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What makes a good marching band?

There are many qualities that make a good marching band. However, to the viewer some are obvious while others are not. Dedication, respect, unity, discipline, and sound are only a few of the many characteristics of a good band.

One of the most important traits of a good marching band is dedication. This means that the band members must attend practices everyday and never miss a performance. The marching band should be above everything but family. If a band member works, his work schedule should revolve around practices and performances. Furthermore, dedicated students are rarely ever late for practice, whereas undedicated students have a tendency to wander in after practice has begun. Dedicated band members also know their music from memory, if in fact that is required, while others are struggling to remember even the first note. Without dedication, it is almost impossible for a band to become better.

Another important aspect of a good marching band is respect. This includes not only respect for the band director, but also for the drum majors, section leaders, other band members, water girls and boys, and the parents of fellow students. Without respect, the bandís discipline level can decline so much that to reinstall it would take major reformation. Respect is what makes tardy band members obey the disciplinary orders of their section leaders. Without respect for section leaders, otherwise known as the two people who are in charge of a particular section, the students will disobey and argue with their superiors. This respect must be for assistant section leaders as well, who are often juniors or sophomores and are younger than several unranked section members. Without respect, seniors and other upperclassmen would be walking all over younger assistants. The need for respect of the band director is dire. Lack of respect causes more discipline problems, unruly behavior, as well as other problems. Also, without respect for the parents, many of whom spend all their free time attempting to improve the band, they might cease to help. Basically, without respect for everyone connected with the band in any way, the bandís performance can suffer greatly.

Discipline is a major component of a good marching band. This means that band members are to refrain from talking, getting out of line, yelling to the drum major, talking back to the superiors, and more. Discipline is also what keeps the band members at attention when called to it. This also keeps them under control. Respect and discipline actually overlap. Without respect, band members will disobey and be unruly. Without discipline, band members will not have respect for their superiors. There canít be respect without discipline, and vice versa. However, discipline can also mean a form of punishment for out of control band members. Discipline can be one of many ways, some of which are jumping jacks, push ups, attention by numbers, and running. These means of disciplinary action lead to a more disciplined and well-behaved, as well as controlled, band. After a student does enough exercise, he will learn to keep himself in check.

One of the absolute most important ingredients of a good marching band is unity. Not only in appearance, but also as a group of young people. Unity in appearance involves marching at the same height, at the same time, on the same foot, with the instruments carried at the same level. Furthermore, dances should be done by every band member, even those without rhythm, at the same time and in the same way. The major example of unity in appearance is the bandís uniforms. There should be absolutely no variation whatsoever in the designated uniform, everyone should look exactly the same. For example, the shoes should be the right color, hats should be worn correctly, and all other required articles should be worn. Also, there should be no beads worn during parades, and definitely no bandanas or such worn beneath the hats under any circumstances. All of the above distinguish the band members from one another, which is not unity in appearance. Generally, bands that look together and alike get more notice and camera time. However, unity does not just mean looking the same while performing. It can also involve the band being a family of sorts. The parents and other adults would be considered the parents of the group, while the actual band members are the children. Just like in a family, the underclassmen, or the younger children, look up to and take after the upperclassmen, or the older children. There should be none, or very few, conflicts inside the band and it should be a happy, unified and properly functioning family. Even though the band is made up of many individuals, during performances they act as one. If one person messes up, the band messes up. The band should act as a whole, or be unified as a group.

Another characteristic of a good marching band is sound. This is based more upon the ability to play together well and balance rather than the actual level of musicianship. All the instruments, from the flutes to the trumpets to the drums, should blend in such a way as to create a good, full sound. Horns should not be overblown, nor should drums be hit in such a way so that they drown out the horns. They should all balance so that the listener can hear all of them, not just the drums or the trumpets or the tubas. The musicians should be able to play their instruments so that a good, loud sound is created, but not so loud that it drowns out another instrument or is out of tune. The overall sound of the entire band should be loud, but loud does not always equal good. Which means that the notes, dynamics, and phrasing should also be correct. When the musicians play correctly and loud, but not too loud, the sound will be one of great quality. A good sound is one of the things that viewers and listeners notice the most. The actual musicians donít have to have an obscene level of talent, they just need to be able to play their part sufficiently.

Dedication, respect, unity, discipline, and sound are only a few of the many, many characteristics of a good marching band. Several are noticeable by the viewing public, while others are not. For example, sound and uniforms are noticeable, but respect and dedication are not. There is more to a marching band that meets the eye. Not all bands function exactly the same, but the system for a functioning marching band is basically unchanged from band to band. All marching bands, whether corps style or show band, need the same basic ingredients to achieve the goal of a good marching band.