Brass Bands

A brass band is a musical ensemble generally consisting entirely of brass instruments, most often with a percussion section. Ensembles that include brass and woodwind instruments can in certain traditions also be termed brass bands (particularly in the context of New Orleans-style brass bands), but may more correctly termed military bands, concert bands, or 'brass and reed' bands.



Main article: Balkan Brass Band

Balkan-style Brass Bands (Serbian: Труба, trumpet) play a distinctive style of music originating in 19th-century Balkans when Roma trumpeters influenced by Turkish marching bands transposed Folk music into brass.[1] It is popular throughout the Balkans, especially Serbia, Macedonia and Bulgaria. The beats are usually fast and accompanied by kolo. The performers each have their instrument of the orchestra and are called trubači (трубачи). The best known examples of acclaimed music in this style are from Goran Bregović and Boban Marković Orkestar. The Serbian film maker Emir Kusturica has, through his films (Black Cat, White Cat), made the style popular in the international community outside the Balkans.


Hunters' Chorus from ''The Lily of Killarney''
File:Hunters' Chorus from The Rose of Erin.ogg
Brass band arrangement of the Hunters' Chorus from The Lily of Killarney using period instruments. During the 19th century, brass bands began to spring up throughout Europe and America. Popular music, including operas, were arranged for them by composers and music sellers eager to cash in on the free advertising they provided.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

A brass band in the British tradition with a full complement of 28 players[2] (including percussion) consists of:

  • 1 Soprano Cornet in E
  • 8-10 Cornets in B (in separate parts for 'Solo', 'Repiano', 2nd and 3rd cornets; there are 4/5 players on the 'Solo' part, one 'Repiano', two 2nd, and two 3rd)
  • 1 Flugelhorn in B (notated on the same part as the 'Repiano' in some older music)
  • 3 Horns in E (called Solo, 1st and 2nd)
  • 2 Baritone Horns in B (Each with separate parts)
  • 2 Tenor Trombones (notated in B, playing separate parts)
  • 1 Bass Trombone (the only brass instrument in the band notated in Concert Pitch (C) on Bass Clef, rather than in B or E) on Treble Clef because, historically, the instrument was pitched in G. Bass trombonists nowadays almost always use a large bore B trombone with a change of pitch to F called a "plug".
  • 2 Euphoniums in B (Usually playing the same part with divisi sections)
  • 4 Tubas (2 in E and 2 in B; often called Basses)
  • 2 or 3 percussion players (with 2 or more timpani, glockenspiel, snare drum, triangle, cymbals, a drum kit and more)

With the exception of the Trombones and Baritones, all of the brass are conical-bore instruments, which gives the British-style brass band its distinctive bright, mellow sound (as opposed to a dark symphonic sound). All parts apart from the Bass Trombone and percussion are now written in Treble Clef.

Brass bands have a long tradition of competition between bands, often based around local industry and communities. In the 1930s brass bands thrived most with around 20,000 brass bands in the U.K. British-style brass bands are widespread throughout Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Norway and continental Europe and are also found in North America. Annual competitions are held in these countries to select champion bands at various levels of musical competence.

The Salvation Army bands have a local tradition of training children in brass playing from an early age (starting at 7–8 years old). In larger Salvation Army churches there will often be a Junior Band for children (7–18 years old) as well as a Senior Band for adults.

New Orleans

The tradition of brass bands in New Orleans, Louisiana dates to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Traditionally, New Orleans brass bands could feature various instrumentations, often including trumpets, trombones, clarinets, saxophones, sousaphones and percussion. The music played by these groups was often a fusion between European-styled military band music and African folk music brought to the Americas by west African slaves and the idiom played a significant role in the development of traditional jazz. Early brass bands include the Eureka Brass Band, the Onward Brass Band, the Excelsior Brass Band, the Tuxedo Brass Band, the Young Tuxedo Brass Band, the Camelia Brass Band, and the Olympia Brass Band.

The Treme Brass Band, while not as old, has members who have been influential throughout New Orleans Brass Band music, as well as being renowned in its own right.

A well-known use of these bands is for the New Orleans jazz funeral.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the New Orleans brass band tradition experienced a renaissance, with bands breaking away from traditional stylings and adding elements of funk, hip hop, and bop to their repertoires. Some notable exponents of this style of brass band include Soul Rebels Brass Band, Rebirth Brass Band, the Stooges Brass Band, the Hot 8 Brass Band, the Lil Rascals Brass Band, Youngblood Brass Band and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Also, a number of groups outside the United States have begun playing this style of music.

The style of the music is often characterized by the use of the sousaphone in place of a bass violin to play the bass-line. The sousaphone may play a traditional jazz walking bass-line or groove on a riff. Trumpets, trombones, saxophones, and other horns play melodies and harmonies loosely over the bass-line. Often the lines are greatly embellished with improvisation. A typical setup includes two percussionists, one playing a marching bass drum and a cymbal mounted on the drum and another playing a snare drum (the snare drummer often switches to a drum kit when not marching). Many variations on this exist, including the use of additional percussionists, cymbals, drums and whistles.

The style has moved beyond New Orleans and can now be found in such places as Japan with the Black Bottom Brass Band; the Netherlands with the Happy Feet and the Youngblood;Richmond,VA No BS! Brass brass bands.


Founded in 1836 by King Kamehameha III, the Royal Hawaiian Band is the second oldest and only full-time municipal band in the United States. In recent generations, unique brass band traditions have also developed in Tonga, Samoa, and other parts of Polynesia, as well as among the Māori of New Zealand. Some recordings are now available and these styles are beginning to be researched and promoted abroad through band tours.

Festivals around the world

One festival featuring brass bands is the Tarragona international dixieland festival, in Catalonia, Spain. The organisation programs not only dixieland brass bands but also ethnic or world music brass bands from over the world, including the Dirty Dozen Brass Band from the USA, Boban Marković Orkestar from Serbia, the Jaipur Kawa Brass Band from India and Taraf Goulamas from Occitania France.

In the United States the Vintage Band Festival occurs in Northfield, Minnesota every three years, with the next one scheduled for August 1-4 2013.

The North American Brass Band Association sponsors an annual convention that provides member bands with the opportunity to compete in a contest format similar to those conducted in the United Kingdom and Europe.

In Boston, and Seattle a series of festivals called HONK! bring together Street Brass Bands (and other related ensembles) from the United States and Canada, and some bands from other parts of the world. The groups presented include Balkan Brass Bands, New Orleans brass bands, Political Action Bands, Klezmer, and "DIY" Alternative / Radical Community Bands.

Brass band composers

Brass band publishers

  • Adios Music
  • Art of Sound Music
  • Band Press VOF
  • Bravo Music
  • De Haske
  • Devilish Publishing
  • Elms Publishing
  • Faber Music
  • Francis Clifford Publishing
  • Gramercy Music
  • Kantaramusik
  • Kirklees Music
  • Maverick Music
  • PLC Music
  • Prima Vista Musikk
  • Salvationist Publishing and Supplies
  • SJS Music
  • Studio Music
  • Wright & Round

Brass band instrument manufacturers, historical and present


External links

  • Brass Bands- Services for contacting bands and players worldwide
  • 4barsrest- Up to date news and articles on the brass band scene
  • IBEW- The complete information resource for brass bands worldwide
  • British Bandsman magazine
  • Brass Band Tube - All the latest Brass Band videos on the internet
  • Band Sheet Music Search Engine
  • Matt Sakakeeny-Tulane University musicologist has written extensively on New Orleans brass bands
  • The Stooges Brass Band - A contemporary New Orleans-style brass band.
  • The Australian Newcastle Steelworks Band's London recordings, including the 'Honest Toil March' was added to the Sounds of Australia Registry in 2009
  • The Newcastle Steelworks Band playing W. Rimmer’s 'Honest Toil March' on australianscreen online
  • Stonehouse (Gloucestershire) Brass Band 1898

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.