What is a Brass Band

What is a Brass Band

The Brass Band of Columbus is rooted in the tradition of the British brass band.  This tradition calls for a specific combination of brass instruments along with a percussion section.  Unlike traditional wind bands, which use trumpets and French horns, the brass band makes use of cornets and E-flat alto horns for these voices.

The design of all the instruments in the brass band can be simplified to say that they are all different sizes of essentially the same conical-bore instrument…with the obvious exception of the trombone.  This homogeneity allows for a rich and balanced sound that cannot be duplicated in other ensembles.

Interestingly, part of the tradition calls for all the parts for brass band music to be written in the treble clef…from soprano cornet all the way down to tuba.  The only exception is the bass trombone, which is written in the bass clef.

Brass Band Instrumentation:

Cornets produce a more lyrical and focused sound than that of trumpets.  However, in the hands of a skilled player, the cornet is also capable of all the brilliance and dynamics of the trumpet, making the instrument extraordinarily flexible.

  • E-flat soprano cornets:  Provide the highest voice in the band.
  • B-flat cornets:  Solo, 2nd, 3rd, and Repiano parts.
  • B-flat flugelhorns play in the same range as the cornet but have a darker sound.  The flugelhorn voice can be combined with the cornets, the alto horns, or can be a solo voice. E-flat alto horns (called tenor horns in British bands): Solo, 1st, and 2nd parts. Alto horns are upright, three-valved instruments, with a sound more focused and somewhat more brilliant than that of a French horn.
  • B-flat baritone horns are unique to the brass band.  Instruments in American wind bands that are referred to as baritones are usually euphoniums.  The baritone horn has a bit more edge and bite than that of the euphonium.  The baritone horns serve as a lower voice in the middle choir of the band.
  • B-flat euphoniums are often solo voices and also function as part of the middle voice choir or as reinforcement for the bass voices.
  • B-flat tenor trombones, the only cylindrical bore instruments in the band (others are conical bore), add their characteristic brilliance and prodigious dynamic output to the overall sound of the band.
  • Bass trombone provides both the lowest voice of the trombone ensemble and additional weight and edge to the bass line.
  • E-flat tubas are somewhat smaller and have agility and lyricism not usually associated with the tuba.  They also integrate well with the voices just above (euphonium) and below (B-flat tuba).
  • B-flat tubas provide the harmonic footing for the band.  The robust B-flat tuba sound furnishes the richness and fullness of foundation that is characteristic of a brass band.

The percussion section covers an astonishing array of instruments.

  • Timpani,
  • Snare drum,
  • Bass drum,
  • Cymbals,
  • Drum set,
  • Mallet instruments, and
  • all the associated percussion instruments are typical in brass band compositions.