2010 British Open Championships - Introduction to Criteria Judging Experiment


In a joint collaboration, 4BR has teamed up with Steven Mead to trial a new criteria based adjudication system. Steven tells 4BR more about about it, and how it works...

MeadIt’s been a good year for healthy debate on brass band adjudication.

To carry the debate forward a system of criteria based judging will be trialled at the forthcoming British Open Brass Band contest at Symphony Hall, Birmingham.


It goes without saying that this is only an experiment and as normal the three official judges , whose decisions will be the only ones that really matter on the day, will be in the traditional adjudicators box, and their personal marking systems and discussions will decide who is to be crowned British Open Champions for 2010.

This system has been devised to allow an adjudicator to precisely reflect the aspects of a performance he or she has just listened to, with 10 categories, each scoring 1-20 points.

These categories are:

1. Pitch/correct notes
2. Rhythmic accuracy and clarity
3. Tempi
4. Dynamic range
5. Ensemble precision
6. Tuning/intonation
7. Sound quality
8. Balance
9. Quality of soloists
10. Artistic expression/musicality


As you can see from the mark sheet, the range of marks (1-20) is broken down into four divisions: Fair, Good , Very Good, Outstanding - and the accompanying criteria information sheet suggests how marks should be awarded, depending on the judges appraisal of each aspect of the performance.

At a first glance it may look a little complicated but it’s actually quite simple. The criteria information will be easy to remember, at least after the first one or two performances and can be referred to only when necessary.  


We invite anyone intending to be at Symphony Hall to download these forms, print them out and join us in trialling this system of marking.

Everyone who goes to band contests has an opinion on performances they listen to, often getting similar results to the official judge(s).

Likewise this often does not happen and audiences are left scratching their heads at the results. Perhaps it is time to think about a universal system for brass band judging which has transparency for participants, with a scheme of marking that should provide assistance to adjudicators.

First step

Whilst this particular system as unveiled here may not be by any means the definitive finished article it can be seen as a useful first step in establishing such a system.
The criteria as outlined here can be modified for lower section banding to reflect the different aspects of these performances but the basic 10 category principle could remain.

It is anticipated, even at the British Open quite a wide spread of marks perhaps from 130 to 190 making ties unlikely, but should a tie result the deciding mark would be the mark awarded for artistic expression/musicality. Should this mark also be tied a discretionary mark can be awarded.

As you can see from the sheet there is also a penalty mark system that can be enforced, of up to 5 marks, where it is deemed necessary.

In the open

This can only be considered where the judging in done in the open (ie no box/screen), and could be used for example for part swapping, excessive use of mutes for quiet playing etc.

This may be a controversial point but is perhaps a subject that needs addressing, and such a trial could raise some interesting discussion points.

At the end of the contest, the marks are turned into placings and the marks would not be announced from the stage, only the placings.

Where there are two or more judges, the aggregate placings would decide rank order and only if there was a tie would marks be taken into account.  


This system of judging could be used with or without the traditional judges box, but with the thrust of this system being transparency for all participants, it would in our opinion be better used in the open, but bands and contest organisers would have to decide this matter for themselves.  

Whilst at the forthcoming Open contest our ‘trial’ judges will offer their marks immediately after each performance, so that audience members can compare their own scores too, there is no reason why judges shouldn’t retain all their marks, for possible minor adjustments during the day.

That said, the strength of this system is that comparative marking is not the essence of this system, but rather it should be an accurate, detailed appraisal of the performance one has just listened to, with the comparative aspect being more to do with how the scores compare.

It is therefore important that a judge has a full grasp of the score before the contest begins, but we are right to expect this.

So, please download the forms, print as many as you need for the Open and have fun trying out this system for yourself.

We’d be pleased to get your feedback after the contest.  

Steven Mead & 4BR


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