How to Arrange Marching Band Music

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Marching bands have long attracted audiences at competitions, parades and athletic events, exciting both the spectators and the musicians. Often, directors wish to incorporate popular pieces into the marching band repertoire. Although not all popular pieces are available in suitable arrangements, with some time and energy, you can arrange almost any music for a marching band.

Things You'll Need

  • Music you want to arrange
  • Staff paper and/or music software program

Preparation

  • Obtain sheet music for the piece you wish to arrange (get a hard copy or transcribe it aurally).

  • Analyze the music, identifying the melody and the harmonic progression.

  • Note additional elements, such as counter-melodies, dynamics, important rhythms and tempo changes.

  • List the instruments you need parts for. Marching bands usually consist of woodwinds, brass and percussion instruments.

  • Outline the melodic progression. Plan: Which instruments will have the melody? At what point? Where will it move next?

  • Outline the harmonic progression. Plan: Which instruments will have the harmony? At what point? Where will it move next?

Arranging the Music

  • Set up the score on staff paper or a computer music program (such as Finale or Sibelius).

  • Notate the key signature and time signature.

  • Write out the melody.

  • Write out the harmony.

  • Add dynamics and phrasing.

  • Scan the piece, looking for: transposition errors, melodic errors, harmonic errors, rhythmic errors and "holes" (parts you forgot to write).

  • Save and/or make copies of the music manuscript.

  • Write out individual parts based off your score and distribute them to your musicians.

  • Rehearse and make any corrections necessary. Have fun!

Tips & Warnings

  • You may wish to first write out block chords for the harmony and then embellish or "fill in" the chords.
  • Practice your arranging skills by arranging pieces for small ensembles first and then working up to larger ensembles.
  • Look at examples of arranged pieces.
  • Share ideas and arrangements with fellow marching band directors.
  • If you are still having trouble or are short on time, there are companies that will arrange music for you, such as Marching.com. However, you must pay for these services.
  • Be sure to credit the original composer/artist.
  • Make sure no part exceeds the range of the instrument.
  • Make sure you have transposed each instrument's part to the proper key.

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