People who play instruments in high school and college typically play in one of two ensembles. The first half of the school year, generally in the summer and fall, is marching band season. The second half of the year, usually in the winter and spring, is concert band season. Even with similar instrumentation and music, these two types of bands vary greatly in environment and technique.
Weather means nothing to the marching band. Heat, rain, cold, wind: none of it will keep the marching band from going outside and running drill, even if they have to practice in the parking lot. The marching band is always outdoors, learning and perfecting music and drill. Every member of is sweating and tired and waiting for “one more time” to finally be true. The band is outside for eight hours, Monday through Friday, for two weeks of band camp, working hard to complete the basic show, generally in high heat and sunny weather.
The marching band also has to worry about marching across various surfaces. Most commonly, they are on football fields, but those fields can be smooth turf or sloppy dirt, which affects how conscious band members must be of their feet. Marching bands can also march on pavement, which can vary from flat and level to rough and pitted, for parades, and members need to be able to have a uniform look with the rest of the band. This is always easier on a level surface than a pitted one.
Concert bands never have to worry about weather or whether they are going to suffer from heat stroke while practicing. They are always indoors, safely hidden away from any form of precipitation or high temperatures. There is less worry over how they need to fix intonation or tuning. In an auditorium, the temperature is controlled, and it is less likely to affect instruments and tuning.
A concert band is also consistently sitting down, whether on a stage or in a band hall. It does not matter too much whether the floor is smooth or bumpy; it hardly affects them when they are sitting. Their chairs get set up and the performers sit; there is no moving around that would cause them to worry about stumbling and making a mistake in their music.
Music for a marching band can often be quite difficult, especially when players are moving around on a field, trying to keep a consistent tone. Marchers typically must memorize their music before they begin to learn drill at band camp. Few bands will allow members to perform using lyres and flip folders.
Memorizing just the notes and rhythms to music is difficult, but members must also remember all articulation markings and dynamics, as well as tempo changes, key signature changes, and time signature changes. A few of these items may be cued by the drum major or conductor, but most must be memorized by the players before they begin to learn their drill.
A concert band’s music is harder than a marching band’s music, and they never have to properly memorize the music.They may accidentally memorize a part they enjoy playing, but when they need to perform, concert band members have their music sitting on a stand in front of them. They can clearly see dynamic and tempo changes, and see when a key or time signature switches in the music.
Like marching bands, concert bands work really hard to be able to perform their music properly and correctly, articulating staccatos and accents to emphasize aspects of the music. Music is written to elicit some form of emotional response from people, whether composers intend for a specific reaction or not. It is the performer’s job to accurately convey the emotions being written about, whether somber or angry or cheerful.
Marching bands must achieve this while marching around in various formations, and they have to remember both the music and the blocks they should be forming. Most members in a marching band need to be able to have the same fluidity and control over their music at a slow ninety beats per minute as at a quick one sixty beats per minute.
For concert band members, this is more easily achieved. They do not have to recall their music from memory while moving around on a field at high tempos. They are able to look at and perform from their sheet music. Tempos affect them slightly less, as they are not moving. Their breathing is easier while sitting, which makes it easier for those performers to worry about the music instead.
Along with performing the music accurately, marching band members must worry about their marching techniques and styles. Most corps-style marching bands use the roll step when marching. This involvespopping up their toes and rolling on their feet when they are marching forward, and walking on the balls of their feet when they are marching backward. When moving laterally, wind players and guard members turn at the waist to roll step to the left or right. Members of the drumline march laterally using the crab step which involves crossing one leg in front of the other on the balls of their feet. While they do all of this with their legs and feet, marchers also have to lift up their rib cages to allow better air support while playing.
The only marching band members that do not have to worry about marching is the percussionists in the front ensemble. The front ensemble must perform music and they will occasionally use their bodies to emphasize some parts of the music such as dynamics and time signatures.
In concert bands, wind players are always seated. They must be sat on the edge of their chairs, back straight and shoulders pulled back. This makes it easier for them to breathe and keep their notes supported while playing. Players must also keep their feet flat on the floor, only lightly tapping their toes to keep the beat; otherwise, members are sitting rather still. The percussionists stand in the back and stand mostly still, bouncing slightly with the beat to keep time.
Both marching bands and concert bands are combinations of the same instruments. Both groups have woodwind players, brass players, and percussionists. All of these players must be able to balance their playing evenly to perform. The only section that marching band has that concert band does not is the color guard. This group of people performs the majority of visuals using various flags and weapons.
Marching bands and concert bands are both full of incredibly hardworking people who enjoy playing and performing music. All of the performers work hard to play music beautifully with proper techniques.