3 Things You Didn’t Know About High School Marching Band

Who knew?

You know marching band as that summer band camp your kid has to go to, and the weird competitions you take them to in the fall. Honestly, it’s like entering another world.

Don’t worry, we did marching band in high school and college and still barely understand it. Walk in this season with some marching facts and amaze your family, student, and fellow band parents at the next marching competition.

  1. Marching band originated in the military

You may have known that part, but there’s more to it.

Throughout history, military bands were used to give instructions during battle, but by the 1800s their duties were more ceremonial.

ROTC programs at universities would have their own military bands, which led to many universities adopting the idea of a marching band. In 1907, the first football halftime performance was given by the University of Illinois’ Marching Illini.

High schools started to adapt military music and marching bands into their curriculum in the 1900s, after veterans with band experience returned to the US and started teaching music. The bands became so prominent that they started competing in 1923.

2. There are different types of marching bands…

…and lots of high school bands borrow from each one.

Military style: As the name suggests, these are closely related to historical military bands. Drum and bugle corps fall into this category.

Characterized by: a consistent marching step size, tempos strictly between 120-140 beats per minute, and baton twirlers to add flare.


Corps Style: The style of Drum Corps International and most closely related to your high school’s marching band style. The current trend is to place heavy emphasis on electronic music so those on the field can make more full-body movements.

Characterized by: Fluid step sizes, diverse tempos, color guards (which use flags, rifles or sabers) to add flare, and most notably, the pit, or front ensemble.


Traditional style: Also known as “Show Band,” these focus on crowd entertainment, with some bands learning a new routine for each performance. Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have a recognizable show band style:

Characterized by: Using an ankle-knee high step, music based on R&B and hip-hop, and sophisticated choreographed dance routines.


3. There are two common stepping styles

“Marching style” refers to how the marcher places their foot to the ground:

High step: The foot is raised notably high when taking a step. Colleges and universities use this style most often.

Characterized by:  Either lifting the ankle to the knee and swinging the foot forward to take a step, or by lifting the thigh parallel to the ground with a pointed toe.


Glide step: Also known as the roll step. This style is common in high schools because it provides a more stable base, meaning players have more breath to play their instruments and can switch easily between step sizes and tempos.

Characterized by: Stepping with the heel first, toes pointed up, and rolling the foot forward onto the toes before lifting the other foot.


What other facts do you know about marching band? Let us know!