The Open University





The British Brass Band

The British Brass Band: A Musical and Social History

Brass Band Contests

The Cyfarthfa Project

The Salvation Army





The British Brass Band

A great deal of research has been completed and published that relates to the origins of the British brass band and its musical and socio-cultural identity. In most parts of the world the term brass band describes a fairly loose grouping of instrumentalists in which brass instruments are prominent. In the UK the term has a more precise meaning because the traditions and practices have led to a standardised instrumentation and a common musical idiom. The word ‘idiom’ here means is a shared set of ideas and understandings about what a brass band is, what it sounds like and what its musical values are. This standardisation came about largely because of the importance of contesting, which was introduced into the brass band in the middle of the nineteenth century. By the start of the twentieth century most contesting brass bands had the same instrumentation, so it was possible for music to be published that suited the majority of brass band instrumentations.

The first chapter of Trevor Herbert’s edited book The British Brass Band: A Musical and Social History (Oxford University Press 2000) can be accessed by following the link on the left of this screen.

A list of the winners of each of the major British brass band contests, along with details of the conductors and the music the bands played, can be viewed by following the Brass Band Contests link on the left.

One of the more important bands of the nineteenth century was the Cyfarthfa Band from Merthyr Tydfil in south Wales. The sources relevant to this band were studied as a major project that led to several publications, a BBC TV programme and a commercial recording. To look at resources that came from this project (including the TV programme) please follow the link on the left.