3. Band Scores

Scores for bands were the most recent to arrive on the instrumental scene. The way band music evolved influenced the kinds of scores used over time. Many compositions for bands in the 19th century were marches or ceremonial music, for which no full scores were usually written. Some of this repertoire was printed only as a piano score and, since band instrumentations varied greatly, it was the bandleader’s job to orchestrate it and prepare the parts to better fit the available instruments. When parts began to be printed, publishing companies would print a clarinet/conductor part or a cornet/conductor part which, besides having the main melodic lines, also included important cues from other instrument lines.

Example 2: La Farge, “Amina” Medley: Solo or 1st B-flat Cornet (Conductor) part – note the cues for what others are playing during the rests.

Some concert works would have a two- or three-line conductor’s score, often called a “condensed” score. This convention of printing condensed scores, sometimes containing as many as four or five lines, remained well into the 20th century, with full band scores used mostly for serious concert music with very intricate orchestrations. That being said, notable exceptions did exist. One of these is Percy Grainger’s Lincolnshire Posy, which, being a major concert work for band with a rich and complex instrumentation, was first published in a condensed score format.

Example3: Grainger, Lincolnshire Posy: 4. “The Brisk Young Sailor”

This is Percy Grainger’s Lincolnshire Posy in its original edition as a condensed score. The top line, in treble clef, shows, mostly, the high-pitched instruments. The bottom line, in bass clef, shows, mostly, the low-pitched instruments. The middle line exhibits whatever clef is necessary to account for the remaining instruments In this condensed score of Grainger’s music, the indication of the instrumentation is very detailed, with very detailed indications of what each instrument or section is playing. However, a more common way for publishers to signal a change in the orchestration, in condensed scores,  would be to use a plus sign (+) or write “add” to show that a particular instrument is beginning to play, and a minus sign (-) showing an instrument dropping out. 

Example 4: Gardell Simons, Atlantic Zephyrs – note the change in orchestrations signalled with “add”

Since the pitch does not need to be specified for unpitched percussion instruments, they are often assigned to a single line located below or sometimes between the other staves. In some scores, percussion instruments may be included on one of the other systems or omitted throughout if their role is very basic or straightforward. Since condensed scores are usually in concert pitch, they can be played at the piano for study or sectional rehearsals and allow for fewer page turns during a concert. However, in rehearsal, the lack of detailed information on dynamics, articulation and even orchestration pose a number of immense obstacles to the conductor since one’s ability to conduct an effective rehearsal is predicated on knowing precisely what each player has in the respective part.

This habit of publishing condensed scores has mostly disappeared, and even new editions of historical works have been produced in full scores. One example is Federick Fennell’s full score edition of  Lincolnshire Posy. You are encouraged to look up this edition and compare it to the original condensed edition which is public domain and can be downloaded at imslp. 

The conductor should be aware that there remain numerous older band works and marches with condensed scores that have not been republished and will probably never be updated. Yet with some effort, they could be made worthwhile and playable. The style of notating the orchestration and musical details used by Grainger in his condensed scores might serve as a good example of how to make these older works more usable. The modern band full score tends to follow the vertical logic of organising the instruments vertically from high pitched to low pitched, by families, with some variations regarding the vertical position of bassoons and horns.  Some composers and editors place the bassoons just below the oboes and before the clarinet family, while others place them below the clarinet family, just before the saxophones As for the horns, they might be written in the orchestral tradition, before the cornets or trumpets, or between these and the trombones. Some composers, notably Vincent Persichetti, write the euphonium/baritone part between the horns and the trombones, especially when they tend to use it as a support for the low horn parts.

Brass band scores are unique. They usually present all of the instruments in the treble clef, written in either E-flat or B-flat, with the lower B-flat brass instruments playing down a major 9th or 16th, for example, and the only instrument written in concert pitch being the bass trombone.

Example 5: Holst, A Moorside Suite, H.173: 1. Scherzo

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