Brass music

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Symphonic wind orchestra
Brass band in Ottrott

As brass bands are called depending on the definition used exclusively or predominantly of wind instruments listed music as a demarcation to pure string music or mixed occupation . In a broader sense, it includes all relevant genres or styles of music, with which it is also played by wind ensembles, such as B. Alta musica and hunting horn ensemble, horn quartet or brass quintet , sage winds , the classical wind quintet , harmony music , wind orchestra /Brass band , janissary music , brass band , Italian banda , the Protestant trombone choir as well as musicians and fanfares .

In a narrower sense, wind music is also only related to “mostly folk music for wind orchestras and military bands, which is tailored to a large-scale effect ”. Art or chamber music in small or large ensembles is then defined as wind music . The latter can also include swing and jazz music interpreted by wind instruments, for example, depending on the viewer .

Development of today's wind orchestra

Cattle horns , shells and other simple wind instruments were used by indigenous peoples in religious rites, and the trumpets of Jericho or the fanfares of Roman times testify to the use of wind instruments in ancient times . The oldest preserved musical instruments in Europe are around 35,000 years old Stone Age bone flutes that were found in the Swabian Alb .

Forerunners of brass music, as it developed in the 19th century, are wind ensembles such as the harmony music of the late 18th century and janissary music, which was initially used in military music after the Turkish Wars , especially in Austria and southern Germany , but then also in the civilian sector has evolved.

The current line-up of the wind orchestra developed in spurts from the beginning of the 19th century, which among other things caused several events that had different regional effects and thus led to different developments.

The first concert band wind orchestras came into being during the French Revolution and were characterized by choral instrumentation of the wood and brass registers as well as a percussion group. As open-air music , they had the task of supporting the great celebrations of the revolution, and later the “celebrations of peace” after Napoleon's victories with music. Numerous wind orchestras in southern Germany trace their origins back to this time when they were used by their monarchs, who were Napoleon's vassals, for homage ceremonies.

During this time, marches by well-known composers such as Beethoven's military march of 1816 were written. Later, among others, Antonin Rejcha wrote his "Music to celebrate the memory of great men and great events" (around 1830) and Hector Berlioz wrote the Grande Symphonie funèbre et triomphale ( op. 15; 1840) for the line-up of the French Revolutionary Orchestra.

Street blowers in
New York around 1876

With the development of valves for brass instruments (Riedl in Vienna in 1832 and Périnet in Paris in 1839), brass players had full-fledged chromatic instruments at their disposal. This meant that the registers of the trumpets and horn instruments could also be chorally occupied and the instruments used to lead the melody . In addition, the invention of the valves meant that they were not only built into the natural trumpets and horns that had been in use until then, but that completely new instruments were developed. Examples of this are the sax horns that Adolphe Sax developed in Paris. In Prussia and Austria , too, new valve wind instruments - precursors of the tenor horn , baritone and tuba - were developed at the suggestion of military band masters .

As a result of industrialization and the economic boom in the first half of the 19th century, cities, for example, were able to found city music. In the British Isles it was industrialists who bought factory bands , the forerunners of the brass band .

The development of civil brass music was largely determined by military music, which on the one hand promoted the optimization of the instruments and then also tried out the orchestration of the orchestra with them. In addition, both on the continent and on the British Isles, former military musicians were often hired as conductors, most of whom also wrote the relevant literature.


Internationally, brass music is widespread almost all over the world and is cultivated by laypeople, especially in Central Europe and North America.

In the German-speaking area, it originated mainly in southern Germany , Switzerland , Austria and South Tyrol . It is mainly maintained there by associations, but can also be borne by municipalities. Although brass music is still a main focus in these areas, there were wind orchestras early on in northern and western Germany (e.g. mining bands). Another focus of brass music is the Czech Republic and Slovakia, as well as the Netherlands and Belgium.

Brass music today

Modern brass band at a concert (Burgerkorpskapelle Regau )

Today, wind bands are represented in many larger communities or cities and contribute to cultural life. Usually organized as an association, youth work in particular is taken very seriously. Instrumental training is either carried out with teachers from our own ranks or in cooperation with regional, public or private music schools or the club's own wind instruments . One example is the Havixbeck youth orchestra , which runs its own music school with now 600 students.

Since the mid-1990s, so-called wind classes have become increasingly popular . The traditional school music lessons are often replaced by the group making music in the wind class. In addition, the students in small groups receive basic training on their wind instruments from instrumental teachers.

In addition, so-called selection orchestras (e.g. district or regional wind orchestras) enable the refinement of instrumental play. These selected orchestras, which often also represent the Federal Republic of Germany on a cultural level abroad, are made up of musicians from various music associations in a region who have a certain level of skill in playing instruments.

In Germany, valuation games are organized at regular intervals by the individual federal states, to which every wind orchestra can register and compete with others. It is important to perform a compulsory piece and one or more freely selectable compositions. In order to do justice to the level of performance of the individual orchestras, they are divided into different levels, which are also reflected in the literature. This classification is as follows:

Entrance level - lower level - intermediate level - upper level - highest level - highest level (however these are very rare)

In Austria, such valuation games are organized by the Austrian Brass Music Association ; Wind orchestras can basically compete in five categories from A (very easy) to E (very difficult). In addition, there are regular competitions for youth wind orchestras, whose categories correspond to those of conventional wind orchestras (AJ to EJ and the special level SJ).


Since there are a wide variety of ensembles (big band, brass band, trombone choir, etc.) within brass music, it is impossible to perform a generally applicable, uniform line-up.

Basically, the instruments used in wind music are divided into:

Sometimes there is a more refined classification (see also registry guide ) into:

  • high sheet metal (e.g. trumpet, cornet)
  • deep brass (e.g. tuba, trombone, tenor horn)

This results in the different registers , which often combine instruments with the same voice (keyword: soprano , alto, tenor , bass).

Depending on the type of composition or musical genre, all voices and instrument types (registers) may or may not be present. This enables the typical sound of the various brass music styles to be achieved. A brass band that has no woodwinds has a different sound than, for example, a marching band that only has woodwinds (transverse flutes with soprano voices) and drums (percussion), or a big band that uses instruments like tuba, horn or flute dispensed with.

The so-called symphonic wind orchestra has the most extensive line-up . Brass and woodwinds are equally represented here and can thus achieve a similar sound and thus also a possible musical repertoire such as a classical symphony orchestra (which consists of strings and winds). This type of instrumentation is also called harmony instrumentation .

Brass music composer

Literature (sheet music)

The literature, i.e. H. The sheet music for wind orchestra can be divided into different categories:

Original compositions

These are works that have been specially composed for the orchestra orchestra.


Under transcriptions refers to works for wind that were originally written for a different instrumentation, for example, for symphony orchestra. Every transcription requires an adaptation of the score to the tonal character and the technical possibilities of the target instruments. Playing styles that are not suitable for the target instruments are simplified, for example because a violin part is reproduced by clarinets. Works whose key is very far from the basic tuning of wind instruments are often transposed into a B ♭ key , since these keys can be intoned more easily on wind instruments . With the rise of symphonic wind orchestras since around 1985, transcriptions that are very faithful to the work are increasingly appearing.


Usually as a compilation ( medley , potpourri ) of well-known melodies (often also film music or classical works), arrangements form an essential part of today's brass music repertoire.

Folk compositions

Original brass music compositions of folk music are referred to as popular. But pieces by smaller ensembles (Egerländer, Oberkrainer , etc.) are also arranged for wind orchestras.

The occupation and the level of proficiency (grading) are also taken into account. Very often, especially in the lower and intermediate level, the pieces of music are supplied with optional voices, so that they can be played with the smallest of ensembles. From high school, however, especially with symphonic wind music, "exotic" sounds such as bass clarinet , English horn or bassoon , but also double bass clarinet / bassoon or bass saxophone become an essential part of the overall sound composed. There is also good literature for children's and youth orchestras, where the line-up is often patchy. Pieces are composed of four to eight voices and a rhythmic voice. With these so-called parts, each individual voice can be played by any instrument with a suitable pitch. So every young musician can play a part that corresponds to his level of performance.


  • Fred Armbruester u. a .: On the culture of symphonic brass music - location and goals . In: M-music for reading , issue 2. Kirchheim / Teck 2001.
  • Werner Bodendorff: History of the blown music . Buchloe 2002.
  • Bernhard Habla: Line- up and instrumentation of the wind orchestra since the invention of the valves for brass instruments up to the Second World War in Austria and Germany . 2 volumes. Tutzing 1990.
  • Georg Ried: Wind music at a glance - Info - Data - Knowledge . Buchloe 1998.
  • Willy Schneider, Hans-Walter Berg: Handbook of brass music - expanded new version. Mainz 1986.
  • Wolfgang Suppan (Ed.): Wind music research since 1966 - A bibliography . Tutzing 2003.
  • Wolfgang and Armin Suppan: The new lexicon of brass music . 4th edition Freiburg-Tiengen 1994.
  • Gottfried Veit: The brass music - study of the historical development of the blown music . Innsbruck 1984.
  • Elmar Walter : Wind and brass music. Music between folk music, folk music, military music and art music . Tutzing 2011.

Web links

Wiktionary: brass music  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: marching band  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Georg Karstädt:  brass music. In: Friedrich Blume (Hrsg.): The music in past and present (MGG). First edition, Volume 1 (Aachen - Blumner). Bärenreiter / Metzler, Kassel et al. 1949, DNB 550439609 , Sp. 1906–1918, here Sp. 1906
  2. Wolfgang and Armin Suppan: The new lexicon of brass music , Blasmusikverlag Schulz, Freiburg / Breisgau 1994, ISBN 3-923058-07-1 .
  3. brass music . In: Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht (Ed.): Meyers Taschenlexikon Musik . tape 1 . Bibliographisches Institut, Mannheim / Vienna / Zurich 1984, ISBN 978-3-411-01996-0 , p. 121 .
  4. How we sound. In: Evangelical Trumpet Service in Germany , accessed on March 6, 2020 .
  5. see also: Flöte, section history
  6. Brass music rating games ( Retrieved January 4, 2017 .
  7. concert evaluation. Austrian Brass Music Association, accessed on August 30, 2018 (the competition rules can be found there as a PDF).
  8. ^ Youth brass music competitions. Austrian Brass Music Association, accessed on August 30, 2018 .