Adjudication at the All England Masters


Masters adjudication

Many thanks for the considered response, particularly Richard.

Just a couple of points.

As Peter said, if the terms and condiditons on offer aren't acceptable, the so called employee has the right to decline those terms. However, adjudicators are NOT employees and it could be said that they are more self-employed consultants, so again, they would wish to operate in the most effective way for them. Again, I say the consultative process with other adjudicators in other musical fields is the NORM, NOT the exception.

Asking bands to chose how perfomances are judged in respect of logistics is a cop out and it is the judges who should be asked how they believe that they can best operate. It is akin to asking the football team how they should be refereed... If top bands are unhappy with the result for genuine reasons, then it is up to the organisers to ask a different set of adjudicators the next time. Also, how many people within top bands can genuinely say that they are fully aware of the array of adjudicators available. There are currently no less than 65 ABBA / BFBB approved adjudicators available, but why do the same names appear!? (I should declare that I am one of them, but I have NO personal interest here).

Anyway, just one other point. my personal opinion is that judges should be experienced Band Trainers and successful conductors who have proven their ability at all levels of producing first class and winning perfomances. A background in other fields is useful , only if the first criteria is fullfilled.

The practice of using purely orchestral people from my own experience is that they lack knowledge on the genre, the repetoire and most of all they do not have the ear to listen for detail within band perfomances. They have also mainly NO experience of band training whatsoever.

Again, I appreciate the thoroughly considered way that my original comments were responded to. Good debate is what is required, not just jumping on the band wagon and having a go!



Just hear on the bus last night on the way to a concert in Louth Lincolnshire that the adjudicators have successfully pulled their weight and now they have what they want. Does the power of 3 people outweigh the opinions of 20 bands ??? Who pray are the people who are under the most pressure ? The players who, at any one slip of concentration could destroy the atmosphere or indeed whole performance or people who are asked to give a musical opinion ? The answer is surely very clear. If you are asked you're opinion you must surely have the conviction in your own beliefs to back it up even though you may get the predicatble heat from banders for a few days after a contest.

As for the amount and recognition of adjudicators in brass bands. You may have a point regarding bandsmen and bands not knowing of others and so the same ones are picked over and over. HOWEVER, band trainers only as adjudicators ? Band trainers with all due respect can be as narrow musically minded as a player can also be well educated in all musics. Okay, orchestral players may not know exactly the subtle nuiances of the inner band sounds, but most of the players don't either. and most players then progress to conducting, and whilst getting that experience I suppose there is a possibility that they may learn, so I can see your point in some way. BUT I thought that the overall point of a contest is to perform a piece of music?? Not to perform a study note perfect ? And can anyone safely say that an orchestral conductor i.e like Rattle, would not appreciate a performance of a piece of music ? After all an understanding of the interpretations of others, building his own interpretation is surely part of their professional lives, as it would be for other orchestral conductors such as Ades and Elder. I think purely keeping brass band contest adjudicating to brass banders is another sad nail in its coffin. Inviting others who are particularly good in their music field would perhaps open doors to possible outside banding opportunities by impressing those percieved "outsiders" with the excellent level of technique and musicality. I personaly would be a bit embarrassed to ask a person like Rattle and the others mentioned above to take an adjudicating course, since they mustn't understand a brass band until they do one ? Is that like saying, a brass band conductor should never conduct an orchestra because he doesn't understand the workings of it ? Of course it doesn't ? Looking at those who aree becoming successful at a conducting level you can see that their musical activities in other musical sphere's has undoubtedly helped them, i.e Allan Withington, Bramwell Tovey and James Gourlay.

I am soooo angered at this decision to go back to the original status quo of three in a box. It just goes to show that bands are less important than the adjudicators. If the adjudicators had a problem with the system, they should have been asked to change their minds, if they couldn't get the next 3 and so on until you get people who should feel privileged to do the job, after all it is such an important role! Never mind the poor players!

This contest was made different to all the others by the fact that they asked bands what they wanted and acted on that. The adjudication system made it unique from both that of the Open and National. Its a shame that this as happened, admittedly, just for this year as they say, but this must set a precedence, any adjudicators picked now have the power to say no and the will of 20 bands has the little effect. Its a shame, a big shame.

As for the football analogy with referees, their decisions can swing matches, and its their own opinions, either allowing or disallowing a goal or offsides, sending people off. So surely this would be a better analogy to use when describing the 3 box method rather than the 3 in a box method.

Its a sad day when people are afraid of being individuals when giving their opinions. Do you need three people to make your own mind up on anything ?


Next year's contest...

If you've got CBA reading the above, bear this in mind. Next year what would happen if say 10 bands turn round and say, we're not entering the contest until we have separate adjudication boxes ? It could be possible believe me. What would happen ? Would the Mr Biggs and Mr Franklin then tell the adjudicators that they have to sit in separate boxes until the following year's contest ? This smacks of double standards, the bands being the last to be considered as normal, just like in the Nationals and Open!

I wouldn't be surprised if a few bands didnt do this contest next year! :wink:

Brian Bowen

Active Member
Midwalesman obviously feels passionately about this subject, understandably as he plays in a band that enters the Masters. However, whatever method of adjudication is used there will continue to be disputes -- it's in the nature of banding. It all comes down to a matter of opinion as to who the so-called winner is: whether adjudicators confer or not won’t change that. Take last year's result; it produced a compromise winner, as not one of the adjudicators thought Leyland's the best performance. It's quite possible no other impartial listener in the hall that day thought so either. Was it a hollow victory? (No disrespect for Leyland intended.)

Whoever gets the job, be it the most highly celebrated musician available or Joe Bloggs (with 30 years experience in brass banding); working in separate boxes, one box, or no box at all; there will be controversy. Unless, maybe, there were less suspicion or contempt for adjudicators. :(


I agree

On the point that complaints will be had whatever the system or whoever is in the box. As it was quite rightly said everyone has their own opinion, but 3 men in a box conferring on it means that one or possibly two don't necessarily agree on the final analysis and are persuaded by the others, who may or may not be quite as i.e experienced as the other in the box. If a band is placed 2,2,5 and another has 1,1, 13 then the band that pleased the qualities that all three adjudicators were looking should win, i.e the 2,2 and 5th, whilst the band who came 1, 1, 13 although extremely unlucky obviously played extremely well but had something in their performance that the 3rd adjudicator didnt like. The job of bands is to perform a piece of music, not to appease anything or anyone else. Its tough luck, you play by a rule, voted for by the majority if not all bands, and you die by the rule, thats what sets it apart.
I think adjudicators are scared of showing their own musical opinions and prefer to hide in the relative safety of numbers, its a shame a 2nd baritone can't have 5 or 6 friends playing a solo and get away with it, which I'm afraid he can't, the principal cornet would perhaps like the saftey of someone else playing a high part with him, i.e the soprano, but that is often noticeable and everyone is up in arms about cheating. So, as far as I can see there is a distinct lack of a) Courage b) Confidence c) Belief and d) single mindedness.
I wonder why we had 2 adjudicators in the Championship section in Yorkshire ? (Were there 2 in every area, please let me know.) Is it that an individual last year stood up and made a single minded decision that resulted in a top band not being in the top 5 where evryone thought they would be before they played ? There was no complaints from that band, but then a year later a change in adjudication method ? Puzzling isn't it!
Adjudicators will always be scruitinised but this looks like a distinct excuse to try not to be held singularly accountable for their own musical opinions. I just watched the Arsenal Man Utd match, the referee was inconsistent and should most definitely have given a penalty to Man Utd. That would have changed the game completely, Ferguson would complain bitterly afterwards about the decision making no doubt. BUT there is nothing that you can do but bemoan a bit of luck wasn't with you. That's how banding should be, win some, lose some. But the decision was made by an individual, who had the conviction to make a singular decision on the incident in less time than an adjudicator has i.e 15 to 20 minutes of a piece.
I think its easy to sit back and criticise the adjudicator, yes, its a hard job, but surely if a player misjudges a note at a contest and splits it, or misses an entry he is accountable, surely an adjudicator must stand up and be accountable also. Where as pressure is firmly on the shoulders of players who don't shirk their responsibilities, adjudicators must get out of the safety blanket which is their little possy inside a box, believing that they'll be alright when the results are out if it was a group decision. Reminds me of an image of three adjudicators in the box like General Custer and thinking their only hope is to stay huddled together with their pens and paper. In fact it could also conjure up the image of 3 adjudicators in a box and the lights go out, one asks the other to put a new light bulb in, but he turns around and says "but what if I do it wrong?", "You'll all laugh and jeer at me". So the three sit there and discuss the problem, after discussing the merits of each and their electronic capabilities, the three agree that all of them will help each other, one holding the ladder, the other holding the light bulb and the one who picked the short straw on top of the ladder to put the bulb in. As a common sense approach, if they were in separate boxes they would have to have changed the bulbs themselves, saved a lot of time and effort and the end results would have been that we could see who could change a bulb and who could not. Does that make sense ?

They've hidden away in a box together for too long, one day I'll get my work sorted and I'll send an article into BBW. I've statistically analyzed B+R's results over a ten year period, categorised what the adjudicators have said and accumlated the data and transferred it to graphs. This data clearly shows a corralative pattern when certain adjudicators are in the box together, whilst the comments of these individuals either in separate boxes, differe from each other (only slightly it has to be said!) but differ enough to suggest that the subsequent results by a three man panel are often decided by the stronger personality in the box. If in separate boxes, this does not happen and so there is a more accurate account of their true opinions.

When I have finished my thesis or possibly before then I am going to polish these statistics up and will publish them either in the bandsman, BBw or in a music journal like the Journal of Musical Analysis. I think people would be surprised with the results.

Its sad that adjudicators can't play the game that the rest of us play, we have jeopardy but they don't really want it.

Thats all I have to say for now, but this has significantly miffed me enough to have a look at my adjudication project and get it finished.


Active Member

Only one adjudicator in the Box in Swansea this year . I think in all area contests there should be more than one opinion in the box , especially with European Qualification ( as in Scotland ) as an added incentive. most competitions in Europe have more than one voice in the box.
the adjudicators are the best qualified and most experienced men and women to do the job , they are in a no win situation , if you use an inexperienced judge , people will say " what does he know " or a judge from an orchestral brass background it will be " what does he know on cornets etc....)
you dont expect a single band to win every single contest they enter? yes it would be great . but would never happen.
it is a good idea to have 3 boxes and 3 judges.


Active Member
Re: Masters adjudication

maximus said:
Many thanks for the considered response, particularly Richard.

Anyway, just one other point. my personal opinion is that judges should be experienced Band Trainers and successful conductors who have proven their ability at all levels of producing first class and winning perfomances. A background in other fields is useful , only if the first criteria is fullfilled.

The practice of using purely orchestral people from my own experience is that they lack knowledge on the genre, the repetoire and most of all they do not have the ear to listen for detail within band perfomances. They have also mainly NO experience of band training whatsoever.

In my view, this is utter rubbish. Are we to assume that John Wallace, Martin Winter Eric Crees, Ian Bousfield, Maurice Murphy, Dudley Bright, Peter Graham , Kevin Norbury etc are incapable of judging of band contests because they are not successful, contesting winning conductors and/or from an orchestral background?

The above gentleman run successful brass departments in highly established music conservatoires, hold down seats in THE major orchestras in the world, write music for the highest level of banding on a regular basis - but yet guys who won a 1950's Open with Munn & Feltons are more qualified to do the job...come on, have a little more respect for the abilities of people whose experiences are not just within the banding world.

There are two ot three extremely successful conductors who I could name, who you might class as orchestral/band conductors who will have no part in contests because of the calibre of judgement: I think they have a point.



Good points

I said I'd finished my ranting but I decided that I'd carry on regardless.

I agree with the what Nick said about the Scottish and Welsh Area adjudication system, although the qualification to Europe via the Area is another matter for another day. In the present system, two adjudicators should well be in the box ? What about 3 in a box for the Welsh and Scots areas ?

As for the other view points on the adjudicating system. No band can guarantee that they'll win every contest, no band really expects to either. So I agree on that point.

However, the other opinions on the inexperienced and non-banders being adjudicators I have to disagree with you. If I told you that I went to a competition yesterday, which wasn't a massive contest, but just a local contest (before the footie!) and the adjudicator at the venue said that he had been told that these competitions were used to cut the teeth or a reminder course for adjudicators. Now one of those that cut their teeth at this contest (apparently) was Mr David Read, and if I remember rightly he said that it was about 30 years ago. On the one hand we have 30 years worth of experience which is invaluable, on the other you have to wonder where the other generations have gone ? From 1993 to before the Nationals in 2003, in the Yorkshire area, British Open, National Finals and All England Masters adjudicating has been somewhat of a monopoly.

Lets take each of the big three in isolation, (over 10 years in percentage)

David Read - adjudicator in the National Finals = 100% (i.e every year)
- adjudicator in the Open = 50% (5 out of 10 years)
- adjudicator at the Masters = 70% (7 out of 10)
- " at the Yorks = 10% (1 out of 10)

Mr William Relton - Adju in Nat Finals = 60% (6 out of 10)
- adju in Brit Open = 50% (5 out of 10)
- adju in Masters = 60% (6 out of 10)

Mr James Scott - adj in Nat Finals = 10% (1 out of 10)
- adj in Brit Open = 30% (3 out of 10)
- adj at Masters = 60% (6 out of 10)
- adj at Yorts Area = 20% (2 out of 10)

Although these are only surface values and have no statisitcal depth, its quite obvious why some adjudicators have not got experience and those who have (above). If those who are established are always asked to do the job then how are the ones who are perceived as unexperienced supposed to get their experience ? look at the ammount of time that Mr Read and Mr Relton have been in the box for the National and Open. Admittedly there is usually a third in the box with them which has been fairly random, but is that because they want to slowly introduce them to the contests, or is that so that they can be groomed or persuaded by the already experienced on certain ways by which the make their ultimate decisions ? I have gone back to my graphs and statistics and I have found a graph showing the trends of results when both Mr Read and Mr Relton are in the box, there is a pattern. On another page I have a graph showing a definitive pattern concerning what the adjudicators were looking for when they were sat in the same box, and surprise surprise ( no not Cilla!) there are again very similar line patterns. So what does this suggest ? Suggests that they have a group of parameters that have been preconceived before the contest and that each adjudicator sticks to them parameters ! So that means that the scope for variation in opinion is cut down dramatically and so the three can agree a lot easier. Now I am an advocate for a set of parameters, so bands know what their looking for and so rehearse the piece how the adjudicators want it. Then you would get a proper contest, or comparision between player A in band A and player A in band B. Did I say that I agreed with parameters! I'm changing my mind. These graphs also show to a lesser extent these parameters, especially when dealing with certain types of contest piece, i.e more comments on soloists on traditional, whilst on ensemble work in contemporary or pieces with difficult musical language!

Here's a quick sample of one of my findings...on David Read again, sorry Mr Read, yours were on the top.

These are the percentages of what David Read wrote in the Brighouse adjudication over the last 10 years:-

There are 390 comments altogether and these are categorized as follows:-

4% are comments on Openings
7% are comments on Ensemble play
14% are comments on Solo playing
12% are comments on Mood and Style
17% are comments on Detail (these include clips and slips)
6% are comments on Sectional Play
8% are comments on Sound
7% are comments on Balance
4% are comments on Control
1% are comments on the links in the music
5% are comments on ability
3% are comments on Energy/excitement
4% are comments on tempo
3% are comments on intonation
3% are comments that specifically refer to the word interpretation

As you can see Mr Read specifically looks for Solo playing prowess, good mood and style and detail most of all, then lesser categories such as Sound, Balance and sectional play.

I have gone further into the study on Mr Read and I have worked out whether the , for instance, 7% comments on balance were all positive or negative.

So as you can see, there is a way to analyse the adjudicators methods, of course no method is perfect and I don't claim that mine is full proof, but certainly gives a good general impression of what individual adjudicators want and in the case of when they all are in a box (in this case I've only analysed when Messers Read, Relton and Scott).

I haven't finished this study but when I do I will first of all publish it, then I will give a copy to this web forum so that all bands will have the opportunity to use or not to use my analysis of how the leading adjudicators adjudicate!

P.S there is a 2% loss on the whole of the David Read comments due to rounding to the nearest full number.

Tuba Miriam

Re: Good points

midwalesman said:
As you can see Mr Read specifically looks for Solo playing prowess, good mood and style and detail most of all, then lesser categories such as Sound, Balance and sectional play.

Wow - what an analysis! [Can midwalesman's post be entered now for the end of year tMP awards?!]

With reference to the particular paragraph quoted, Brighouse will have fewer problems with categories such as sound and balance than lower section bands. Therefore, I wonder how the resulting trends would differ, particularly in these categories, were this analysis applied to the same adjudicator(s) officiating at lower section band contests and whether there are any general trends that could be extrapolated regardless of section. Clearly this point is irrelevant in a discussion about the Masters, so I'll 'mod' myself. :)



If you would email me the adjudication remarks that a certain adjudicator has given you over say 5 contests I will analyse it for you and give you some results


New Member
I'll just jump in and perhaps spoil an otherwise excellent analysis... ;)

The main problem with these statistics is that the sample (i.e. a single band) is too small. The result is that the statistics may simply be showing the areas that Brighouse is weak/strong in and as a result these strengths and weaknesses picked up by the adjudicators. These statistics will certainly help Brighouse to prepare and focus on it's strong/weak points however they are unlikely to be of any use to any other band. If you assume that they really are good adjudicators (i.e. that they assess everything and don't have set areas they look at) then all the statistics may be showing is a very "personal" Brighouse trend and not an adjudicator trend.

You may be right in your assumption but untill you can compare with a much larger sample (i.e. 10 bands adjudications over 10 years) you can't say for sure which is correct and almost certainly not that it indicated any specific trend for anyone other than Brighouse.

While I'm typing, I'll add my thoughts about the subject. I would assume that the whole point of having more than 1 adjudicator is that it reduces the chances of rouge decisions. In an ideal world I'd like to see 5 indipendent adjudicators where the top and bottom results are discarded for each band and the three remaining results are averaged. In the absence of that having 3 in any combination has to be a good thing though to be honest I'm VERY curious as to why they don't wish to be seperated. Surely the best way to deal with that is to keep the votes and points completely secret and to only announce the winners. Bands get 3 seperated adjudicators, adjudicators keep thier integrity and everyones a winner.




You are right of course Mr GBH!

You got me on the point of the quantity of information or rather data. However my access to more data is limited due to the fact that I can only easily get my hands of B+R archived adjudications. If people sent me in photocopies of their adjudications then I could have a broader analysis which would not be limited by a single stream of data. If you're band has adjudications spare or can be photocopied I could stock pile all the data and constantly adjust the graph patterns and data patterns so to show a more honest analysis.

The counter to the argument about it being showing the bands weaknesses is rather weak in itself, but fairly important to point out. During the period of my analysis the band has had various players in solo positions, tutti positions, so sections become weaker or stronger over time. The band could also play particularly to their strengths (or self percieved strengths) Certain sections would be weaker, but over time become stronger with familiarity and the soloists also have to be allowed time to settle. These variables are obviously hard to account for in data collection. There is also the point that each conductor that has taken to us to contests has his own interpretation of how the band would want to sound and play, so interpretation and style and moods would differ and this would be shown in the data, i.e more controlled sound vs louder sounds, or an orchestral brass sound vs a brass band vibby sound. This would also affect the data.

Variables would be near to impossible to erradicate from such an analysis. Each band obviously has benefits from such an analysis but as the sample increases so does the quality of the analysis.



New Member
It wasn't meant as a critisim, more a subtle pointer as to a, might I say not wishing to sound condescending, classic mistake made when compiling statistics. Sorry if you took offence. Of course the sample was limited to what you had available but that lead to the statement

but certainly gives a good general impression of what individual adjudicators want

when in actuallity it might not.

With such a statistically narrow sample the hypothesis that it may show the bands' weakness is no more or less "weak" than it showing adjudicator preference, it is simply another possibility. Accounting for variancies in players, soloists, conductors and so on isn't so hard to manage, just time consuming. You could add a weighting to the relative strength or weakness of your soloists (based on their previous experience, their participation in winning bands and so on) and that could act as a smoothing factor. Also you'd need to factor in the prominence or importance of solo features in the piece adjudicated - the more prominent solos in the pieces the more likely there are going to be comments about them. But more than that

Variables would be near to impossible to erradicate from such an analysis. Each band obviously has benefits from such an analysis but as the sample increases so does the quality of the analysis.

Also you are completely right about not being able to eradicate variables however statistics, as you are no doubt aware, is a game of collecting as many "facts" as you can and using them to better approximate an answer. As I said in my original post, until you get together a larger sample I was suggesting people be wary of basing anything on the statistics you posted other than a. You've done a load of hard work however don't take it to mean anything more than the facts show (and not what you suggest they might show) and b. Brighouse will have a good idea either way where they need to concentrate their efforts.

Hope that clears a few things up :)


P.S. I don't have any of my previous adjudications - and we should all be glad of that ;)



I apologise if my response was worded aggresively, I was not intended to antagonise but rather try to be translucent on the way I see my analysis at this point. As I also stated in my original post, I am in no way thinking that this a finished analysis but merely a surface sample of the possibilities that I have so far concluded. I have broken the overall analysis to other layers which I have not previously stated, these amongst other things show the relative observations of 3 adjudicators so far in their comments on individual pieces, whilst in the same box, and in the same contest. The separation of these has meant that I have a collective final analysis but also graphs showing broken down patterns involving individual types of test pieces, i.e arrangements and contemporary music, thus giving the impression of how hypothetically each piece has been approached by the adjudicators on the day. The other stats are broken down into positive and negative comments so I do know (on the Brighouse scenario) whether they prefer to comment positively more regularly on some aspects or vice versa in other categories. This would again be ideal in appreciating the way in which the adjudicators approach the adjudication in total, i.e are they looking for positives or are they looking for negatives. A comparison with another bands adjudication at the same contests as Brighouse would no doubt tell me more. However, my hypothesis for this analysis is that the comments that B+R have had will be evident in the adjudications of others, either in greater volume or in lesser volume, since some bands will have played the piece worse than Brighouse and some will have played it better. Time will tell if my hypothesis is correct.

I appreciate your help in showing me and telling me some advantageous aspects which could and no doubt will reinforce my work, when I eventually have enough data and time and effort to complete it. I do find it strange that no one has thought about analysing those who analyse us in perfromance. In a competitive based or orientated culture it would be slightly benefitial to be able to predict what the adjudicators want. Although, if all bands used this kind of method successfully I imagine contest pieces would certainly became a tad dull or predictable and as I said earlier mean that pressure on the players would increase significantly.

Thank you for your advice again.



New Member
No I don't think it was aggressive I was just worried it was - paranoia from 10 years of misinterpreted internet flamewars makes me somewhat aprehensive ;)

Anyway, not so much advice but a nudge in a direction that I'd assumed you hadn't explored. You've obviously put a lot more thought (as I would expect) into this than my summary assessment of your post. You can never be as verbose as you'd like to be on a forum - I know in my case people would die of boredom ;)

Anyway I completely agree with your intention and I think you're on the right track completely. If and when you get other bands comments for analysis I'd appreciate a post here summarising what you'd found. Will be fascinating to see which hypothesis is correct.

Thanks for the chat


Product tMP members are discussing