The instruments used, and the military music style played by a military band is entirely dependent on the specific occasion at which they are performing.
Early Military Music
Historically, military bands used to play military field music to control troops on the battlefield. They also marked routine activities such as meal and bed time. This type of military music style includes natural instruments, such as bugles, bagpipes, or fifes and almost always drums.
Military Music in the 20th Century
At the turn of the 20th century advancements in modern technologies for communications meant that military music became purely symbolic. They performed to motivate troops and instil a sense of patriotism and identity. In addition, national governments found it easier to spread propaganda and national pride with the help of military music through these new communication channels. The ceremonial role of military bands increased greatly as bands became more prominent at parades and state events.
Military Music Today
Today, bands perform a range of concert, ceremonial and regimental marching music. They perform at special events, military parades, military reviews, military tattoos, funeral ceremonies, and for overall troop entertainment. Bands play a key role in boosting the morale of the entire military, as well as the civilians who witness their performances. The nature of their performances will have an impact on the music the military band performs. The occasion also determines whether military bands perform stationary, or whilst they are marching.
Over time, the music played by military bands has become more varied. Band now frequently perform concert band pieces, arrangements of orchestral works, and popular contemporary songs. Military bands can perform anything from chamber music to rock and popular music. They are often divided into smaller ensembles. Military bands are also not limited to music of their own nationality. They often play the national anthem of the state visitor when they perform at a state visit.
To learn more about military musical instruments, and the history of military music itself, check out an earlier blog.