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We begin our contests the morning of the festival.  We urge you to purchase your contestant ticket, and send in your applications early.  Entries will be accepted on a first come, first served basis until each category is full.  Late applications will be wait-listed.  

All contestants must have a purchased ticket in order to compete.  



The Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest is open to any amateur and aspiring musician.  

An amateur is defined as a musician who has not earned more than 50% of their income from performances, related royalties, net advances, or works for hire in the past year.   

We do not have a Professional competition category.  Contact our registrar if you have a special circumstance.


Musicians that have won first place in the past 3 years of the TBFC contest are not eligible to compete in the same category.  We encourage you to try a different category!


Music teachers will receive a ONE free entry ticket if your student enters a TBFC contest.


Any TBFC Board member, independent contractors for TBFC are not eligible.  


The methodologies used by the contest have developed over the years and will continue to do so as new suggestions are received and considered.

Judging is based upon a 100-point scale using the following guidelines:


 Scoring Considerations:







Other Considerations:

•Pitch: Instrument tuning and proper bridge placement

•Rhythm: Measure-to-measure as well as the entire number (speed-up / slow-down). tempo changes are intentional.

•Musicianship: Based upon the overall performance. Was it tasteful and dynamic? Was it entertaining?

•Technique: Technical competence including fingering, bowing, picking, etc.

•Stage Presence: An average score of five is enhanced or diminished depending upon presentation.

Timing: Numbers MUST complete in three (3) minutes or judges will deduct ten (10) points.

Back-up: While no extra credit is given for the presence of a superior back-up, points may be deducted for a poor performance.

Material: Since the judges may have no way of knowing the origin of music or style, only the performance may be considered.

Difficulty: Judges will consider the difficulty of the piece as performed when deducting for mistakes.

Fiddle: When competing in the Fiddle category, no other fiddle may be played on the stage at the same time.


A band consists of at least three members including at least one banjo, fiddle or mandolin.

•Each band shall play two numbers: 

One of which shall be an instrumental.

The other shall have two or more members singing in harmony with instrumental back-up, and may include breaks and runs.

Entries deviating from this requirement shall have no score awarded. Both numbers MUST complete within six (6) minutes.

Band Scoring Considerations:







Other Band Considerations:

•Performance: Entertaining, connect with the audience, stay within the time constraints, comfortable on stage

•Timing: Numbers MUST complete within six (6) minutes or judges will deduct ten (10) points.

•Instrumental Number:

Pitch/Rhythm: Instruments in tune with clear tonal qualities. Maintain a good steady tempo that others are able to follow.
Technical Ability: Technique, degree of instrument proficiency of each of the band members, difficulty of piece.

Musicianship: Group instrumental blend, back each other up well, play well together to create a "band sound," use of microphones, song selection.

Vocal Number:

Pitch/Rhythm: Everyone sings in tune, voice quality, good steady tempo
Instrumental Support: Proficient backup, tasteful, create a good blend, good solos/breaks, timing, nice fills and runs

Harmony Blend: Blend is what makes a great vocal band - complexity, smoothness, tasteful, original "band sound"


Any song may be performed but in general, songs should be chosen that will allow the judges to rate your performance and the quality of your singing.
Contestants are judged on Pitch, Enunciation, Sound Quality, Rhythm, Style, Material and Stage Presence.

  • Songs should not be profane, rushed or excessively loud.

  • Lyrics should be clear and understandable.

  • Objectionable material or interpretation will result in disqualification.

  • All Songs MUST complete within three minutes.

  • Timing: Numbers MUST complete within three (3) minutes or judges will deduct ten (10) points.

  • Groups may compete in the Singing category and will be judged together as one.







Other Considerations:


•Enunciation: Can the words be understood?

Pitch: In tune with instruments? Absolute pitch if unaccompanied. Instruments in tune?

•Rhythm / Pace: Style:In time with back-up? Pace suitable for chosen song?

•Style: Is the style consistent with the song and its traditions?


Other Considerations:

The back-up instrument should provide a steady rhythm, pace and complementary runs. Attempts to 'dazzle' detract from the performance of the contestant.

•Fiddle: If a fiddle is to be judged in any category, there must be only one fiddle being played on stage.




•Pick material that is within your capabilities. Even though difficulty is considered, the point system penalizes mistakes and unevenness far more than it rewards dazzling technique.

•Keep an even tempo. Start on the slow side and try not to speed up. Rehearse, with your back-up if applicable.

•Observe how others utilize the microphones. Crowding them causes distortion, but you must be heard to be judged.


•If you wish to improve your performance for next year, send a request to the registrar to have your scores sent to you. It is valuable to know in which areas you were strong or need improvement, and to see how you fared compared to the winners in your category. Requests may be requested via email at after the contest.

• Your Contestant Registration Fee allows you to compete in more than one category.

 This can sometimes be tricky as some competitions happen at the same time, but we will do our best to accommodate you.

• Have fun!  Many of us started off in the beginner category.  You gotta start somewhere!

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