Develop a balance sound in marching band

Arranging music for a marching band is a challenge, and getting the musical performance you want out of your members is even more difficult. However, it is possible to get a blended, balanced sound from your marching band if you follow some simple steps.

  • 1
    Pick the right repertoire. So many band directors pick music they like, which is great if your students can play it well. Pieces of music that are too difficult, too esoteric, or just not a good fit for your band will never result in good sound. Pick music that is appropriate for your members' talent levels.

  • 2
    Take a good look at your membership, and move people around if necessary. If you have 30 trumpets and 3 mellophones, you may want to see if you can get some of your second or third trumpets to play mello for the marching season.

  • 3
    Communicate with your arranger. Instead of just handing over the concept tape and telling the arranger what parts you want in the show, make sure he knows exactly how many people you have on each instrument, and what your strongest and weakest sections are. Send a tape of your last concert performance so he can get a feel for your band; let him know about your band's general style and musicianship.

  • 4
    Involve your visual caption head, drill writer and color guard choreographer. These people often have considerable concert and musical experience themselves, so try not to think of them as just the movement guys. They can let you know what they envision visually, so that you can map out what sections need to be where on the field for features. This information is invaluable to your arranger, and will help him write the sound balance into the parts so you don't have to teach it in during rehearsals.

  • 5
    Devote some class periods to concert rehearsal. This can be once or twice a week or bi-weekly. During marching season when everyone is preparing for competitions, it may seem counterintuitive to stay in the band room instead of heading out to the field. But taking some days to refocus on music theory, listening, tuning and balancing can have substantial effects on your outdoor program.

  • 6
    Teach your members good marching technique and posture. You cannot achieve a balanced sound when you are hearing their feet through their horns. If they are not marching well, the jarring motion will cause their tone to go all over the place. If they are not holding their upper bodies correctly or carrying their instruments correctly, they are probably not breathing correctly.

  • 7
    Tell your members to watch the drum major(s) and to listen. To keep phasing to a minimum, the drummers' eyes need to be glued on the drum majors' hands, and the rest of the band should be watching the drum major(s) as well as listening to the beat of the percussion.

  • 8
    Remind them to listen to their neighbors and to use their peripheral vision to make sure they are maintaining their forms. You want your marching band to sound balanced, so that means each section needs to balance against those around them. Teach them to transfer their concert listening skills to the field. Making sure they hit their dots and keep their forms in transition between pages will help the musical/visual coordination.

  • 9
    Be smart about how you rehearse. Develop an agenda for each rehearsal, and have a standard process in place that directs how rehearsals are run. Stay consistent with this rehearsal process, and your members will be thinking about their musical and visual work instead of wondering what's going on.


    I will give it a try and follow the mentioned points. Thanks in advance. Best of luck to me as well.

    band arrangers