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The More Unique Instruments in Marching Bands

Marching bands are renowned for their dynamic performances and vibrant musicality, often featuring a diverse array of instruments. While brass and percussion instruments like trumpets, drums, and saxophones are the backbone of these ensembles, there exists a fascinating world of unique instruments that add distinctiveness and charm to marching band arrangements. In this article, we'll delve into some of the more uncommon instruments that contribute to the rich tapestry of sounds in a marching band.


While not entirely uncommon, the sousaphone is a unique twist on the traditional tuba. Named after John Philip Sousa, the legendary American composer and conductor, the sousaphone is characterized by its large, coiled shape that wraps around the player's body. This design allows for better weight distribution, making it more comfortable for musicians to march and play simultaneously. The sousaphone's deep, resonant tones provide a solid foundation for the brass section.


A cousin to the more familiar French horn, the mellophone boasts a forward-facing bell and is pitched in the key of F or G. Its design makes it ideal for marching bands, as the sound projects directly ahead, ensuring the audience hears its bright and crisp tones even during parades and field performances. The mellophone often bridges the gap between the melodic brass instruments and the traditional French horn in a marching band setting.

Baritone Horn:

The baritone horn, also known as the tenor horn, is a brass instrument that closely resembles the euphonium. Positioned between the trombone and the tuba in terms of size and pitch, the baritone horn adds a mellow and rich quality to the brass section. Its versatility allows it to handle both melodic and harmonic roles, contributing to the overall depth of the marching band's sound.

Electric Bass Drum:

While the bass drum is a staple in marching bands, the electric bass drum brings a modern twist to the traditional percussion lineup. Equipped with electronic sensors, the electric bass drum produces a powerful and resonant sound that can be amplified, enhancing its impact in larger venues. This instrument is often featured in contemporary marching band arrangements, providing a unique blend of acoustic and electronic elements.

Piccolo Trumpet:

For those who love the bright, piercing tones of the trumpet but desire a higher pitch, the piccolo trumpet is a perfect fit. Smaller and higher-pitched than the standard B-flat trumpet, the piccolo trumpet adds brilliance and clarity to the brass section. Its agile and sparkling sound can cut through the ensemble, making it a valuable asset in intricate and demanding musical passages.

While the traditional instruments in marching bands are undeniably essential, the inclusion of unique and less common instruments adds flair and character to the overall sound. From the distinctive curves of the sousaphone to the electrifying beats of the electric bass drum, each instrument plays a crucial role in creating the captivating performances that define marching bands. Embracing diversity in instrumentation allows these ensembles to continually evolve and push the boundaries of musical expression.


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