Brass band instrumentation - is it time to move forwards?

Okiedokie of Oz said:
As beaut an idea it would be to have brass bands in schools along with stage bands, concert bands, orchestras etc etc...., Education Queensland would be forced to modify the "rules" on how to teach brass players, plus hire brass specialists, or ensure that university degrees for IM cover the finer points of brass band transposition, structure, repertoire etc.

Considering how stubborn they are over the TC/BC issue (mind you, I don''t see brass bands adjusting either)it won't happen until a brass bandy gets to the top.

Fill me in, everything's going fine up this way :lol: Brass Band and School Band are fast converging
 

DublinBass

Supporting Member
I don't know that it is "time to move forward" here in the states, as we have been fighting the wind band and orchestral movements constantly...but I would like to point to the Ohio State University Marching Band (http://www.acs.ohio-state.edu/org/osuband/ - which for the States has been quite forward thinking). They have ~14 Eb cornets, ~42 trumpets, ~21 flugels, ~28 melophones, ~28 baritones, ~22 trombones, ~ 6 Bas sTrombones, ~28 Sousaphones (BBb) and ~29 percussionists.

They used to have no bass trombones and tenor horns instead of melophones... and I think the sound has improved quite a bit.

If any of you get a chance you should come by for Alumni Day (This year I think it is August 4th in Columbus, Ohio...about 800 all brass and percussion in a 110,000 person stadium!!! - The party the night before at the VC is quite good too!! :guiness )

PJH
 

PeterBale

Moderator
Staff member
Whist I accept that much of the range usually written for BBb bass is within the compass of an EEb in the right hands, I think you would lose a lot in terms of tone quality. In the hands of a good player, the BBb can be very much a "gentle giant", much more subtle than an EEb would be covering the same parts, where the pedal notes can often sound very harsh at times. Equally, the (much under-used) upper range of the BBb has a distinctive sound all of its own as is exploited by some of the better writers for basses.
 

Dave Payn

Active Member
Re: Instrumentation

Spanky Rear said:
Finally let me say for those who don't know already--Yes Dave you are proficient. From the way you use your triggers I'd say you're aiming for one of the flugel parts!
SPANKY

The way I use my triggers, I'm more likely to shoot the flugel parts! ;-) :lol: :lol: (oops! Just remembered; playing flugel with Sandhurst Silver this weekend! ;-))
 

satchmo shaz

Active Member
I have read this thread with interest and I would like to see more flexibility ie being allowed to play up to 30 on a contest stage (especially for lower sections)
I would love 4 trombs, 2 flugs, 4 horns(maybe a french horn )
and maybe 2 sops or Eb trumpet.
I feature 2 flugs as a duet and often play 4 trombs and 4 horns on concerts :wink:
 

alks

Member
Time for some points me thinks...

1)Right, more players ?30? alot of bands are struggleing to get close to 20 players especially here in the west. Most people here seam to go to at least 2 bands a week, thats 3-4 practices. Without this 2 or 3 bands would quiclky fold. More instrumnets/ players would not be fair or feasible.

2) Why do you think there are websites like the mouthpiece and 4Br?
Well its because banding is a uniform activity and people can relate to it, introducing new instrumnets would fracture the movement and divide it. It would be a disaster. Strength in numbers keeps the momentum going.
People shoulnt really moan about the system because really it works.
Ive seen many diffrent clubs etc spilt over the future of there particular domain - and it usally ends in people not talking t each other which weakens the movement.

3) Minor ammedments are fine, but too much fiddleing causes problem-its alsways wise to look at the big picture. Like i said "if it aint broke dont try to fix it"

Alks
 

Dave Payn

Active Member
alks said:
Time for some points me thinks...

1)Right, more players ?30? alot of bands are struggleing to get close to 20 players especially here in the west. Most people here seam to go to at least 2 bands a week, thats 3-4 practices. Without this 2 or 3 bands would quiclky fold. More instrumnets/ players would not be fair or feasible.

2) Why do you think there are websites like the mouthpiece and 4Br?
Well its because banding is a uniform activity and people can relate to it, introducing new instrumnets would fracture the movement and divide it. It would be a disaster. Strength in numbers keeps the momentum going.
People shoulnt really moan about the system because really it works.
Ive seen many diffrent clubs etc spilt over the future of there particular domain - and it usally ends in people not talking t each other which weakens the movement.

3) Minor ammedments are fine, but too much fiddleing causes problem-its alsways wise to look at the big picture. Like i said "if it aint broke dont try to fix it"

Alks

Some very good points, Alks, but....

Would you be so kind as to point out where I've advocated (on this thread at least!) the introduction of new instruments? I advocated occasional extra supplies of existing brass band instruments and not necessarily by trying to find extra players!
 

PeterBale

Moderator
Staff member
I have a number of recordings in my collection where additional instruments have been used in particular pieces, especially such as a piccolo trumpet, a second flugel, a trumpet soloist and extra trombones - and remember that SA music often divides its trombone parts as we are not affected by contesting limits. There are also bands who produce a trombone quartet by shifting across another player, often from baritone or euphonium.

As to whether such things would ever become common-place I still think that is less likely, once commercial considerations are taken into account. It is one thing for a particular Musical Director, especially someone who arranges music themselves, to decide to feature a particular instrument, but quite another matter to request that in an arrangement that is going on open sale. Unless there is going to be substantial cueing and alternatives it may not appeal to the majority of bands, which would reduce its attraction, and thus the number of copies sold. Equally, the mere existence of other versions can detract from the very effect originally intended.
 

ScrapingtheBottom

Active Member
At Bestwood we have 4 troms and 4 horns. Jeff our bass trom player has done quite a few arrangements for 4 troms - I like it, especially on the dance band stuff. I think the trombone is an instrument on the up generally in the music world - and after hearing recordings of some of this year's test pieces for the areas - sectional playing is becoming more important and an extra set of lungs probably wouldn't hurt.
 

Dave Payn

Active Member
PeterBale said:
I have a number of recordings in my collection where additional instruments have been used in particular pieces, especially such as a piccolo trumpet, a second flugel, a trumpet soloist and extra trombones - and remember that SA music often divides its trombone parts as we are not affected by contesting limits. There are also bands who produce a trombone quartet by shifting across another player, often from baritone or euphonium.

As to whether such things would ever become common-place I still think that is less likely, once commercial considerations are taken into account. It is one thing for a particular Musical Director, especially someone who arranges music themselves, to decide to feature a particular instrument, but quite another matter to request that in an arrangement that is going on open sale. Unless there is going to be substantial cueing and alternatives it may not appeal to the majority of bands, which would reduce its attraction, and thus the number of copies sold. Equally, the mere existence of other versions can detract from the very effect originally intended.

But.... it works for wind bands (see my first post regarding different brass and woodwind instrumentation requirements for each piece), why not, given time, brass bands? Whilst there are some bands who struggle for numbers, granted, there are bands who have to turn players away because they've got too many, (as someone who is involved in two brass bands where both problems are prevalent, I do speak from experience!), well if the band repertoire eventually opened up to occasionally include extra trombone parts/cornet/sop/flugel parts (I mean, the Warner Classics arrangements - like Frankly Speaking and Cartoon Classics are already catering for this to a degree - extra parts for bass clef euph/trombones/basses) maybe this wouldn't be so much of a problem.

Note, just to repeat, on this particular thread, I am not making any reference to include non-band (i.e. trumpet/French horn) instruments, this is simply to add a bit of variety by either adding extra parts for existing 'specialist' instruments like sop, flugel as well as extra trombones, to cater for the 'bigger' bands, or to just add variety of tone colour by having existing parts (i.e. front row) occasionally 'doubling' on say sop, or flugel.

I do love these discussions! ;-) I've been very intrigued by the responses thus far. As ever, with the informed bunch that tMP-ers are, good points made both for and against!
 

alks

Member
Sorry, was mainly refering to satchmo's comments on 30 players and E flat Trumpet... and a mention about why we have basses as they are or something like that. Sure some minor fiddling with current players in the occational piece wouldnt matter too much so long as all the players have a part and are not left out. However some players are not as flexible with instrumnetation and dont like swopping instrumnets or parts too much - some wont swap becuase they say it effects their sound or ability to play during the change over....of course some dont mind.....

different strokes for different folks ..... :roll:

Alks
 

Dave Payn

Active Member
alks said:
Sorry, was mainly refering to satchmo's comments on 30 players and E flat Trumpet... and a mention about why we have basses as they are or something like that. [b]Sure some minor fiddling with current players in the occational piece wouldnt matter too much so long as all the players have a part and are not left out. [/b] However some players are not as flexible with instrumnetation and dont like swopping instrumnets or parts too much - some wont swap becuase they say it effects their sound or ability to play during the change over....of course some dont mind.....

different strokes for different folks ..... :roll:

Alks

Which is, after all alks, what I was saying in a roundabout sort of way! ;-) (Well, ish!) It's interesting (and true) that you say some players don't like swapping but as I mentioned earlier, when you think the point of having all bar the bass trombone in treble clef is to facilitate players swapping instruments without the need to learn to transpose, it makes you think. But there again, I guess maybe the instrument swapping happened more in the old days than it does now?
 

PeterBale

Moderator
Staff member
As you say, Dave, it does work to some extent with wind ensembles, but at what cost? By the time you add in all the parts that are included in the package just in case you happen to have, say, an alto or contrabass clarinet, or a cor anglais, is it any surprise that an average wind set is likely to cost nearly twice as much as the equivalent for brass band?

From my experience, wind groups don't have anything like the repertoire in their libraries that brass bands have, and are very wary of making any new purchases because of the costs involved.
 

Dave Payn

Active Member
PeterBale said:
As you say, Dave, it does work to some extent with wind ensembles, but at what cost? By the time you add in all the parts that are included in the package just in case you happen to have, say, an alto or contrabass clarinet, or a cor anglais, is it any surprise that an average wind set is likely to cost nearly twice as much as the equivalent for brass band?

From my experience, wind groups don't have anything like the repertoire in their libraries that brass bands have, and are very wary of making any new purchases because of the costs involved.

Good point, but whilst it's true that wind bands don't traditionally have the size of libraries of brass bands, I've tended to find, in my experience, maybe BECAUSE of the costs involved as well as the size of the libraries, that the wind band sets will get more airings over a period of time (and thereby get VFM out of them!). I mean, Fulham have a huge library, but over the 12 years I've been associated with the band (on and off) I guess it's rather a small percentage of that library that's been got out and played, and most of our concert repertoire has been stuff that's been bought over the last few years. I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that at least 50% of our current library is unlikely to be played for the foreseeable future (a lot of it's very old!). Merton, however, have a much smaller library but over a period of a few years, most of it will get an airing.

Sorry to go slightly off topic here!
 
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I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that at least 50% of our current library is unlikely to be played for the foreseeable future (a lot of it's very old!).

Go on Dave make some suggestions! Quite happy to give the library an airing - maybe to raise cash? £2 to play a number £5+ to bin one?!
 

Dave Payn

Active Member
Paul McLaughlin said:
[
I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that at least 50% of our current library is unlikely to be played for the foreseeable future (a lot of it's very old!).

Go on Dave make some suggestions! Quite happy to give the library an airing - maybe to raise cash? £2 to play a number £5+ to bin one?!

Making money for Harrogate! Wot a great idea! £5 to bin Floral Dance, Best of the Seekers, Any of those 'Memories of (insert composer's name here) - Flower of Scotland..... NO! That was a joke! ;-)

Anyone want to sponsor a 4th section band £50 to play Paganini Variations???? ;-)
 

Okiedokie of Oz

Active Member
Sometimes down here, the contest band is a lot different from the everyday band. Not everyone can make it to contest, or in the case of a bigger band, has too many players to allow everyone on stage. So technically, on a day-to-day basis, we are already fiddling with legal numbers. Nearly every band I've played in has had 4 troms. A good band has at least 5 basses, some bands have 5 solos with the 5th sometimes doubling the rep part, and the rep sometimes filling the 2nd. So in the case of adjusting trombone parts and so forth, it isn't that much of a leap in our imagination to make it happen is it?

Nearly every good cornet player (and some avergae ones) have or have had aspirations to play flugel, but bands sometimes only even possess one horn! So having a second flugel isn't a big step, and also means you have better chances of having a flugal player come performances or contest!! And sops.....in lower bands, does one sop usually cut it? Do you usually find yourself working an exhausted (not quite dead) horse during rehearsals?? Is having a backup so bad?

I'm not saying it's a good ro bad idea to change instrumentation here. I'm just trying to point out that some of us "break with tradition" every rehearsal. So why whinge about making an official change??
 

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