Instruments of the Marching Band

As with almost everything regarding the band, there are the traditions of more conventional marching bands, and then there’s the way the Columbia University Marching Band does it.

This is true in regard to the Columbia University Marching Band’s use of instruments. Traditional marching bands, with members sometimes numbering in the hundreds, feature almost every kind of band instrument, including woodwinds, brass, and percussion. This clip shows the basic marching band format, with brass, percussion, and woodwinds marching (walking) in order.

Often times at larger, more stationary venues, instruments that are fairly immobile (think timpani) remain in a front ensemble where they can be heard but do not have to march.

While the Columbia University Marching Band is much smaller, it still is still able to offer a full marching band ensemble, with a number of woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments generally at each show, like in the photos below.

A small, but complete band

The Columbia University Marching Band differentiates itself from traditional marching bands both in the way it puts on a show (preferring a scramble band format, click here to see an example) and in the instruments it chooses for its performances. Often the band features a miscie (pronounced Miss Key, short for miscellaneous) instrument, which is a non-musical object that gets called to serve as an instrument during a show. For example:


Other miscie instruments have ranged from a steel mailbox to a bench stolen from the University of Pennsylvania stadium. Besides playing miscie instruments, miscies – people in the band who do not play instruments – also read scripts, hold music for band members, dance, or provide other entertainment, helping make the Cleverest Band in the World even more clever.

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