Modern marching bands have evolved a long way but retained some influences from their roots in military music. Although the uniforms have become more elaborate and the formations more artistic, the precision and upbeat nature of marching band music has stayed the same. Read on for a history of the marching band’s evolution.

Military Accompaniment

Marching bands started as crucial members of the military that helped soldiers keep time. They were used in ancient and medieval armies to the days of modern warfare. Military bands were important parts of the fearsome Ottoman army and European militaries.

The most common instrument in historical military accompaniment was the drum. The loud beats of the side drum communicated messages across the army and kept soldiers marching in time. Later, many European armies added a small fife.

Diffusion of the Military Band

Thanks to the conquests of European colonial powers such as England, the tradition of the military band spread across the world. Famous Army marching bands in Australia, Kenya, and Jamaica trace their roots to British colonial institutions.

In the United States, fife-and-drum marching bands were first organized by British colonial forces. Local militias and the nascent United States Revolutionary Army adapted fife and drum corps to organize their armies.

Transition to Civilian Life

Besides organizing the troops, military bands had ceremonial purposes to perform for the public and boost appreciation for the army. Over time, the ceremonial aspects of military bands became more important than their communication duties, especially after the development of modern army technology.

Military band music became more popular among the general public. In the United States, the American band movement began after the Civil War when discharged veterans returned to their homes and formed bands to continue performing the music that they loved. Eventually, those bands became modern marching bands that we know today.

Today’s marching bands retain many of the military traditions that they were created from. However, they add modern touches, such as flashing color guards and animated drill formations, that delight audiences at games and parades.