Marching Band Instruments

Marching band members in a parade
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Musical instruments that are used in marching bands include woodwind, brass and percussion instruments or other instruments that can be carried and played while walking. Here are some instruments that marching bands use in their performances.

Brass Instruments

Cornet - The trumpet and cornet are quite similar; they are usually pitched in B flat, both are transposing instruments and they both have valves. But whereas the trumpet is used in jazz bands, the cornet is usually used in brass bands. Trumpets also have a more powerful sound and have a cylindrical bore. Cornets, on the other hand, have a conical bore.

Trumpet - Although the trumpet underwent changes during the Renaissance, it has been in existence far longer than that. Used at first for military purposes, studies show that ancient people used materials such as animal horns for similar purposes, for example, to announce danger.

Tuba - The tuba is deep-sounding and is the largest instrument of the brasswind family. Like the trombone, music for the tuba can either be written in the bass or treble clef. Although it doesn't require as much lung-power as the trumpet, the tuba can be difficult to handle due to its size.

French Horn - Horns were used in operas during the 1600s, especially when a hunting scene is included. The main characteristic of a French horn that makes it stand-out is that its bell points backward. In marching bands, the mellophone is a type of French horn used with the bell pointing forward.


Clarinet - The clarinet has undergone many changes and innovations through the years. From its first inception during the late 1600s to today's clarinet models, this musical instrument has certainly gone a long way. Due to the many improvements it underwent, different types of clarinets were made throughout the years.

Flute - The flute is considered one of the oldest man-made musical instruments. In 1995, archaeologists found in Eastern Europe a flute made of bone that dates back some 43,000 to 80,000 years old.

Oboe - The name oboe is a German word, it is hautbois in French. The oboe originated from the shawm, an instrument used for outdoor ceremonies. During the 17th century, the oboe became one of the leading solo instruments used in the military and orchestras. Oboes used to have only 2 keys.

Saxophone - Saxophones come in a variety of sizes and types; the alto sax, tenor sax and the baritone sax are the most commonly used in marching bands. Considered to be newer than other musical instruments in terms of its music history, the saxophone was invented by Antoine-Joseph (Adolphe) Sax.

Percussion Instruments

Bass Drum - The bass drum is a percussion instrument and is the lowest and largest member of the drum family. Bass drums are used in orchestral music as well as marching bands.

Cymbals - Percussions are music instruments that are either struck, shaken or scraped and may or may not have pitch. Cymbals are a perfect example of a non-pitched percussion instrument. The type that is used in marching bands is called crash cymbals.

Glockenspiel - Musical instruments may either be tuned or untuned. Examples of untuned instruments are cymbals and snare drum while other percussion instruments such as the glockenspiel are tuned.

Timpani - Timpanis emerged from kettle drums that were used in military and royal parades in India. The use of kettledrums then spread to Europe and was later adapted by classical composers (i.e. Bach and Handel) for the symphony orchestra.

Xylophone - Modern-day xylophones are supported by frames and have metal resonator tubes. In Indonesia, the gambang is a type of xylophone that ranges from 3 1/2 to 4 octaves. It is said to have existed as early as 8th century. Another form of xylophone is the African amadinda also known as marimba in Latin America.