Instruments Used in Modern Military March Music

Modern military marches no longer require bands to march through the streets or thrust themselves into battle. Military march music can command standard wind, percussion and keyboard forces in the music. The performers in a military band are full-time music professionals that specialize in a specific instrument. Throughout history, military bands have provided music for funerals, military functions, celebrations, and ceremonies.


Brass instruments play a crucial role in creating forceful melodic lines. The brass section is the powerhouse of the ensemble and creates a homogeneous sound when played simultaneously. The materials used in the construction of these instruments are varying types of brass and metal. All brass instruments use a mouthpiece to create vibration and are made of varying types of metal and brass.

These instruments create strong accents, powerful melodic lines, and double well with woodwind instruments. The most commonly used brass instruments include in order from highest to lowest: trumpet, cornet, horn, trombone, euphonium, baritone horn and tuba.

These instruments can be further broken down into high, middle, and low brass. The high brass includes the trumpets and cornets, middle brass are the horns, and the low brass includes trombones, bass trombone, euphonium, baritone horn and tuba.


Woodwind instruments provide melody and supporting elements in a composition.

Woodwinds are more delicate in sound and categorized because of their ability to create sound by using reeds and the material used in construction. The exception to this is the flute. The flute is a woodwind because historically it was a wooden instrument.

In order of the instrument capable of the highest pitch to the lowest are the piccolo, flute, oboe, English horn, e flat clarinet, b flat clarinet, bassoon, bass clarinet and contrabassoon.

These instruments combine with other members of the ensemble to create varying timbres, effects, highlight and feature melodic elements and flourishes within the music.


Percussion provides the motor and rhythmic pulse of the music.

The percussion section is vast and is as varied as the composer's imagination. Percussion is broken up into pitched and non-pitched, mallets and non-mallet categories.

The pitched and mallet percussion include instruments like the timpani, xylophone, marimba, vibraphone, glockenspiel and tubular bells. The non-pitched mallet instruments include the typical bass drum, snare drum, toms, battery percussion, and gongs.

In addition to the standard instruments, the percussion section also includes crotales, wind chimes, triangle and various other small percussion instruments as they are called for in the instrumentation.


Pianos are becoming more common in military music.

The keyboards traditionally were not included in the military band, but in modern groups, they find themselves sitting comfortably by the low brass or in some cases in front of the percussion and behind the woodwinds. The keyboard instruments can be played by a pianist; or in the case of the celesta, by a percussionist. The two main keyboard instruments found in the military band include the piano and celesta.


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