Marching band season is coming 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.
Pick the right instrument (for rehearsal)
Practicing outside means instrument damage: they get dropped, bent, clogged, wet, and will bake in the summer 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.
Some thoughts from a locals director on marching instruments:
We…encourage the students to use their ‘good’ instrument for all of our indoor sectionals, music rehearsals, etc. Often, they will use their student model for marching rehearsals, and…tend to perform on their ‘good’ horns–in cold weather, a silver trumpet will hold pitch, and the brass ones play really flat…When you perform against [highly competitive, talented marching bands], you have to be on the best gear to run with the big dogs!
It is true that playing your ‘good’ instrument offers a better overall quality of tone and playing experience. Especially in a competitive situation, sometimes subtle differences in tone can have an impact on a band’s score or placement. We appreciate the comments from our area educators regarding the best practices for maximizing your performance on the field, and encourage you to reach out to your director for, well, direction on whether or not to use your good instrument in performances.
On the field
Pay closer attention to instrument upkeep during marching band season. Instruments need to stay clean and dry.
- Swab the instrument after every session.
- If it’s put away damp, it risks peeling lacquer or warping wood.
- Store swabs and cleaning cloths separately 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!
- Keep mouthpieces clean.
- 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!
- On wood reeds:
- Remember, the less wood on the field, the better. If wood reeds must be used, rotate between 4 or 5. Only using one means faster warping or discoloration from dirt and bacteria. Either change reeds every time you play or use a different reed each day.
- Try synthetic reeds.
- The alternative would be using a synthetic (plastic) reed. You will sacrifice some tone quality, but it will last longer, is stronger, and doesn’t need to be soaked before 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.)
*Some sanitizing sprays will discolor rubber mouthpieces. If you’re not sure what to use, give us a call or check with your director.
- Oil valves regularly.
- Valve oil has a dual purpose: it lubricates the mechanism but also keeps it clean.
- Keep it dry.
- Damp or dirty brass results in bacteria and corrosion, so keep instruments oiled, cleaned, dry, and put away when not in use.
Most protection is common sense, but we’re going to mention it anyway.
There are two main environmental dangers for wooden instruments: drastic temperature changes and extreme dryness.
- 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.
Keep the right humidity
- Use a humidifier (or dehumidifier!) to maintain the humidity level in the room where your instrument is stored.
- A case hygrometer will monitor the humidity levels in your case- where your instrument lives most of the time.
Keep it dry
- Avoid touching the instrument with your body to keep heat and sweat from damaging varnish.
- Keep a cloth between you and the instrument while playing. It will make a big difference.
Marching band might not seem very physically demanding, but remember, students will be out marching in the hot sun for up to 8 hours a day- They can march as much as 2 miles a day total!
Though some marching band alumni say that nothing can really prepare you, they also have some training suggestions to build your endurance:
- It doesn’t have to be fast as long as it’s done. You will need the stamina to play your instrument while marching. This training regimen from Drum Corps Planet has a running portion that can help.
- Core strength training
- Marching band is all about good posture, and that requires a strong core. Ten minutes of daily crunches, sit ups, and push ups will get you ready in no time.
Overall…Protect yourself and your instruments!
You take care of your body when you’re hurt, why wouldn’t you take care of your instrument when it’s hurt too? Get into the habit of looking over your instrument regularly to check for suspicious-looking spots and be aware of the signs of distress:
- changes in angles or shape