Well-Known Member
We've had long discussions about 1)Dodgy Area pieces 2) Area Judges 3) Lack of audiences at Area Contests 4) Boredom at Area Contests 5) Lack of Audience at Area Contests.
This is NOT a frivolous suggestion, but what do you think about making the Area "Own Choice" in all sections, and a set piece for the Finals.
Each band at the Area would play an own choice piece to impress the judge of its quality and musicianship, and the audience would have a great day out. (Hopefully so would the judge !!)
Let's bear in mind that Spennymoor entertainment contest has no set programme and is a fantastic days entertainment for Brass Band afficionado's, and the Europeans have an "OC" piece.
This may sound radical, but surely it could turn the whole Area Day into a really interesting and stimulating occasion. (And fill the Halls)
Some of the Area "COMMITTEES" may throw up their hands in horror at this suggestion - but the fact is, if we can fill halls on Area Contest day with an audience eager to hear a selection of great test pieces all honed to catch the judges ear, we will have really moved on !!!!


New Member
I heartily agree with iancwilx.
In Australia our Nationals are held over 2 days. On the first day we play the test piece and a hymn, on the second day we play own choice and march. The audiences are better for the second day.
Having been brought up in UK bands, I was relatively unfamiliar with the own choice business and was a little bit trouble about it being used at a national champs, but I am sold on it now. It is a great challenge to the MD to pick wisely though.


We have a 2 testpiece style contest in Ireland, one set, one own choice.
The own choice is always a nightmare.

(t does nothing to improve audience attenence btw!)

The only advantage is that you get to pick a testpiece that most suits the band, although you can spend a fortune on testpieces trying to find it. Of course what happens then is when a band finds a good own choice testpiece, it then plays it year, after year, after year.

Either that or everyone trots out last years set testpiece!

Another problem the adjudicators personal taste in music now comes into play, not just his ideas on interpretation. It's no longer a test of how well you can play, but how well you can guess the adjudicators taste in music! Also leads to far more arguements than in a set piece contest. (eg"why did they win section 1 when they played a testpiece from section 2......thats not fair, we made the effort etc.....)

That's not to say the idea is without merit, but my band is heading north to the NIBA contest for the first time this year. Why (apart from the craic)? The testpiece is set! We either play it well or we don't. We win or we don't! Nothing else to worry about, except how to get there and where's the beer. Great stuff!

Ah but its a lot easier to do that in ireland, we have only 3 maybe 4 bands on a good day in our champ - or any section really. In the uk there seems to be a minimum of 10 - it would definately take two days if there was a choice piece involved.


I'd be embarressed to say how many were there this year! It was actually the brass bands that asked for the own choice to be removed for their sections.

Own choice was abandoned this year for the first time this year on a trial basis, and the whole thing was over in one day instead of the usual two! They actually made money on the event, and the audience was a lot bigger!

Mind you, some of the concert bands were moaning so an own choice will be partly reintroduced next year.


Great idea own choice for the area,my choice would be staying at home!

Richard Wilton(EEb bass Grimey)


Well-Known Member
Ha! Ha! Richard - (If I was married to the lovely Mrs Wilton I think I'd vote for staying at home too !!!!!!!!!)


Active Member
As has been said before Own Choice is even more of a lottery. At least with a set piece then ALL the bands have an even playing field and the adjudicator has a marker by which to judge them.

The only way "Own Choice" can work (in my opinion) is to either :

a) Circulate a list of pieces which are of an acceptable standard for that section.

b) Have the bands submit the piece they are going to play beforehand and then grade it and apply weighting to the final result. This would prevent bands from performing peices that are significantly below the standard (e.g. 2nd section bands playing 4th section test pieces.. yes it happens and yes they did win..)

Another alternative is to draw up a list of pieces and ask the bands to vote on the suitablility of the piece, however this requires a response from bands (not the easiest of things to get), and they'll only moan about the pieces on the list.

For what it's worth I don't think there is anything particularly wrong with the current format, I enjoy the areas since I feel it's about as fair as you can get even if I may not like some of the pieces selected.

It aint broke, don't fix it. As Brian would say if you can't cope with the result don't do it.


tubamaest said:
Great idea own choice for the area,my choice would be staying at home!

Richard Wilton(EEb bass Grimey)

What, and miss out on the quality ale !!!! served in Bradford's finest. Tut Tut Rich losing the plot I think.

See you soon.



Maybe im a bit sad but I actually like it when the area pieces are announced which arent long off now! Good or bad its a suprise! and I think its a fairer system for the area contests.


Well-Known Member
tubamaest said:
Great idea own choice for the area,my choice would be staying at home!

Richard Wilton(EEb bass Grimey)

PS Richard - Looking at last years Area we should definitely stayed at home !!
- Or even better, just gone to the Contest but stayed in the pub all day !!
I can't say I've noticed that any of the own choice contests we have attended over the past few years have been any better attended than those with set pieces.

I am also keen to avoid the situation where the piece you play the adjuducator doesn't like and therefore marks you accordingly. (Has happended twice to us in recent years).

I think in terms of fairness and trying to discover who the best bands are (that is why we contest) that set pieces are the best solution at the areas - for now at least until someone come up with a better idea, that idea I don't believe is own choice music.

I don't know, I sometimes think that 1 Set Test and 1 Own choice is the way to go because sometimes a particular set test may not suit the band.

Hey maybe they can play it and play it well, but another piece might give a fuller picture of their range of skills. Also I'd imagine it's a real headache for adjudicators trying to award points to bands playing anything and everything they feel like, so a set test can be used as a benchmark of sorts (Provided it's chosen correctly by the governing body!)

I realise that this could make contests go on a lot longer (because some bands will invariably pick a 45 min OC piece to go with their 25 min test piece :) ) and may not be feasible for large contests.

Still its something to think about maybe ?


Own choice test piece at the areas

I'm dead against it.

Different bands have different policies when doing own choice pieces. There are the bands who do the same one time after time and by the twentieth time they drag out someting like Paganini Variations they don't need the music, there's the band that will try something different each time, or the bands that let the MD choose something himself which may or may not suit the band, in which case you may as well have a set test piece no one likes.

Having a set test piece makes it more of an even playing field. Perhaps one thing they could do for the areas and the finals is to ensure the test pieces are accessable to the public, and to announce them in the new year rather than September.

Dave Payn

Active Member
Voila la viola!

If it's viola jokes you want.....

Notice plastered around various music college noticeboards:

'Experienced and established string quartet requires two violins and a 'cello'


Supporting Member
Have to say I'm in the set-piece camp - I certainly don't think its a good idea to have an own choice lottery for the areas then a set piece for the finals - remember the area results affect far more bands in terms of gradings.
I like the European model of 1 set/1 own choice. I think they do that in Norway too.

As there are so many different opinions flying around, maybe its worth putting in a poll? Set test/Own Choice/1 of each/Something completely different...


Active Member
I think the system's fine the way if is. There are so many bands it it were held over two days/ two pieces everyone would moan about the cost. Also there are enough "own choice" contests so if you want to play a piece you choose, enter one of them. The whole point of it being an area test is to test the bands, and it's only a fair test if everone plays the same piece. Just my thoughts. I've had a bad week in case anyone thinks I'm a narky sod, I'm not normally!!!!!! :eek:


Supporting Member
Mike Saville said:
I think in terms of fairness and trying to discover who the best bands are (that is why we contest)

Not totally with you on that one - I take my band to contests as part of their training. Yes, it's great to win and I feel as annoyed as anyone when we don't get placed where I believe we should be but for me, the main reason for doing this is the discipline of having to work a piece to a level that wouldn't otherwise be done down in the bottom sections. The resulting improvement in the band is the real victory in all this.

Having said that, I guess it is different when you are in the top section. (distant memories for me!)


Active Member
No, No, No, No, No, No, No, No.... . .

We moan enough about the adjudicators interpretations, don't give them more variable's!

two bands both play well, band Z played a tougher piece than band X, who wins then! Oh what would we do!!!! Could a third section band play a Champ test piece badly and still figure? I'll say it again

No no no no no no no no no no no .

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