Prepare for Marching Band!

action shot of marching band feet on parade


Marching band is starting up! Whether your student is new to their program or a seasoned professional, there are probably a few things they can be reminded of before getting out on the field.

Before starting

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Pick the right instrument

Decide what instrument you’re going to use before stepping on the field. Being outside means instruments risk being dropped, bent, clogged, getting wet, or left out in heat. High end or high priced instruments (probably) don’t belong on the field. Ask yourself: Is this a concert instrument or a marching one?

  • The less wood on the field, the better. Wood instruments are the most susceptible to drastic temperatures and harsh conditions, so use a resonite (plastic) instrument if you’re able. You sacrifice a little tone quality, but it is more resilient.
  • Brass is less vulnerable to the elements than wooden instruments, but be wary of what type of brass you take out. Silver is a softer metal and will dent more easily than yellow brass.

On the field

Keep it clean

Pay closer attention to instrument upkeep during marching band season. They need to stay clean and dry, which is harder around this time.

  • Woodwind players will need to swab their instrument after every session. If it’s put away damp it risks peeling lacquer or warping wood. You can also consider storing your swabs and cleaning cloths in a case outside or separate from your instrument. It will be damp after cleaning and shouldn’t come in contact with your instrument. Otherwise all the extra attention is pointless!
  • Oil your brass instrument regularly. Valve oil has a dual purpose: it lubricates the mechanism but also keeps it clean. Damp or dirty brass results in bacteria and corrosion, so be sure to keep instruments oiled, cleaned, dry, and put away when not in use.
(If you’re short on some cleaning products, you can order them individually or invest in a care kit, which has what you’ll need in between repair visits. Our online store has what you might need.)

Mouthpieces and reeds

You can clean a mouthpiece with room-temperature water and a cleaning brush, then sanitize with a spray* between cleanings. ProTip: If you prefer a natural cleaning agent, use lemon juice!

Wooden reeds aren’t ideal for marching band because they’re more susceptible to damage, but if they must be used, rotate between 4 or 5. If only one is used it can warp faster or worse, turn black with dirt and bacteria. It’s best to switch reeds every time you play, but try using a different reed each day or every other day.

The alternative would be using a synthetic reed. You will sacrifice some tone quality, but it will last longer, is stronger, and doesn’t need to be soaked before use.

*Some sanitizing sprays will discolor rubber mouthpieces. If you’re not sure what to use, give us a call or check with the director.

Wood instruments in summer

There are two main environmental dangers for wooden instruments: drastic temperature changes and extreme dryness in any climate.

Most protection is common sense, but we’re going to mention it anyway.

  • Don’t leave your instrument in a hot car for long periods of time.
  • Don’t travel with your instrument in the trunk of your car.

These temperatures are far different than we realize, and the heat and humidity levels are not easily tracked.

  • Consider a dehumidifier to help maintain the humidity in the room where your instrument is stored.
  • A case hygrometer can be beneficial in summer for monitoring the humidity levels around your instrument.
  • Avoid touching the instrument with your body to keep heat and sweat from damaging varnish. Keeping a cloth between you and the instrument while playing can make a big difference.

Protect your instruments

Winter damage is easy to spot, but summer damage develops slowly and is easier to miss. Get into the habit of looking over your instrument regularly to check for suspicious-looking spots and be aware of the signs of distress in strings:

  • buzzing
  • rattling
  • changes in neck angle
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, have the instrument looked at by a professional.