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British-style Brass Band Instrumentation

Notes compiled by Major Thomas H. Palmatier, Vice President, North American Brass Band Association, Commander conductor, US Continental Army Band at Fort Monroe, Virginia, USA.

1 E-flat Soprano Cornet
serves as the piccolo voice, requires a delicate touch, and is used frequently as a soloist or to add brightness to the cornet tutti sound.
4 B-flat Solo Cornets
the lead voices in the ensemble. The use of four cornets permits players to switch off on parts that are frequently continuous throughout the whole piece. Divisi parts are also frequent. The four solo players should ideally match each other in sound.
2 B-flat Second Cornets
fill out the cornet choir.
2 B-flat Third Cornets
fill out the cornet choir.
1 B-flat Repiano Cornet
the "roving" player of the cornet section. Often used as a solo voice, or doubling the E-flat Soprano Cornet in unison or at the octave, the Repiano is used to add weight to the other cornet parts.
1 B-flat Flugel Horn
serves as a bridge to the horns. It is a frequent solo voice and is often used as the top voice in the horn family.
3 E-flat Tenor Horns
(Solo, First and Second) often perform as a choir with the flugel horn and the baritones. The solo horn is a frequent solo voice. Also commonly referred to as the alto horn in the United States, it is an upright, three-valve instrument with a lighter sound than the french horn.
2 B-flat Baritones
are often doubled with the euphoniums but work best as lower extensions of the horn section. As separate voices, their ability to blend and add a middle-low voice without heavinesss is a unique feature of the brass band.
2 B-flat Euphoniums
are the predominant solo tenor voices and function as tutti reinforcers with the basses.
2 B-flat Tenor Trombones
provide "punch" and drive because of their cylindrical construction.
1 Bass Trombone
is both a low support for the trombone section and adds additional weight to the basses. It is the only instrument in the brass band that reads concert pitch.
2 E-flat Basses (Tubas)
give composers an extraordinary flexibility in dictating the sound of the bass part. The lighter quality of the E-flat basses can have all the lyricism of the euphoniums while the "fatter" B-flat Bass sound adds weight. In octaves or fifths, the section can give the brass band an incredible richness of tone.
2 B-flat Basses (Tubas)
(see E-flat Basses above)
3 Percussionists
cover the entire spectrum of percussion instruments. Timpani, battery, and mallets are the most common for almost all compositions.


From a N.A.B.B.A. programme, April 1998