Let's talk about sound


New Member
Hi everyone

I'm a conductor from Switzerland. During the past difficult times, I have been looking a little more intensively at the sound of the modern brass band. In the end it is probably the sound that fascinates us all, right? I was looking for examples that show the perfect sound in this specific situation. Important, I am talking about section or tutti passages, not solo passages...

Here are a few examples:

- - Brass Band Willebroek, "Intrada, ein' feste Burg"
00.00 - 01.40 --> perfectly balanced cornet-section in the introduction, timing of the vibrato is outstanding

- - Black Dyke Band "The Triumph of Time"
13.45 - 14.22 --> amazing pp, well in tune and balance, of course with mutes but still impressive

- - Manger Musikklag "*****"
last chord at 22.00 --> maybe the perfect ff-sound? so powerful, but with pure control and warmth (the smile from the girl in the yellow sweater says everything :))

- - Eikanger Bjorsvik "Miserere, mei deus"
absolutely beautiful in every aspect, so much detail, this is how a hymn has to sound

- - Fodens Band "Electra"
10.00 - 10.50 --> perfect interaction between Percussion and Band, very well in articulation and dynamics, the contrast ff/pp in the shortest time is stunning

Do you have any other examples? I'm not talking about "winning performances" in general, but short excerpts which have left a strong impression to you...

I look forward to your suggestions



Well-Known Member
There are a few moments in certain recordings that really raise the hairs on the back of my neck, which I think is what you're getting at?

One is from Brittania (Fodens) Europeans performance of "Year of the Dragon" 1992 - the whole performance is stunning, but the middle movement is particularly special...

Another is the Fraternity prayer from Fraternity - after all the drama, the simple and beautiful cornet solo played well is exceptionally poignant, and the climax midway through the prayer section gives me goosebumps as a player or listener... The performance below is a great example of both the solo and climax:

And then there's this... The playing is simply unbelievable both technically and musically, I can't really pick just one bit, it's jaw dropping from start to finish:

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
It’s good to see such interesting and thoughtful posts here on TMP again, thank you.

I haven’t watched every video but the ones that I have watched (and listened to) have certainly displayed a lot of technical ability - excellent stuff to aspire to - if not necessarily on pieces that I would want to listen to or (if I had to skill) to play. Of course that’s necessarily the point of this thread, and maybe I’m a sacrilegious person, but I find a lot of Brass Band music to be overly showy, noisy and ornate at the cost of the tune and melody. However the Miserere video is an absolutely wonderful showcase of what’s possible in terms of Brass delivering what I call music, excellent and Bravo!

I’m somewhat of a traditionalist in that I think that Brass Bands have their roots in entertainment and that competition was merely a way of raising funds (win the competition) and ‘showing’ the fee paying public who were the best musicians. I’m of the view that today’s modern Brass Band isn’t necessarily a good change. However the Miserere rendition tempers that perspective, bring on such (new) technical excellence and then use it wisely.
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Well-Known Member
Honestly 2T, I'm not convinced at all...

Yes, local pride is huge but equally people tend to be competitive by nature - it's almost like sport for musicians, it's not without its flaws but it does present both an opportunity for musicians to really get their teeth into something difficult and to grow and improve...

I can almost guarantee that you'd never get a performance of anywhere near the standard of any of those posted above without a competitive drive or a serious amount of cash (fueling competition for places in itself).

Still, getting off topic I think!

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
Nice to see you posting Tom. :) . I hope that you are well and that the pandemic hasn’t been too awful for you - I’ve got by OK but am glad to be vaccinated, etc.

I know the contesting stuff lights your fire and you know that I don’t think much of contesting; IMHO test pieces aren’t really music, they’re pieces that are written to test. However I think that you’ve got a very strong case for saying that the skills built and honed in (test piece) competition can then be used to good effect in playing what I would regard as proper music. Of course the counter argument to that is that many music groups (Orchestras, TV Bands, recorded Quartets and Quintets, etc.) don’t contest but still perform magnificently. In truth I suspect both routes produce excellent results and that we shouldn’t bother arguing about how many fairies can dance on a pin’s head.

I’m still blown away by the Miserere performance and I wish that Bands - and very much so top class ones - would focus on music rather than show. What’s music and what is something else is very much personal preference, but what wins or comes highly ranked in the Classic FM Hall of Fame should surely be indicative of what the public like.
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Well-Known Member
Of course the counter argument to that is that many music groups (Orchestras, TV Bands, recorded Quartets and Quintets, etc.) don’t contest but still perform magnificently.
Granted, but there's far more financial motivation on a personal level there, which makes it still somewhat competitive.

IMHO test pieces aren’t really music, they’re pieces that are written to test

It all depends.

Sometimes they come across as just difficult for the sake of it, sure, but not necessarily...

For some composers, and for some at times, it's an excuse to write in longer formats, develop themes and produce superb music that couldn't necessarily be made in a format that most casual audiences would find accessible.

You're right that I like contesting, but I can also say that I wouldn't have the same motivation to improve without it.

John Brooks

Well-Known Member
I too have enjoyed listening to the examples provided and reading the subsequent comments. I'm pretty much convinced that bands can play pretty much anything thrown at them from technique to stamina and, as so beautifully illustrated, perhaps especially in the Miserere and The Triumph of Time, even sustained quiet playing. For me, it all comes back to the scoring. Some composers write incredibly hard stuff that can be impressive from a technical perspective but for me, it's the full band sound generated in the sustained passages that consistenty makes my hair stand on end. When well scored music is played in perfect balance and you get that wholesome brass band sound. Composers that have done that for me include Eric Ball, Morley Calvert, Edward Gregson, Erik Leidzen, Philip Sparke and Peter Graham. For example (and there are so many, I hesitate to choose), the last minute of Harrison's Dream, so quiet, followed by that huge crescendo and similarly the last few minutes of Journey Into Freedom, beginning with that quiet dawning and growing into that magnificent chorale.....for me that's the stuff of goose bumps and short hairs prickling.

Jack E

Well-Known Member
It's horses for courses, but contesting leaves me stone cold. If I was in a band which was taking part in a contest, then I'd put my back into it - but with the sole purpose of not letting my friends down, rather than because I wanted to win a contest.

Yes, competition brings out the best in some people; but it also brings out the worst in others. Like the contest I was told about by another bandsman, when a band came on to do their stuff, and the tymps player found that all of the tymps were hopelessly out of tune. There was only one way it could have happened, and only one person who could have done it - the tymps player of the previous band. Yet the cheat and his band got away with it, and the band which followed them were marked down (and, for all I know, maybe all the other subsequent bands, too).

You get the same thing in all sorts of competitions; exhibit a long-coated dog at Crufts, and you need to stand guard on it continually, or another competitor will snip a bit off its coat with scissors, so you lose points. A woman I know was at a dressage competition, and a woman in the crowd deliberately spooked another competitor's horse so it broke into a canter instead of staying at a steady trot - marks lost, again, just to win a tin pot. It wasn't even that important a competition, being purely for local riders.

Contests? Thanks - but no, thanks. A concert, with a wide variety of music, so as to give the audience well-known and well-loved favourites, mixed in with pieces they'd never heard, or played in a way they'd never imagined, or music that they wouldn't have expected to ever hear played by a brass band? That's what gives me a buzz, whether I'm one of the players or just sitting in the audience!

With best regards,

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