The Indiana Brass Band


Site Index




Keyed Band at Harper's Ferry


The Keyed Band



The Indiana Keyed Brass Band is a organization representing the musical technology of the 1830's, which is a period in our musical history that is not well known. It was a time of transition and the instruments were experimental. They were state of the art, but did not remain so for long.

Keyed brass began sometime around the 1780's, and lasted a hundred years. They remained as the state of the art for only a few years. The ophicleide was invented by Halliday in approximately 1828. Weidinger was making keyed trumpets beginning around 1801, and one of his horns was used to play Haydn's Trumpet Concerto the same year. Joseph Halliday patented the keyed bugle circa 1810.

The early 1800's were a time of much experimentation in the design of musical instruments. Natural HornAlthough, there had long been natural trumpets, trombones and natural horns, they were either not agile enough to play complex musical passages, or in the case of the trombones were considered to be sacred rather than secular instruments.

IBB Band members

Music was also 'moving outdoors'. As music left the chamber halls where only the elite could enjoy it, the inadequacy of the strings, and woodwinds became apparent. The sound that could fill a concert hall with joyous noise became a thin whisper outside.

Military organizations wanted music associated with them. Military Bands were a wonderful advertisement. In a day when you either heard music live - or did without; a band was a powerful attraction.

So, much experimentation was directed at providing military bands with instruments that could conquer the out of doors. Brass instruments had the power to project sound, but except in the hands of highly skilled professionals, they were not articulate enough to play but some notes of the scale without making rather slow adjustments.

The Director of the IBB

A family of bugles were developed that merged the brass horn and mouth piece with the keying found on woodwind instruments. The melodic voice was known as the Kent Bugle, the alto voice was the Quinticlav, and the bass voice was the Ophicleide.The ophicleide was invented by Halliday in approximately 1828.

So, why did keyed instruments surge in popularity AFTER the invention of the valve? Was it because the technology of the valve was too demanding for most shops, or too expensive?

Part of the reason was that people liked the keyed brasswinds is because the sound had character. And by all accounts, one of the biggest differences between keyed and valved brass is that the personality of the performer comes through in a more pronounced manner with keyed brasswinds. How the instrument performs depends more upon the player than with valved brass.

And communities clamored for music. Music for celebrations, festivals, political event, dances and even funerals. Community events were primarily outside, so the brass band naturally was invited to provide the music. And, the music was wide ranging. The music of the early part of the century was simple both harmonically and in technical challenge. But as the years progressed, so did the ability of the performers, and the complexity of the music increased as well. Some of the repertoire is simple dance music, much of it is march music, but the band book also contained sophisticated renditions of classical and operatic selections, and pieces that showcased the performers. The band has a special fondness of the music of Francis Johnson, an early band leader in the Philadelphia area.

The Indiana Brass Keyed Band recreates this early band in the style of the bands of that day by using the Kent bugles, quinticlavs, ophicleides, cornopeans, trombones, natural and piston horns, and percussion; and occasionally with a little help from our woodwind and string friends.

Lead Bugle in the IBB IBB at Old Economy Village with woods and strings Quinticlav, Ophicleide, and Horn

The current Indiana Brass Band represents the historical bands in three different configurations that include: