The brass band dates back to the early nineteenth century and England’s Industrial Revolution. With increasing urbanization, employers began to finance company bands to decrease the political activity, which preoccupied the working classes during their leisure time. Thus, the brass band tradition was founded.

By 1860 there were over 750 brass bands in England alone. Although these bands were not fully comprised of brass instruments until the second half of the nineteenth century, the tradition developed to the present day current instrumentation of cornets, flugel horn, tenor horns, baritones, trombones, euphoniums, B flat and E flat basses and percussion.

Brass bands in Great Britain presently number in the thousands with many of the bands having origins prior to 1900. Originally coalmines, mills, funded the bands and many retain corporate sponsorship today. The bands use only non-professional musicians who in former years were usually employed at the sponsoring company. As a result of their brass band experiences, many players moved on to become professional musicians.

The number of members is usually limited to between twenty-eight and thirty players. The repertoire is very flexible, with concert programs consisting of original works, orchestral transcriptions and featured soloists, novelty items, marches, medleys, and hymn tune arrangements.

If you plan a trip to England, be sure to find a brass band concert to attend. Only in the last fifteen years has a brass band resurgence begun in North America.


The Cornets usually carry the tune in brass bands and come in various sizes. Pitch depends on the length of tubing in the instrument. The smaller the instrument, the higher its pitch.

One Flugelhorn to a brass band is the rule. The Flugelhorn is in the same family as a trumpet and cornet. However, the tubing on a flugelhorn expands in size more rapidly than a cornet’s and the resulting tone is a bridge between the cornets and the lower-pitched instruments.

The Alto (or tenor) Horns are the smaller upright horns. In concert bands and orchestras, the French horn has replaced the alto horn.

The Baritone, a cousin of the alto or tenor horn, is easily confused with a Euphonium. However, the tubing on a baritone is smaller in diameter than a euphonium and that gives the baritone horn a more subdued tone.

The Trombone tubing gives a different tone than the mellow one produced by conical instruments. A slide rather than valves changes the pitch.