How To Lead a Marching Band

In the school setting, the marching band is becoming almost equally as entertaining as the actual football game. The members and leaders even work as hard as the football team! If you want to lead a marching band, there are a few skills you need acquire if you do not yet have them: knowledge of music theory, knowledge of at least one musical instrument, mastery of conducting technique, the ability to keep a steady tempo, knowledge of basic marching technique and how to read position charts, and most importantly, the ability to lead a large number of people.

  1. The first thing you need to do when leading a marching band at the beginning of marching season is to make sure all members of the band have working instruments. It's very difficult to lead a well-functioning marching band if too many individuals don't have properly working instruments.
  2. The next thing is to start practicing the music for the marching band's show. There are a few different styles of practices you can implement as a field commander. The first, obviously, is to have practice with the entire band present. This helps the band recognize cues on the field by hearing all the different melodies and harmonies. It also helps you, the leader, to hear the music in order to develop the conducting routines for the songs. The second type is to have practices by instrument types. This means to divide the band into woodwinds and brass. This allows for more individual attention to the different parts but still allows the band to recognize cues through hearing the different parts of the song together. The last type of practice is to divide the band further into sections. This means that the trumpets practice alone, the clarinets practice alone, the percussionists practice alone, etc. This allows for excellent individual attention for parts of the song that may have tricky rhythms or keys. For this type of practice, you should probably keep doing rounds of each section to make sure they're all actually working and not goofing off.
  3. While at first you start with the music, it is important to start this step soon after you start teaching the music, and you must continue both steps simultaneously through the whole marching band season. This step is to drill on marching technique and to teach the charts for the show. Depending on the level of band, you may also want to start physical conditioning as well, because one must be in shape to be able to keep enough air to play and to march at quick tempos. There are quite a few drills that can be done, but the best ones to do are 8 steps per 5 yards drills, backwards marching drills, roll step drills, and slide drills. Once the new members know how to march, start teaching the charts for the show. Start out slowly, going from chart to chart just finding the positions. Then, start having them march through each position slowly. Finally, start having them play the music while marching at the same time.
  4. The final step is to prepare your drum major conducting routine. It is very important to practice your routine often, as it must be consistent for the marchers. It will be very difficult for them to know what you want if you continuously change one of your only mediums of showing what you want.


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