Selecting Band Music for Contest – Specific Qualifications

These specifications can help you when you are selecting band music.  They are taken from Teaching Music through Performance in Beginning Band by Bruce Pearson.  I highly recommend this series of books as a reference when choosing band music.  The Grade 1 & 2 described below are publisher ratings.  Some states have music lists that may have different descriptions than the following list.

band music

  1. Meter
    1. Grade 1 Literature: 2/4, 4/4, 3/4 (More difficult grade 1 may have a time signature change within a piece, but there should be a definite stop to the music before continuing in a new meter.)
    2. Grade 2 Literature: Same as Grade 1 plus 3/8, 6/8, cut time

2. Rhythms

    1. Grade 1 Literature: Whole, dotted half, half, quarter, eighth, dotted quarter/eighth notes
    2. Grade 2 Literature: Same as Grade 1 plus basic syncopation, basic siteenth note rhythms and one beat triplets.
    3. Percussion rhythms may be more difficult
    4. Grade 1 & Grade 2 music should have a steady pulse and “rhythmic flow throughout the piece.

3. Technique

    1. Grade 1 Literature: stepwise eighth notes at quarter =100
    2. Grade 2 Literature: stepwise eighth notes at quarter=120

4. Range

    1. Grade 1 Literature:
      1. Flute: Low Eb – C the 2nd ledger above the staff
      2. Clarinet: Low E – Bb the 3rd line in the staff
      3. Trumpet/Cornet: Low Bb – D on the 4th line in the staff
      4. Trombone: Ab on the bottom space – C above the staff
    2. Grade 2 Literature: stepwise eighth notes at quarter=120
      1. Flute: Low C – High Eb
      2. Clarinet: Low E – High C
      3. Trumpet/Cornet: Low G – High F
      4. Trombone : Low F – High Eb

5. Melody

    1. Grade 1 Literature:
      1. Mostly steps and skips with larger leaps permissible in woodwinds
      2. Very limited use of accidentals
      3. Mostly four- and eight-measure phrases with adequate opportunities for breathing

                2. Grade 2 Literature:

      1. Steps, skips, and occasional leaps, within key, permissible in all instruments
      2. Predictable use of accidentals
      3. Occasional modal melodies
      4. Primarily four- and eight-measure phrases

6. Harmony

    1. Grade 1 Literature: Unisons, thirds, fourths (limited) fifths, sixths and octaves; triads.
    2. Grade 2 Literature: Same as Grade 1 plus primarily consonant intervals; Suspended triads and seventh chords

7. Key

    1. Grade 1 Literature: Concert Bb, Eb and F
    2. Grade 2 Literature: Concert Bb, Eb, F and Ab; g and c minor
      1. F major has many notes/chords with tuning problems.
      2. Eb may be the most inherently in-tune key for young bands.  However, it has range limitations.

8. Endurance

    1. Grade 1 Literature: Performance time generally should not exceed 2’ 30”
    2. Grade 2 Literature: Performance time generally should not exceed 3’ 30” unless adequate resting time is provided

band music

If you are looking for some general considerations when selecting band music please read our first post on this subject – Selecting Band Music for Contest – General Guidelines

Related Reading:
Band Seating Chart (free template)
Motivate your Band – Countdown to Contest
Choosing Literature for Success at Contest – Every Concert Has a Purpose
Teach Style First

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