As a leading marching band instrument supplier, we get a lot of questions about military bands and instruments. To make things easier, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions and provided answers for them. Whether you are discovering military bands for the first time or you are an expert, this article will give some interesting and valuable information.
1. Are military musicians qualified soldiers?
Yes. Musicians in the armed forces must undergo basic military training before starting any musical training. The training consists of military and fitness training, which allows musicians to adapt to a military environment. This training usually lasts for a few months, before the more music-based second step of training takes place.
Military musicians must remain physically fit in order to carry out any active military roles required of them. These roles vary for each section of the armed forces, and more often than not they take on administrative or medical duties. Historically, military band members were also stretcher bearers.
2. Do military musicians travel abroad with the armed forces?
Military musicians travel all over the world with the armed forces. They play a key role as representatives of the nation when they travel abroad. Musical performances abroad help to boost the morale of the troops, while also instilling national pride and shaping the identity of the country in foreign territories.
In addition, British military musicians have played a significant part in the training of military musicians overseas. They have provided musical education in countries outside the EU such as Botswana, Afghanistan, Egypt and Kenya. This is an important way in which military musicians can strengthen international relations which is hugely beneficial to the country in the future.
3. Which instruments are played in military bands?
Military bands in the armed forces mostly consist of brass, woodwind and percussion instruments. Brass instruments include trumpets, cornets, bugles, trombones, euphoniums and tubas. The most commonly played woodwind instruments include saxophones, clarinets, oboes, bassoons and piccolos. Musicians also play a range of marching percussion instruments, including snare, tenor and bass drums, as well as cymbals and even glockenspiels.
4. Why do military bands march while performing?
Military bands, like the rest of the armed forces, are well trained in marching. The bands march while playing in parades and a variety of other performances. Marching is an important tradition in the military and is part of basic training in most countries. It emphasises unity and coordination, while it is also a lesson in discipline for soldiers.
Throughout history, military musicians have accompanied marching soldiers by maintaining the steady rhythm of the march. As such, it makes sense that the musicians themselves follow suit by marching as they perform.
5. Where do British military musicians train?
The Royal Military School of Music (RMSM) trains musicians for the twenty-two bands of the British Army. The RMSM is located at Kneller Hall in Twickenham, west London. The RMSM was established in 1857 by the commander-in-chief of the army at the time.
Training for the Royal Air Force musicians differs to that of the army. Following their general military training course, Air Force trainees will spend either 4 or 12 weeks at the RAF Headquarters Music Services, depending on their level of ability. When ready, they will then be posted to one of the three Regular bands in the RAF.
Likewise, the Royal Marines have their own training facilities for military musicians. The Royal Marines School of Music (RMSoM) is located in Portsmouth, in the south of England. The Royal Marines musicians have a rigorous training schedule. Following an initial few months of fitness and basic soldiering training, musicians spend up to three years at the RMSoM developing their skills.
6. Are military pipe band musicians different to other military musicians in the UK?
Pipe band musicians do not belong to the Corps of Army Music, and instead they are part of the regiment in which they serve.
Pipers and drummers have their own training facilities. The Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming is located in Edinburgh, Scotland. The School is affiliated with the Corps of Army Music but is a separate entity. Like the other military schools of music, the Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming offers courses at a range of levels. 28 pipe bands perform in the British Armed Forces.
7. What genres of music do military bands perform?
Military bands perform a range of ceremonial and marching music. The nature of their performance will have an impact on the music the military band performs.
Typically, a military band will play regimental marches and concert music. They are not limited to music of their own nationality either. For example, if they perform during a state visit, they might play the national anthem of the state visitor.
Over time, military band music has become more varied. Nowadays, as well as regimental music, bands perform concert band pieces, arrangements of orchestral compositions, and popular contemporary songs. Military bands can perform anything from chamber music to rock and popular music.
8. Does a police band differ from a military band?
Police bands are very similar in nature to military bands in the armed forces. They are operated or sponsored by a police force, and perform at ceremonial events and police observances, as well as police academy graduations. These events are similar to the occasions that military bands perform at.
Police bands also perform similar music to military bands. There is a strong focus on ceremonial marching music and patriotic music such as the national anthem.