War Zone


Active Member
We have a nasty and potentially threatening situation in our band at the moment.
We have 4 horns, a Solo, 2 1sts and 1 2nd.
The 2nd 1st and the 2nd (lets call them Miss Y and Mrs Z) really would like to progress and better themselves because they both feel they're not being challenged enough. Their best solution involved allowing Miss Y to swap parts on an occasional basis with the Solo player (Mrs W) and allowing Mrs Z to swap parts on an occasional basis with the 1st 1st (Miss X). Are you with me so far? Sound reasonable?
On recieving this information from the conductor (Mr Q), Mrs W and Miss X spat their dummies and became a tad unreasonable. They appeared to sulk, refused to talk to Miss Y and Mrs Z and told Mr Q they felt humiliated, that the whole band was sneering at them and they were being unfairly demoted.
This was never the intention of Miss Y and Mrs Z, all they wanted was the occasional chance to play a more demanding part. As far as can be ascertained Miss Y and Mrs Z have not made any unreasonable demands and have not as yet resorted to violence. However, they intend to stand their gound.
Mr Q is on the point of doing a Pontius Pilate, reasonably enough and has pointed out that entire bands have been brought down by less.

Any helpful suggestions? Does anyone think Miss Y and Mrs Z are being unreasonable in their request? Anyone in the UN prepared to come and oversee?
OK I'm being a bit flippant, but this is a serious situation and we'd like to get out of it with our sanity and the horn section intact and speaking to each other. And sharing the odd vodka like in the old days.
Yours in desperation,


Active Member
I've been in a band a few years back where we had two solo horns, they had there own stand and own music, didn't talk all that much (if at all) and generally snipped at each other as much as possible!!!

We just laughed at them both and got on with it!!
I don't think that Miss Y and Mrs Z are being unreasonable. If they don't feel challenged then they will soon get bored and might end up leaving the band to persue a more challenging role in another band.
However, i know that if you have worked yourself up to a solo position then it may seem unfair that you should share your part. Make sure that the solo and 1st 1st players know that their part isn't being shared all the time- just the odd occasion.
This is quite a tough situation you have here BMB! It seems that either way one of the parties are not going to be completely satisfied and so if you all talk and set out clear 'rules' as to how the music is to be shared e.g. 2nd 1st and 2nd play the solo part to 'insert name of music', then the solo and 1st 1st may not be quite as annoyed.
Or perhaps giving the 2nd 1st and 2nd a duet or a 'feature'?!?! Therefore they feel challenged, needed, and they also get a nice little moment of glory which is perhaps better than if they were given the solo part to one band arrangement.

Hope this makes sense........
It's been a long day............

We however never have this problem at our band!! If our solo horn player is ever away from practise, they panic and would sooner have me play it than them even attempt it!!! And i must add that he is hardly ever away as the 3 ladies on his right would give him a right ear-bashing on his return!!! :p


New Member
I suppose it all depends on the egos of the personalities involved.
If no-one is prepared to swap then the only solution is for one of the 1sts to leave and find a new challenge elsewhere. This would seem to be the easiest solution, although I realise that the best outcome would involve all players staying.

The situation where the swaps occur may have some relevance.I've had a band situation where excess (usually younger) players were sat in the band for practice and concerts , but were under no illusion that they would keep their seats for a contest.
I've also had a conductor tell me "never again" when a lesser player took a solo on a job and was found wanting. This situation can be embarrasing for all, so the person wanting a challenge better be up to it!

In summary, what's the harm of a swap if it's for one piece at a practice.
it can also be a revelation for a 'top' player to play the lower parts. It's not always easy when you've not got the tune and your runs and fast fingerings are in a different register.(I speak as a cornet player. low runs = plenty third valve action, not always easy when you are used to the higher register)

If this doesn't help solve the problem you could always dig out the boxing gloves! :twisted:


Big Twigge

Active Member
Seems a tough one to me...
Everyone wants a chance to be challenged and to shine, but you also have to consider the whole setup of the band and who is right for the parts.
On the other hand, what's a bit of sharing between friends :wink: , if you're playing alongside reasonable people and Mr Conductor Sir is ok with it, surely to share some of the more demanding parts is a good think all round.
Share the pressure,workload and rewards!


Staff member
There's never going to be an easy solution to this one unless all parties are ready to give a little. Personally, it always amazes me how some people are so reluctant to share out the parts between them. I depped with a band a year or so back where they were playing with two solo horns, one second and no first, presumably because neither player was willing to take the initiative - and the conductor either didn't notice or had decided to accept the situation:!:

For my part, if I'm playing in a section it is natural to fill in where necessary, be it stepping up or down to fill a gap. I know the situation is rather different in an SA band, where you may have doubling up on parts on a regular basis, but I've normally found all the solo work etc being shared round, assuming the "junior" player is willing to take it on.

As for the role of the conductor, if, as I read it, he actually raised the matter with the players involved, then he should certainly see it through and broker some sort of solution. In the meantime, I think those who are feeling they want more of a challenge should be encouraged to play their existing parts with added dilligence, as whatever part we play there will always be challenges to be met.

Okiedokie of Oz

Active Member
Let me just add here that what happens to the tuba player who also thinks he deserves to play harder music??? Can he sometimes swap witht he euphonium, and the eupho player jump on tuba???

I say they realise that they are part of an amazing horn section and need to realise they are a TEAM!!!!!

Also, While the 2nd may wish to experiment with 1st horn, the solo horn in the PRINCIPAL player in the section and should not even temporarily demote his/herself. It's a harsh view, even I can see it, but come on, there has to be SOME perks with the title of Solo horn!!! If there isn't then we need to start calling them 1st, 2nd and 3rd horns!!

Oh, and I wasn't joking about the tuba player either.

euph of today

New Member
Has Bigmamabadger ever thought of writing scripts for Eastenders ?
It is of course a good idea to swap parts around, in rehearsal at least, as this leads to player development and increased enjoyment, for all. The only thing that prevents this, is the oversized egos of certain 'star' players. These people need to recognise that there are 25+ people in a band and all equally important. People also need to 'understudy' in case the 'star' breaks a nail and doesn't turn up for a concert etc.


Easy answer....Keep the best, sack the other, I'm sure she can find another band who are crying out for a keen horn player. :D


Active Member
Only an easy answer if playing ability is the overall measure for the band. For many bands, the development of players is an important part of their overall work. If I were going to sack someone, it might be the better player that has aproblem with sharing the work. It may not be the best in the short run, but in the long run the development of the "lesser" player may be of more overall benefit to the group.


The problem is that you have 4 horns in a 3 horn setion. Sack one of them, even if it causes some unrest in the short run it has to be done, after all, are you going to play 4 on a contest? Or of course suggest one moves onto another instrument dependant on the bands needs. All harsh on the individual but, for the good of the band and all that. :?


Active Member
I've always said that solo or principal players should be prepared to let someone else have a go in a practice (if its okay by the MD). You never know the player in question might actually be better than you and you just have to accept that!

More often than not, the player in question is playing 2nd or 3rd or whatever because they are not as good/confident as the solo player and giving them a go should either a) convince them that they are not as good as you and hopefully realise what a hard part solo is and give you much respect or b) convince the MD that you are the best player in the section thus confirming your status. I think it is a good way of nipping these problems in the bud and/or highlighting players who have absolutely no idea of their own ability.

However the politics of brass banding are something so vast and complex that I will never understand them.


BMB I sympathise with your dilema! I can't understand the mentaility of people who involve take thi ssort of action in what is meant to be a team.

We had a similar situation in our band where a new Horn (and very good) horn player came to play for us . . Our Solo horn graciously stepped down onto first horn allowing the new player to play solo - he made no fuss or comment, now 2 years later the Horn player has moved out of the area he has moved back onto Solo horn, again with no fuss or bother - I take my hat off to the guy, a true team player and bandsman.

However when we got a new 2nd baritone player, who sat 2nd 2nd baritone - if that makes sense! - our '1st' 2nd baritone threw their teddies out of the pram and left - needless to say, with that kind of attitude, they have not been missed!


Bad jokes aside, this is an bad situation to which there is no easy solution.

Is there a third party in the band who has the respect and trust of the Solo and 1st who could have a quiet chat with them? Or are we dealing with complete fatheads?


Wow - what a nightmare!! We're lucky, we've only got three horns (I'm first) my best bud is solo and we have a new second but recognise if someone fab comes along they can have first with my blessing...I love second horn - yes I know I'm wierd! :shock: But if our conductor asked me to play something else I wouldn't worry, as long as it's not Euph or Bass (coz I couldn't carry them around - and on Bass I can't reach the valves and the mouthpiece at the same time!!) For me it's being part of the band and I think you should remind your horn section that the are meant to be a team and being friends is a good thing.

You could always bang their heads together!! :hammer


Active Member

I am happy to play music, I recently moved from solo trombone to BBb Bass, not because I was no good on trombone, but because we had an influx of slidy things, Lynchie could do the job, (he was 2nd), and we needed a BBb. All I am doing is expressing an attitude about making music and not bothering whether you play principal or 3rd, every note is important.

Dave Payn

Active Member
Re: musicality

I am happy to play music, I recently moved from solo trombone to BBb Bass, not because I was no good on trombone, but because we had an influx of slidy things, Lynchie could do the job, (he was 2nd), and we needed a BBb. All I am doing is expressing an attitude about making music and not bothering whether you play principal or 3rd, every note is important.

Hear hear! Despite being Fulham's principal cornet, I would never object to be asked to play third cornet as being part of the 'middle' (which is as important as any other part) gives me a buzz, and if I can be part of a 'middle' that's functioning well (i.e. balanced and in tune) then I get a lot of enjoyment out of it. Maybe it's part of being in a lower section band (but there again, I've encountered this problem in wind bands, orchestras etc. etc.) but I've never understood people getting shirty over wanting to play a 'top' part or thinking they're too good to play a particular part. For most of us, it's a hobby and to me, there are far more important things in life to get worked up about. (Like this thread, Payn?? ;-)) It certainly isn't worth falling out over.

Timbone mentions he moved to BBb bass from trombone. It doesn't mean he's been demoted, not at all. As he says, every part is important and it's up to conductors, I feel, to make everyone in their band, ensemble, whatever, feel important and feel that they're all contributing to making music to the best of their collective abilities.

In a brass band, playing 2nd or 3rd cornet presents its own challenges sometimes; when you play solo cornet, the melodies in most of the repertoire (certainly in lower section bands) can be picked out to a degree by ear which can sometimes overcome initial reading difficulties. Playing an 'inner' part (or even bass) involves the odd nasty fingering in the bottom of the register, awkward pitching from 'chord filling' which isn't always as easy to hear as a melody line etc. etc. Yes, sometimes ('umchuck, umchuck') it does get tedious but it's a worthwhile skill to learn (and I'm by no means saying that playing a lower part effectively is something I've mastered. Being used to principal cornet, I've sometimes approached those 'inner parts' as though I was still a lead cornet! Not good!)

Anyway, rant over! ;-) Read Timbone's post again, he speaks wise words!


Edit: Our ex principal cornet was recently going through a tough time with his playing (by his own admission). He went to third cornet for a couple of months, and as a good reader, he was able to be of invaluable help to the other, weaker third cornet. He came back on to the front row last Thursday and his playing and musical awareness has improved immeasurably!

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