Does playing loud wreck brass bands?

Do we play too loud?

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Active Member
As a euphonium player I am a bit of a freak of nature in the sense that I cannot blow "loud", nor do I like doing it.

However it seems to me that playing louder and louder has become synonymous with bands and sometimes it seems that the big lads flex there muscles against each in the big contests to show they are the best.

Personally I think that loud playing is a bad thing for bands (unless you are a good band) as it tends to make the sound harsh and pointed...also being forced to play louder had knocked my playing back a bit as my sound become harsher and not as mellow as it was.

Anyway what do Tmper's we as a movement play too loud and is it bad for us?


Staff member
As with all things - balance. Not necessaily "too" loud, but each moment of music should be considerative to the rest.

People like playing loud. (generally) It's part of that "look-at-me" mentality that a lot of brass players have. As long as it's controlled, and occasionally exposed to subtlety (;)) no problem

(louder, louder)


Staff member
I think part of the problem is that a lot of bands don't play quietly enough - if you can get down to a real pp or even ppp then there is so much more room for expanding the sound without going over the top. Unfortunately to play brass instruments really quietly takes a lot of offort and control, and I wonder if we (and I count myself in this as much as anyone else) are prepared to put in the practice to develop that sideofour playing.

Equally, the best bands are able to produce a very big sound whilst keeping it under control, and sometimes the problems come when lesser mortals try to emulate them, but end up over-blowing instead.


Active Member
I agree with Peter , context and keeping it under control are more impressive ( and sounds better ) than overblowing.
I had an eardrum operation a few years ago( to try and cure a perforated eardrum), and extremely loud dynamics give me a massive headache..wear ear plugs to combat this problem sometimes.

will be interesting in the Royal Albert Hall in October...extremly quiet muted dynamics for Lower Brass ( ppp pedal D's ) and quite Extreme loud Dymanics rFFFz ???


Active Member
Quality not quantity - playing loud is fun but listening to it is not!

I agree about keeping dynamics in context: how times have you heard this in your practice?

"Trombones (or any other loud section!), you are too loud at D"
"But it says FF on my copy"

GRRRRRR :evil:


For bands who have less control of their dynamics many use playing very loud (fff) as a substitute for an inability to play down to a pp.

This means that to give the impression of playing a pp they have to play all the f or ff markings up. In effect a pp is at best a mp and an mf ends up being a f minus.

But if you have poor control of your dynamics then fff sounds rough and out of control.


It's fine when a good band does it. You need the widest possible range of dynamics to get the feeling and character of a piece out. If a composer writes fff for the enitre band, they want it loud, and loud for a reason. It's the same with solos, you need to play loudly to get the feeling. Most pieces (solos and normal) have a climax somewhere where it is loud. The problem you get is getting too harsh when you play loud. Generally though, a not-so-good-band or player will sound harsh at the top of their dynamic range, even if their ff is like an mf compared to someone else. So there's no way you can get round it really.


New Member
Certainly in lower sections, you can tell that a band isn't comfortable playing above a FF, and it comes across as razzing, but then when you listen to a championship band it's a totally different sound. A rounded sound with all the players comfortable at what they are doing.

Although when I played 3rd cornet at one regional, Roger Webster said in the crit back row cornets to loud :!: But we were asked to play out, and have been told to by some big names in conducting as the sound of the band started with the 2nd & 3rd's :roll:


I think loudness also happens when conductors ask for a 'bigger' sound. It is possible to make a bigger sound without playing any louder. Trouble is, many people equate bigger as meaning louder.



i love listening to bands with big, balanced, comfortable loud sounds because it just makes me shiver.

but, IMHO the most important thing is range of dynamics. There has to be a contrast. if a band can play really quiet, then there is less need for it to be able to play really loud.


johnflugel said:
Quality not quantity - playing loud is fun but listening to it is not!

When the music calls for it, I love to hear a band really go for it! But I think what many bands (including some 'top' bands) are guilty of is over blowing. We can all play loud, but it takes a lot of skill to play loud and control it.
I agree with what's been said regarding range of dynamics. Someone once said to me the quieter you play, the louder you play. I guess it's true, that if you can play really quietly then your loudest dynamic will automatically seem much louder than it actually is.
As much as some of the playing at the recent Masters contest was excellent, many performances were spoilt by ear splitting volume. Even those bands in the frame ( dare I say even the winners) were IMO way over the top. Sitting here with score in hand, section AA is designated ff, not f possibile.
Saying that, with the cornet section of each band apporoximately 20 ft away maybe that isn't surprising.


Supporting Member
Listening to my own band it is obvious that some sections are too loud in the wrong way.

However the problem is made worse by two things:

1. the fact that they often forget to come back down again once they have reached the marked dynamic, so each crescendo or other dynamic change ends up building on the previous one with the result that any piece becomes one long crescendo.
2. a tendency common in bands is to work the tongue too hard in loud bits. This makes all the loud notes sound accented and harsh. It also has the effect of slowing the tempo down dramatically in any extended loud section with faster notes.

I've seen and heard these traits in lots of bands. It's probably due to poor training when people were younger :shock:

If you listen to the really good bands you can tell that neither fff nor ppp put a strain on the players. When that happens, the sound is marvellous. When it doesn't happen you can understand why Beecham said what he did :D
YBS's les preludes from the 2001 open - I think it's a radio recording is a brilliant example of playing to capacity dynamics yet controlling the power down to a fine art.

I disagree that loud playing isn't good to listen to. I find a huge crescendo or 'wall of sound' from a good band is the most exciting dynamic figure a brass band can do.


Supporting Member
Getting back on topic:

Some bands do play too loud.
Yes, it is bad if it's done wrongly - out of context or all the time (as some do)


I have to agree that well controlled forte or ff can be very exciting..especially so when its is backed by good use of dynamics throughout the rest of the piece..After all how exciting is an ff if the rest of the piece is at the same volume...Having said that i don't think loud playing is the be all and end all of serious brass band playing...Look at pieces like Resurgam etc...brilliant pieces but you dont exactly see people doing headbangers over it..IMHO its often the quiet passages that make the music...

Thats just me though...

PS I still love listening to the end of Harrison's Dream - now that's a good forte :wink:


The point of my above post being that i think it's all about written ff can sound bad in the wrong hands...


Supporting Member
Offbeats said:
The point of my above post being that i think it's all about written ff can sound bad in the wrong hands...

Hear Hear! :terrier Control and range.

I think constant playing at too loud a volume can damage your hearing and de-sensitize you to the finer nuances of the music. In a strange way, it's a bit like the heavy-metal rock music syndrome, or Wagner Operas - too loud for too long damages your ability to hear and appreciate the music. :guiness

It could also leave bands open to lawsuits :shock:

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