Brass Music Doesn't Have To Be Competitive

Maybe I have got this wrong, but I certainly get the impression that some of the posters on tMP think that bands that don't compete arn't any good.

There are so many bands around, that really don't want to get caught up in the hassle of competing. They exist to play music to the best of their ability, and do just that.

Some of the best bands do just that - play music to a high standard; don't have to worry about fund raising for coaches and entrance fees.........

There seems to be two sides to the banding world.....those that compete and those that don't.

As it happens I play in two bands - one that does, and one that doesn't. I certainly could never be able to say that the non competing band is worse, in fact its better. Packed full of good players.

The non competing band has a full calander of bookings - concerts. We play to the public, not just other banders.

I hope that I havn't sounded too harsh here - just trying to put the "other" viewpoint.


Active Member
I must say that I don't know many non-competing bands as such, but I do know, or have heard of, many brass groups, say 10 piece or so, that get together and play for the sake of it, and having taken part myself, it's good fun, but in a different way to the contest scene. Personally I couldn't do without contesting, but there are many who could and do.

I think in general, not enough attention is given to non-contesting bands. I mean, if PJBE/London Brass or another non-competing group of such a standard was nearby, I know that I'd want to hear them.
I quite agree. Music is for taking part in and enjoying. You don't have to compete to want to play. There is a certain buzz you can get out of playing an important concert, and the audience reaction to it.

However, contesting is a drug that you can get addicted to. As a contest adrenalin junkie there is no hope, no cure (I'm down to 6 a year now, just taking one contest at a time)

There should be a self-help group for contest addicts!


Supporting Member
Competition and survival of the fittest/success of the best is ingrained in human nature, like it or not. IMO contesting and the relative difficulties of "test" pieces are unfortunatley the most quantitive way to measure ability/success (whatever you think of adjudication and the grading system!!!!) but that doesn't have to mean that the bands who don't contest aren't good enough to.

Of the bands I know, the one that is best attended (to the point where sometimes they don't all fit in the bandroom!) and has some of the best gigs is non-contesting and ungraded. They play to a good standard though and on the rare occasions they have entered local contests they have held their own. As long as they're enjoying their banding and selling out concerts, what does it matter that they don't have a "grading" ? There's more important things in life than the opinion of one or two men in a box!
The world of brass band

Hi, i saw this topic and I had to voice a few views of mine

being a concert band tuba player originally (i am only a baby in the world of brass bands, having recently joined Yorkshire Co-op as 2nd BBb Bass) i still do not understand fully why there needs to be this 'section' system. No other types of instrumental ensemble do this (please correct me if I am wrong) and i don't see the point honestly

Dave Euph

I played with a non-competing band for four years before I joined Emley ... and my uni bands don't 'compete' as such ... so I can go without it.


I'm definitely not a fan of contesting.

I took part in my first contest a few years ago (can't remember, that's how big an impact it made :) ) when I first joined Watford Band. We played in the 4th section and that year there were loads of bands and I think we were drawn in the second half towards the middle. Anyway, what it entailed was sitting around doing nothing for about 4 hours (and not knowing anyone made this really boring), playing for about 15 minutes, sitting around for another couple of hours doing nothing until we were told how badly we'd played!

Sorry, but I don't see the fun in that. Okay, it's a little better now as I know a few more people to have a drink with afterwards, but there's still this sitting around all day waiting to be told how bad you are.

For me, I'd rather have a couple of big concerts in the year, probably Summer and Christmas, where there's a comprehensive and demanding programme that the band works towards as way of improvement. This inspires me to practise hard as I want to do the best I can for the paying public, and I want the public to go away delighted and wanting to go and hear more brass band concerts.

Some of the so called contest pieces are just that, pieces only suitable for a contest. Playing them for weeks on end is not, I find, very inspiring, for a) attending rehearsal, b) personal practise and, therefore, c) improvement.

Sorry, if this seems a bit of rant, but it's been a sore topic for me in the past. Particularly when MDs want to push regular players down in order to bring in ringers, that doesn't, in my mind, improve the band.

Cheers, Greg.

Di B

Hmmm... I'd prefer to pack in than not contest..... honestly I would!

For me, its the challenge to better myself, particularly on a more demanding test piece, it gets the band also pushing itself to a higher standard.

Sure, you can do this with any piece of music, but I guess the buzz' is different. Recently, when talking to someone I could have hit them when they said why did I bother contesting!

Guess its very much a love/hate thing.

Now then, non-contesting bands.... I know of a lot.... some have good players, some have not good players and most have a mixture. Not dissimilar from most bands.

Funny thing is that I have come across people who think they are too good to join a contesting band and wouldn't lower themselves to going to the cattle markets and people who don't want to contest trying to force their views on a contesting band. Neither of these ain't good!

I personally see a player as a player and judge them on their playing ability AND their bandsmanship (a good player does not make a bandsmen!) but just thought as you were pointing out some contesting bandsmen look down on non-contesting bandsmen it also works the toher way too! :wink:

Dave Payn

Active Member
Brass band contesting is a way of life, for all its faults (and there are many). Nevertheless, I haven't seen any evidence on these boards of anybody thinking that non contesting bands aren't any good. Depends on the band/MD, I suppose. My take on it is this; I guess quite a lot of bands don't (or can't) spend as much time on an individual concert item as they would a single contest piece (purely on the grounds of lack of time!), so it might be argued that bands (or some of them) don't always play as well in concert as they might do on a contest stage for one piece. Having said that, success breeds success and a band who have a 'good run' on the contest stage, will carry that confidence onto the concert stage too.

It is also true at lower section level, I believe, that a band can over rehearse a contest piece so much so that on the day, it can sound so flat (as in 'boring', not flat in pitch) and lifeless and even more susceptible to indivdual errors, that it's almost detrimental to the band. On the concert stage that can have more than one effect. it can either make the band carry that 'lack of confidence' onto the concert platform, or simply the relief of not playing a boring test piece will rejuvenate them and make them play surprisingly better than they otherwise would.

Sorry if I've been too analytical, here. It's all swings and roundabouts in the end, but as I said, I don't recall anyone saying or implying that non contesting bands are worse than those who do. Neil Twist made a very good point about PJBE/London Brass. In the end, if a band's got good musical direction, they'll sound good whatever they play. If a previously non contesting band, used to giving excellent performances, suddenly enter the contest fray, chances are they'll be there or thereabouts, I think.
could the reason be that non-competing bands don;t have much support from the general public be that they dont promote themselves enough?

Rainford have hjust had a concert on saturday, and we sold tickets to band members and put a few tickets around the small village of Rainford and we had 180 tickets sold out. Not one of those audience members came from here, nor from Pontins or Fleetwood, or even Wilks (we didnt play)!

Contest give you something to work towards, concerts don't in a way because unless you play something really hard and work on that piece over & over & over again until it is right, then all the other stuff you can jst pluck out of the library that you've played loads of times before.

I hate contests where everyone is too competitive, and i also hate contest where band members say "we played our best, we know we played our best" especially on the way home from a certain youth band contest.... grr silly adjudicator...

Anyway, i think contest are good for bands, as the criticism to those who lose is usually constructive, like tuning or tempo markings. Whereas with a concert, if you play rubbish, the general non-banding audience are like "woah thats brilliant".

Okiedokie of Oz

Active Member
this conversation came up recently in our band,b ut was quickly put to rest. It was decided that amongst other attributes a contest advertises, it also encourages closer relationships between bandsmen, intensive rehearsal skills, and a good Easter Holiday!


Supporting Member
aimee_euph said:
could the reason be that non-competing bands don;t have much support from the general public be that they dont promote themselves enough?

Contest give you something to work towards, concerts don't in a way...

In my experience, the non-contesting bands tend to be much better supported in their communities - because they're devoting so much time and energy to contesting they can do a better job of promoting themselves and probably do more concerts.

I think its just as important to work on concert stuff, and imo the band can develop just as much from well chosen pieces as they can from contest works. I can't imagine life without either, to be honest!


Active Member
For me its more about the music (though I'm also a contest "adrenelin" junkie), most "concerts" we tend to play fairly light stuff, if it gets too heavy the audience gets bored (lets face it 90% of Contest Music would never be played at a concert) so contesting is a chance for me to have something to really get my teeth into.


Active Member
Just a thought. Whilst I strongly agree that contesting is crucial to the brass banding world to maintain standards and keep the interest of senior players going; at the other end of the spectrum there are youngsters or slower learners, who may be in training / junior bands who cannot break into their senior band because their ethos is upward and ever higher. When a vacancy occurs the band is not prepared to nurture their own and a new experienced face is parachuted in leaving the youngsters to become frustrated and bored and perhaps leave banding altogether.
So in my opinion contesting is really a double edged sword it may do as much harm to the movement as it does good.


Active Member
I dont think I could live without contesting, us humans are naturally competetive (like it or not) and I love it. The weeks of preperation are the best of the year and do wonders for band spirit (provided you have the right wo/man in the middle) and get the right result and you couldnt have a happier band. If we were all winning every contest we entered then this thread would never hafve appeared.


Active Member
just to stick in a random thought...

maybe what you're all looking for are entertainment contests! That way you don't have the boredom of listening to the same test piece, or even different test pieces (lets face it, not the most interesting stuff in the world) all day, but still with that competitive element. You have bands playing music the punters want to hear, to a high standard in an attempt to impress the judges.

So, entertainment contests rule, test piece contests suck... :D


Supporting Member
BigHorn said:
at the other end of the spectrum there are youngsters or slower learners, who may be in training / junior bands who cannot break into their senior band because their ethos is upward and ever higher. When a vacancy occurs the band is not prepared to nurture their own and a new experienced face is parachuted in leaving the youngsters to become frustrated and bored and perhaps leave banding altogether.

Wow! I'm guessing you don't come from the south east then - most bands round here would kill to have enough players available to pick and choose from!


lynchie said:
So, entertainment contests rule, test piece contests suck... :D

I'm with you on this one Lynchie! If we have to do contests let them all be entertainment contests.

There are only two contest pieces (4th section) that stick in my mind as good pieces that could be played in a concert and these were Haslemere Suite and last year's Lydian Pictures.

Cheers, Greg.

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