What Are the Different Types of Brass Band Music?

The brass band movement arose in England during the nineteenth century, when bands were frequently associated with organizations such as factories, mines, trade unions, and religious movements. Early brass bands’ repertoires were often based on adaptations of popular songs or hymns, but composers such as Gustav Holst, Sir Edward Elgar, and Sir Malcolm Arnold wrote original works for the brass band in the twentieth century. Brass band music has evolved into distinct styles, such as the New Orleans style brass band, which combines European-style brass band music with African folk music traditions. The music of Balkan brass bands has a fast rhythm based on military bands’ interpretations of folk music, and some Pacific islands have developed their own distinct style.

Cornets, horns, baritones, trombones, tubas, euphoniums, and percussion are used in British brass bands. Due to the need to adapt to the available local musicians, many religious brass bands have varied in size and instrumentation. Brass bands in the United Kingdom perform at military, religious, and political processions, as well as at commemorative events, formal concerts, and as marching bands in military, religious, and political processions. On continental Europe and in English-speaking countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States, British-style bands can also be found. John Philip Sousa, who wrote the Washington Post March, Semper Fidelis, Stars and Stripes Forever March, and Liberty Bell March, is one of the most well-known American brass band composers.

The New Orleans brass band tradition has introduced various new forms of brass band music since the late nineteenth century. The instruments used New Orleans bands are more diverse than those used traditional British bands, including the sousaphone. African folk music and European brass band music are incorporated into the music. Since the second half of the twentieth century, New Orleans brass bands have broadened their musical horizons incorporating hip hop and funk influences.

Other types of brass band music include the Balkan brass band style, which began when military bands adopted folk music themes. The music has a fast tempo and is occasionally accompanied singing. This type of brass band music has become popular due to its use in films and festivals, and it has been appreciated worldwide since the late twentieth century. Brass band traditions with distinctive local characteristics have emerged on Pacific islands such as Samoa and Tonga, and are gaining a wider audience through recordings and concert tours.