugel sound like a cornet) and Baritones \ Tenor Trombones \ Euphs all at the same pitch.
  6. David Mann

    David Mann Member

    3 tenor horns is an arbitrary number that has become fixed due to contesting. Outside contests I quite like the idea of extra horns and baritones as quite often the middle of the band can become overwhelmed by the cornets and trombones. The ISB used to have IIRC, Sop, 5 solo cornets, flugel, 2 first cornets, 3 2nd cornets, flugel, 6 horns, 4 baris, 5 troms, 2 euphs, 3 EEb, 2BBb. It's worth getting hold of the 1960's Bernard Adams recordings to hear that sound.
  7. brasscrest

    brasscrest Active Member

    Growing up in SA bands, we always considered a "full" band to have at least 4 tenor horns (2 solo, 1 first, 1 second) and 4 baris (2 on each part). It is not unknown in SA arrangements to have divisi in the solo horn part.

    Six tenors would be even better.

    We could. But the sound would be very different, and writing for French horn is very different than writing for tenor horn. There's a professional band here in Washington called Dominion Brass, using French horns instead of tenors.

    The reason I've always heard for using tenors is that brass bands originally started as marching bands, and you can't really march with a French horn.
  8. worzel

    worzel Member

    Granted, they'll have different timbres. But as those comparisons are all in the same range it doesn't really answer the question.

    Suppose a cornet played a second space C and a tenor horn played an G on the staff so that they were both playing the same concert pitch Bb. My question is really, which would the flugel most sound like if he then played the same note?

    If what you say is true about the balance of the band, then we'd expect the flugel to sound more like the tenor horn than the cornet, no?
  9. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Active Member

    I take it you mean a third space C and the horn would need to play G above the staff to sound the same... and surely the flugel SHOULD sound most like the tenor horn and NOT like a cornet.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 8, 2009
  10. worzel

    worzel Member

  11. westoe_horn

    westoe_horn Member

    I always find this interesting.....

    In SA bands it seems that the 'extra' players that put a band above a contesting size always get put on horn or baritone. Why is this?

    Does it give the band a richer, warmer sound? I don't know.

    Only my opinion, but I think a 'bumper up' solo horn player is a bit of a waste of time in a good band. I have done it myself in a music school A-band and you feel like a bit of a spare part..........
  12. Owen S

    Owen S Member

    Gareth will remember the name of it if he pops up in this thread, but a recent SA piece we played through a couple of months ago pretty much requires six solo cornets for performance.

    What I find more odd is when we had a piece out of the cupboard earlier this year that had some divisi in the rep part, and a separate flugel part. Unfortunately, all I can remember is that it was old.
  13. westoe_horn

    westoe_horn Member

    Great and Glorious - George Marshall - definately has a divisi flugel part......
  14. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Active Member

  15. lynchie

    lynchie Active Member

    There's an obvious joke in there somewhere...
  16. Owen S

    Owen S Member

    OK, but again that's a SA piece. My point is that finding divisi writing in a non-SA piece for what is normally a single-instrument part is much more unusual, because the scoring for non-SA bands has been standardised for so long.
  17. Rapier

    Rapier Supporting Member

    Because they are French! D'uh. :rolleyes:
  18. brasscrest

    brasscrest Active Member

    Not only that, but it's a very old SA piece. I haven't seen anything written in the past 50 years in the SA literature that has divisi flugel.
  19. brasscrest

    brasscrest Active Member

    Properly played, it sounds like a baritone horn ;).

    Too many baritone players think they should be playing like the euphs, possibly because of where we usually sit in the band. And many baritone players are aspiring euph players, instead of specialists on what is truly a different instrument.

    You can also look at things this way: in the Bb instruments, there is a high group and a low group, each with 3 tone colors:

    High group:
    Trumpet (bright)
    Cornet (bright-medium)
    Flugel (dark)

    Low group:
    Trombone (bright)
    Baritone (medium)
    Euphonium (dark)
  20. ronnie_the_lizard

    ronnie_the_lizard Active Member


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