Military band

A military band (French Foreign Legion).

A military band is a group of personnel that performs musical duties for military functions, usually for the armed forces. A typical military band consists mostly of wind and percussion instruments. The conductor of a band commonly bears the title of Bandmaster or Director of Music. Ottoman military bands are thought to be the oldest variety of military marching band in the world, dating from the 13th century.[1]

The military band should be capable of playing ceremonial and marching music, including the national anthems and patriotic songs of not only their own nation but others as well, both while stationary and as a marching band. Military bands also play a part in military funeral ceremonies.

There are two types of historical traditions in military bands. The first is military field music. This type of music includes bugles (or other natural instruments such as natural trumpets or natural horns), bagpipes, or fifes and almost always drums (see military drums). This type of music was used to control troops on the battlefield as well as for entertainment. Following the development of instruments such as the keyed trumpet or the saxhorn family of brass instruments, a second tradition of the brass and woodwind military band was formed.


A miniature of Ottoman Military Band, 1720

11th century book Divânu Lügati't-Türk mentions prototype of Mehtaran, as a "nevbet", Turkish military band tradition.[2] Bands were formed by soldiers.[3][4] 17th century traveler Evliya Çelebi noted that the Ottoman Empire had 40 guilds of musicians in 1670's Istanbul.[5] Ottoman military bands influenced European equivalents.[6] Each regiment in the British Army maintained its own military band. Until 1749 bandsmen were civilians hired at the expense of the colonel commanding a regiment. Subsequently they became regular enlisted men [7] who accompanied the unit on active service to provide morale enhancing music on the battlefield or, from the late nineteenth century on, to act as stretcher bearers. Instruments during the 18th century included fifes, drums, the oboe (hautbois), French horn, clarinet and bassoon. Drummers summoned men from their farms and ranches to muster for duty. In the chaotic environment of the battlefield, musical instruments were the only means of commanding the men to advance, stand or retire. In the mid 19th century each smaller unit had their own fifer and drummer, who sounded the daily routine. When units massed for battle a band of musicians was formed for the whole.[8]

United States

The American military band traditions date from the British era. From the American Revolutionary War onward military bands marched in the same manner as their French counterparts.

During the American Civil War most Union regiments had both types of groups within the unit. However, due to changes in military tactics by the end of World War I field musical had been mostly phased out in favor of the brass bands - themselves the basis for today's US civil brass band culture and traditions. These performed in a concert setting for entertainment, as well as continued to perform drill and martial events. In the United States, these bands were increased in instrumentation to include woodwinds, leading to the modern military band in the United States, and high school and college marching bands and concert bands.

Field music is also popular with many organizations such as police, fire, and veterans groups maintaining pipe and drum, fife and drum, or drum and bugle corps.


Russian military band playing in Quebec City

Starting in the late 17th century with the birth of the regular Russian armed services, each unit of the Imperial army and navy formed their own bands using regular enlisted personnel and NCOs and led by officers as directors of music and bandmasters. This tradition stayed even in the Soviet era, and one of the finest band conductors of that era was Major General Semeon Chernetsky, who founded and became the first director of music of the Central Band of the Ministry of Defense of the Soviet Union from 1927 to 1951. Indeed, Russia has a long tradition of military bands and so many military marches have been composed by various composers through the years.

Today, military bands in the Russian Federation are also of the headquarters element from the regimental level onward, and also provide musical support to the different units of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Federal Protective Service, the Federal Security Service and the Ministry of Emergency Situations. The military bands here also provide musical support in civil and military events, in a wide range of groups and ensembles. Some can even continue the old Russian military band traditions by donning the old imperial military uniforms of the Russian Empire, especially the uniforms of the bands. Examples of such are the Central Band of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation, the Exemplary Band of the Moscow Garrison Guard of Honor, the St. Petersburg Admiralty Band, the Central Band of the Western Military District and the Presidential Band from the Kremlin Regiment.


Since the 17th century, France has sported one of the oldest military band traditions in all of Western Europe, providing the Western world with a collection of French marches composed by eminent composers from the Ancien Régime, the Revolution, the Napoleonic era up to the present. Today's French Armed Forces bands are also of the headquarters element from the regimental or brigade level onward and can also provide musical elements for civil and military events. These bands are distinguished by their service dress uniforms.

Examples of such bands are of the Republican Guard, the Foreign Legion, the Army Armored Cavalry, Paratroopers and the Tropes de Marine. The French Navy also sports a distinctive Bagad playing in the bagpipe traditions of Brittany.

Functions and duties

Military bands can vary in function and duties based on their specific mission. Bands may perform for a variety of reasons such as special events, military review, public relations or troop entertainment.

Military bands play ceremonial and marching music, including the national anthems and patriotic songs. A concert band's repertoire includes original wind compositions, arrangements of orchestral compositions, light music, popular tunes and concert marches found in standard repertoire. Modern-day military musicians often perform a variety of other styles of music in different ensembles, from chamber music to rock and roll. It is the same case in the other services as well.

Commonwealth of Nations

United Kingdom

Since later medieval times and the formation of the first bands, the United Kingdom has had a strong military band tradition.


The oldest of all British military bands, is the Royal Artillery Band (see also Royal Artillery Mounted Band). The Band can trace its origins back to 1557 at the Battle of St. Quentin, although it was not made 'official' until 1762. A series of army reviews starting in 1994 reduced the number of British Army military bands from 69 to 22 bands.

All Regular Army Bands in the British Army are part of the Corps of Army Music and there are currently 22 Bands in service. These Bands range in personnel number from 64 to 15 and include: Traditional marching, mounted and concert bands, as well as rock bands and a small string orchestra.

The bands of the Corps of Army Music are:[9]

The British Army also has 20 Reserve Military Bands located across the UK and Gibraltar:[10]


The Royal Marines Band Service is, since 1950 and the disbandment of the Fleet Divisional Bands, the only remaining musical wing of the Royal Navy in service. It currently consists of six Bands. Without doubt, groups of musicians existed in the Service before 1767, when Royal Marines Divisional Bands were formed at the naval dockyard-bases of Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth and the naval gathering-point of Deal in the Downs, and Marine bands (along with professional bands paid for by captains) plus their respective corps of drums provided music on board ships before and during battles of the Napoleonic Wars (e.g. during the long sail into action at the Battle of Trafalgar).

At present, there are a total of five Royal Marine Bands and Corps of Drums:

The Band of the Royal Marines School of Music in Portsmouth (The Training Band) brings the total number to six.

The Royal Air Force Music Services is the organization which provides military musical support to the Royal Air Force. Based at RAF Northolt (previously at RAF Uxbridge) and RAF Cranwell, it forms the central administration of one hundred and seventy musicians divided between the Central Band of the Royal Air Force, The Band of the Royal Air Force College, The Band of the Royal Air Force Regiment and Headquarters Music Services. These main military bands contain within their ranks the Royal Air Force Squadronnaires, Royal Air Force Swing Wing, Royal Air Force Shades of Blue, and The Salon Orchestra of the Central Band of the Royal Air Force.

In the United Kingdom, the Mounted Band of the Household Cavalry and Massed Bands of the Household Division perform at Trooping the Colour, an annual ceremony held every June on Horse Guards Parade to mark the official Queen's Birthday celebrations. The Massed Bands and the Mounted Band play a central role in this ceremony. The term "Massed Bands" denotes the formation of more than one separate band performing together, whether belonging to one or more regiments, or indeed countries.

Massed bands at Trooping the Colour, London, 2007.

Band formations in the United Kingdom

British Armed Forces bands, whatever service they belong, would have the following instrument formation formats depending on service affiliation:

General Formation Formats

This is the formation used in the British Army and the Royal Air Force. The Bands of The Household Cavalry and the Royal Armoured Corps uses this format when dismounted. The Foot Guards regiments by tradition, always march with the band in the lead and the Corps of Drums behind. The band of The Rifles, sole survivor of the eleven light infantry and rifles regiments[12] formerly in the Army, always have bugles in the lead of the band. In these cases, the Drum Major leads the band (a Band Corporal Major leads it in the Household Cavalry's case).

General formation of British Army bands if the Corps of Drums leads (infantry only)
In the past, many line regiments under the British Army marched in this formation if needed.

Formation of The Band of The Household Cavalry (British Army) when the band is mounted
The Band would be led by a Director of Music at the front when mounted.

Royal Marines Formation Format

Since the 1903 Coronation Pageant, the Royal Marines Band Service, as the representative military music service of the Royal Navy (as the Armed Forces' Senior Service) and of the Corps of Royal Marines, use this band formation format, unique to the British Armed Forces military bands (and formerly used by several British Army infantry regiments). Due to the absence of bands in the RN since the 1950s, these are the only remaining military bands in its service rosters to use the very formation for its bands. The 70-strong military marching band of the Duke of York's Royal Military School, the largest in the whole of and from 2010 onward outside the British Armed Forces (with the exception of the Christ's Hospital Band, which fields over 100 students), also uses this formation.

Christ's Hospital Band Formation Format

Although not a military marching band, attached to a regiment in the British Army, Christ's Hospital band is the foremost school-based Military Marching Band in the UK. All instrumentalists are between the ages of 11 and 18, at least ABRSM grade 6 (or equivalent) and are currently students at the school. The band is run by Terry Whittingham LTCL, a former Band Master for the Queen's Royal Highlanders, and is always led by the Senior Drum Major who, along with the pupil Band Captain, receives ceremonial buttons after being appointed. While the appointment of a Band Captain is always a pupil in their final year, the Senior Drum Major can be of any age if there are not enough skilled applicants on a more senior year. The band primarily plays for the daily lunch parade, weather permitting, at the school where the whole school assembles by the Quadrangle at lunchtime and march into Dining Hall to the sound of the band. Externally, the band performs annually at Lord's Cricket Ground in London, and also in the Lord Mayor's Show as well as in a St. Matthews day parade through the City of London. The band has also played at The White House, Twickenham Stadium, and many other world famous areas. The band also performs a Beating the Retreat ceremony at the end of each academic year, and the school's concert band, professional Big Band, and many other musical ensembles perform in many concerts at the school in West Sussex.

The formation above is not quite similar to the Royal Marines and the line infantry regiments of the British Army, while the drum stick drill is on the basis of the RM ones.

Military bands of the armed forces reserves and civil and youth military marching band traditions

The various volunteer reserve bands in the British Armed Forces' three services use the above-mentioned band formations, as well as civil military styled marching bands.

The various youth military uniformed services of the UK have their own bands using the very same formations mentioned earlier:

Uniformed organization-based and civil Corps of Drums mostly follow the format by most Army regiments while those with links to the light infantry do not use fifes at all. In the case of those that are part of the Sea Cadets and the RMVCC, they follow the RM (and former RN) Corps of Drums traditions, adding glockenspiels and in some bands wind and brass instruments.

The Liberty High School Grenadier Band in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania has been using the British General bands format since 1967, adapted and made suitable for the American high school marching bands with the addition of Sousaphones, Mellophones, Baritone horns and fewer trumpets. The LHSGB of about 300 is modeled after the Coldstream Guards with a bagpipe section modeled after the Scots Guards, a colour guard section, majorettes, fanfare trumpeters, and a drum major. This format is also used by several US high school bands found all over the country. The format used by the RM and the DYRMS is the formation used by the Valley Forge Military Academy and College Regimental Band in Wayne, Pennsylvania, led and staffed by retired RMBS personnel, and by the United States Merchant Marine Academy Regimental Band, also modeled on the Royal Marines bands.

British style brass bands have the same positioning as the British Army bands as they are composed of only brass instruments, saxhorns and percussion. The same applies to carnival band formations, though these have the option to include woodwinds.


Malaysian military bands are led by the percussion (snare drums either slung or mounted, bass drums, single and multiple tenor drums, cymbals and sometimes glockenspiels), and followed by the brass and woodwinds (with the addition of trumpets, mellophones, marching baritone, contrabass bugles and sousaphones), following a formation format that is similar to the Royal Marines and French military bands, and inspired by its long cultural heritage in music.

Formation of Malaysian military bands


Australian Military bands, and their formations on ceremonies and parades, are derived from those of the United Kingdom, with each service - Royal Australian Navy, Australian Army and the Royal Australian Air Force - having their own approach, based on the service military bands in the UK. For example, the Royal Australian Navy Band marches with drums at the front, while the Royal Australian Air Force Band has its trombone section at the front (same format used by the Army). The instrumentation also varies from band to band, as does the size of the ensemble. The Royal Australian Navy Band maintains two sections of musicians, one based in Sydney and one near Melbourne (at H.M.A.S. Cerberus). The Australian Regular Army has full-time bands based in Canberra, Wagga Wagga, Sydney and Townsville, as well as part-time (Reserve) bands in Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth, Hobart and Darwin. There are also many Reserve pipes and drums bands attached to various units. The Royal Australian Air Force Band consists of a single 43 piece band based in Melbourne. The bands of all three services perform at Ceremonial functions, such as Commemoration ceremonies and ANZAC Day marches, in addition to providing music capability for their respective services.

The Royal Australian Air Force Band marches with the following instrumentation, led by the Drum Major and the Musical Director:

This is the very same formation used by Australian Army bands, and pipe band formations in the Army mirror those used by the military pipe bands in the UK.

The RAN Bands have the reverse of the formation above, with the marching percussion in the front and the brass and woodwinds following, which is also used by the Australian Defense Forces Academy Band and the Band of the Royal Military College, Duntroon.

New Zealand

Military bands in New Zealand derive their formations from other Commonwealth, and US, bands. The Band of The Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery has the following instrumental formation when on parade:

In 2012 nine of the existing twelve New Zealand military bands were disbanded for reasons of economy. A single full-time band is now retained for each of the three armed services.


Until the 1990s the Singapore Armed Forces and Singapore Police Force band formations were similar to the Royal Marines Band Service, and Malaysian military bands. In the beginning of the 21st century this was changed to a format similar to British Army and Royal Air Force military bands.

United States

U.S. Navy Band

Ever since the American Revolution ended in 1781, American military bands march to the fast tempo of French military bands, owing to their fast marching pace as compared with the slow marching pace of British bands. The instrumental positioning, even though inspired by the British, is also a mix of other influences, including French and German influences. A uniquely American type of military band still remains to be the Ancient Fife and Drum Corps and only the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps is the only band of this type. The US bugle bands are also the precursors of the modern day drum and bugle corps and the only one in active service today is that of the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps "The Commandant's Own". Moreover, another clear descendant are the civilian brass bands active all over the nation, tracing their heritage to the Civil War military brass bands.

The largest military marching band in the world is in the United States, that of the "Fightin' Texas Aggie Band" of Texas A&M University. It is entirely composed of ROTC cadets from the university's Corps of Cadets[13] and subdivided into two bands: the Infantry and Artillery bands of the Corps.

American military bands have a number of formations, and they are led by Drum Majors, Conductors and Bandmasters. Several examples follow:

1st Formation

2nd Formation

3rd Formation (Used in the 19th to mid-20th centuries)

4th Formation

Formation used by the United States Marine Band and other USMC bands from the early to mid-1900s, in few occasions including the USMDBC from the 1930s and other DBCs
The formation mirrored Royal Navy and Royal Marines bands of that time but is the reverse of the present day band formations used by the latter.

US Field Music formations


Alphorns of the 27th regiment of Chasseurs alpins.

France has a long established military band tradition. While modern instrumentation somewhat mirrors those of British and American military bands, it is based on uniquely French military music traditions. These bands are led by a conductor and a drum major.

There are four types of military bands today in France: military marching bands (subdivided into marching and mounted brass bands), Corps of Drums (only in the French Foreign Legion), Fanfare bands (attached to the marching band or as separate marching bands) and Pipe bands (more known in Brittany as the Bagad). Examples of these are the Marching and Fanfare Bands of the French Republican Guard, the Mounted Band of the French Republican Guard and the Central Band of the French Foreign Legion, the only remaining French military band to use the fife. The French Army Cavalry and Armored Branch maintain mounted and dismounted fanfare bands featuring cavalry trumpets and bugles plus kettledrums and marching percussion. Another example is the band of the French Chasseurs Alpins (the band of the 27th Mountain Infantry Brigade (France)), which uses the Alphorns in displays.

Instrumentation of French military bands
Military marching bands, Fanfare bands and Pipe bands

Mounted brass bands

Bands of the Light Infantry


Italian Military band at Nice (the band belongs to the Bersaglieri thus its a brass band and is marching on the jogging pace)

Italy has a long tradition of military music. Today, Italian military bands (called in the Italian language as both either banda or fanfara) even through have an instrumentation order similar to British, French and US military bands, retain the Italian musical favor and heritage.

Mounted bands in the Italian Army, Carabineri and the Polizia di Stato formerly used only the bugle and the natural trumpet from the 16th century, up to the middle of the 20th century, from the late 19th century till now also they use brass, woodwinds, timpani, single tenor drums, snare drums, cymbals and glockenspiels.

Brass bands belonging to the Bersaglieri have no percussion and march on the jogging pace of their attached units on the lead.

Instrumental formation of Italian Armed Forces bands

Instrumental formation of Bersaglieri brass bands

Instrumental formation of Italian Army, Carabineri and State Police mounted bands

Instrumental formation of Italian drum and bugle bands
Italy in the past had many military drum and bugle corps in the tradition of Roman fanfare bands.


Military bands in Spain are of very long standing. There are reports of primitive bands dating from the Celtiberian tribal and Roman periods. However military music in the modern sense began with the expansion of the Spanish Empire between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, during the numerous Spanish military campaigns in Europe and the wider world, when the first bands were formed in the Tercios of the Spanish Army, equipped wuth fifes and drums and later with wind instruments of the period. The influence of Spanish military marching bands is very important, especially in Latin America and the Philippines. The characteristic marches are the "touch" of trumpets and horns, and the steady rhythm of drums, with contrasting festive spirit and martial beats.

Band formations in the Spanish Armed Forces follow the British model, but Spanish bands tend to have the most senior bandsman, playing a tuba, positioned at the head of the band. He or she is usually the band sergeant major or the band corporal, mostly stationed in between the trombone players or leading a file of tuba and euphonium players in some bands. Bugle bands are part of the Spanish musical tradition since the 19th century, when the bugle replaced the fife in the Spanish Army and Navy, and these bands consist of drummers and buglers (or trumpeters in the cavalry dismounted bands since the 20th century). Such formations, when massed together, are led by a Director of Music and a Drum Major (with a Bugle Major or a Trumpet Major depending on the specialty arm). The century old Corps of Drums of the Regulares is led by a Drum Major and a Bugle Major with personnel playing snare, bass and single tenor drums, bugles, North African flutes and sometimes bagpipes, and the Spanish Royal Guard (as well as the 1st King's Immemorial Infantry Regiment of AHQ) sport Corps of Drums playing drums and fifes and wearing 18th century uniforms. Plain bugles, by tradition, are used in the bugle bands of the Spanish Legion and the Paratrooper Brigade instead of the valved bugles used by other bands and the trumpets and bass drum used by the Royal Guard's.

Only the Civil Guard and the Royal Guard retain mounted bands with cavalry trumpeters with the latter also having a mounted kettledrummer.

Germany, Austria, South and Central America

Austrian military band

German (formerly East German) and Austrian (and South/Central American) military bands have two or more components depending on instrumentation. Military bands in Germany's Bundeswehr today are only composed of a Military band and a Corps of Drums (Austrian bands do not) while Military bands in Chile have the same instrumentation with added Bugles on the Corps of Drums, the same with those military bands from the Spanish-speaking South American countries, with a few unique additions. Argentine and Uruguayan military bands have field drummers and occasionally buglers and fifes (as is the case with the Tacuari Drummer military band of the Regiment of Patricians, which has two fifers) accompanying the main band while bands in Peru and Ecuador have the percussion on the front and the woodwinds and brass behind them, following French practice.

Other distinguishing features are the presence or absence of the Turkish crescent in the military bands when they are on parade and the band's conductor being assisted by a Drum major and in Chile and Mexico by a bugle major. Another key feature, seen in some military bands in Brazil and in the Pipe bands of the Colombian Navy's educational institutions (the Admiral Jose Prudencio Padilla Naval Academy and the Marine Basic School), is the presence of bagpipes in the bands, and as seen in the Marching Band of the Brazilian Marines, the use of more valved bugle types like baritones and mellophones. In Bolivia, the use of the Turkish crescent with the addition of vertical banners and standards is standard practice in its military bands (only the Bolivian Navy fields bagpipers and fanfare trumpeters in its bands, the latter being the case of the band of the Bolivian Colorados Regiment which uses them).

In types of ensemble, these bands are called as:

Such bands are led by Drum Majors, Conductors/Directors of Music and Bugle Majors in the case of mounted, bugle and fanfare bands.

Military Band, Marching Band, Brass Band, Regimental Band and Bugles, Mounted Band, Mounted Fanfare Band

Corps of Drums, Fanfare Band/Section, Bugle Section, Pipe section


Argentina has longstanding connections with Germany, and their army bands reflect these traditional links.

At the beginning of the 20th century, there was an exchange of marches between the Imperial German Army and the Argentinean Army: Germans gave Argentinians Alte Kameraden, while Argentinians gave Germans the Marcha de San Lorenzo, which was used in 1940 during the victory parade on the Champs Elysées following the defeat of France.

Three bands belong to the oldest cavalry, artillery and infantry regiments of the Argentine Army, use band formations modeled on German and Italian traditions.

Argentina: 1st Infantry Regiment Patricios band Drummer of Tacuari in dress uniforms

Another notable band of the Argentinian Army is the Mounted Band of the 4th Armoured Cavalry Regiment "General Lavalle's Cuirassiers". They wear uniforms similar to those of the French Republican Guard Cavalry and 19th century cuirassier units. This band uses the same brass and percussion instruments mentioned above, when either mounted or dismounted. Other bands in the Army include:

The Argentine Navy fields the Band of the Argentine Naval Academy and the Band of the Argentine Navy NCO School. Representing the Argentine Air Force are the Band of the Argentine Air Force Academy, the Band of the Argentine Air Force NCO Academy and the 1st Air Brigade Band.


Examples of Peruvian bands include the Mounted Fanfare Band Company of the Presidential Life Guard Dragoons Regiment "Marshal Domingo Nieto" and the Band of the Chorrillos Military School of the Peruvian Army and the Casma Cadet Band of the Peruvian Naval School, Peruvian Navy. These bands follow the Spanish and French practice - but with drums out front following the French model. The PLGDR Band is also the only mounted band in active service within the Armed Forces.

Another example is the Lima Air Region Band of the Peruvian Air Force.

Until 1988 the Band of the Peruvian Republican Guard provided music during state ceremonies, although it belonged to the Ministry of the Interior. The military styled band of the National Police of Peru continues its heritage together with the bands of the Civil Guard and the Investigations Police.


Two Chilean mounted bands are of high interest: the Mounted Band and Bugles of the 1st Cavalry Regiment "Grenadiers" and the Band and Bugles of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment "Hussars" of the Chilean Army. Other bands include the band of the Army NCO School and the Bernardo O'Higgins Military Academy, also of the Chilean Army, the Band of the Arturo Prat Naval School of the Chilean Navy and the Central Band of the Carabineros de Chile. Band formations on parade, mounted bands included, follow the German model, however only the Chilean Air Force Symphonic Band does not participate - the service is represented on parade by the Bands of the Captain Manuel Avalos Prado Air Force Academy and the Air Forces Specialities School. Another band formation and one with increasing public awareness is the military band of the Chilean Gendarmerie, which reports to the Ministry of Justice.


The Mounted Band of the 1st Cavalry Regiment "José Gervasio Artigas's Own Blandengues Horse Guards" of the Uruguayan Army is a mounted band following the Argentine practice, wearing the regiment's 19th century uniforms, but unlike its Argentine counterpart, also uses woodwinds. Another example is that of the Army's 1st Infantry Brigade Band, the official honors band of the General Assembly of Uruguay, which sports dress uniforms worn during the Argentina-Brazil War and later conflicts. Bands are also mounted by the Army's Uruguayan Military School and the General Artigas Military High School, the latter having recently reinstated the use of the bugle for its field section, the only band to do so. The Air Force Band is the only one that uses the shoulder mounted snares and the multiple tenor drum.

The National Navy of Uruguay maintains for ceremonial purposes the Band of the Uruguayan Naval Academy, which doubles as the official band of the service.


The Mounted Band of the Ecuadorian National Police uses brass, woodwinds and percussion (sans the timpani). The Ecuadorian Army's Eloy Alfaro Military Academy uses the same format as French bands but without the bugles, as they are part of the Corps of Drums.


Since the late 1940s the Brazilian Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, using the above-mentioned brass and percussion instruments (plus bagpipes), represent both the Brazilian Marine Corps and the Brazilian Navy in all activities it participates. Its formation mirrors Portuguese and Italian military band traditions, as well as those of the US drum and bugle corps of the early 20th century. Other military bands include those of the Presidential Guard Battalion, the Independence Dragoons, and the Brazilian Air Force Academy Band. The PGB Band is the only band in the Brazilian Army to include both a pipe band section and a drum corps.

The Brazilian Marine Corps also fields for public duties the Brasilia Marine Corps Band and the Central Band of the Marine Corps.

Instrumentation and formation of Brazilian Military bands

Instrumentation and formation of Brazilian Military drum and bugle corps


Polish Armed Forces military bands follow the Austrian model, but follow also the German and Russian band and march music tradition too.

Formation of Polish military bands


Given the long history of the military forces of the Caribbean, the military band heritage in this part of the world is a mix of various traditions.


Since the late 1960s the military band tradition of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces has been based mostly on the Russian tradition but also with a mix of the former American and Caribbean musical influence.

Current formation of Cuban military bands

Dominican Republic

Given the long history of the Armed Forces of the Dominican Republic, it is no surprise that the military band tradition is a mix of the French and US military band practice. Ceremonial bands are present not just in the Armed Forces but in the Dominican Republic National Police.

Current formation of Dominican military bands

Bands in the Caribbean militaries of the Commonwealth of Nations

Bands assigned to military forces of Caribbean countries that are members of the Commonwealth of Nations generally follow the British pattern. Trinidad and Tobago takes this tradition a bit further with the use of steelpans in its bands.

Russia/CIS military bands

In the days of the Imperial Russian Armed Forces, military bands followed the German style of military bands, with the addition of the chromatic fanfare trumpet. Some but not all Russian marches then were made in Germany and other locations as the rest were locally composed military marches. They would usually have a conductor, and a drum major using his mace with/or a bugle major playing the chromatic fanfare trumpet. Brass instruments formed the first tier of the formation followed by the percussion and the woodwinds. Mounted cavalry bands were similar to German ones but were different in many aspects.

Military bands when massed would add field drums and fanfare trumpets to the ensemble for large parades and state ceremonies. The formation used by these massed bands mirror today's formations.

By the time that the Soviet Armed Forces came into being in 1918, military bands began to change for the better. With the establishment of the NKVM Central Military Band by Semyon Chernetsky in 1927 came the birth of today's Russian and ex-Soviet Union military band culture. In the late 1920s and the 1930s the typical Soviet Massed military bands that perform on May 1, November 7 and from 1945 onward, May 9, would be composed of a Military band and a Corps of Drums marching past and until the 1970s would later join the military band in place.

Soviet massed military bands in the 1930s and 1940s tend to have a drum major, a conductor and an optional two to three deputy conductors in the front of the band. Mounted bands had the same formation, but with only a director of music and the optional mounted band drum major.

Instrumentation and positioning of Soviet massed military bands in the early 1930s–1940s

Instrumental formation of Soviet mounted bands

The Soviet military bands of the pre-war days played not only on May Day and Revolution Day, but in the National Sports Day parades at the Red Square, the various sports competitions and other occasions and after the Second World War, at Victory Day celebrations across the USSR. In the 1930s, the Turkish crescent holders were shaking during the sports parades, but in the 1940s, they were not shaking them. Their formation mirrored those used by Russian military bands in the Imperial era.

By the 1950s, Soviet Military bands evolved in instrumentation. Their positioning, especially in the Moscow bands, changed for the better as newly composed Soviet Military marches soon created the Soviet military band sound common to Westerners during the Cold War days.

A conductor and one to four drum majors and several bandmasters led the military bands of the Soviet Union into a new decade of progress for Soviet military music.

Instrumentation and positioning of Soviet Military bands of the late 1940s

Instrumentation and positioning of Soviet massed military bands from the 1950s - 1970s


1981 onward
Under the leadership of Major General Nikolai Mikhailov from 1976 to 1993 as Overall Director of Music of the Military Bands Service of the Ministry of National Defense of the USSR, what would become the modern military bands of the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Russian Federation were born and rose to greatness and international appeal.

The massed military bands in the last 10 years of the USSR and the first 2 years of the CIS would be composed of the following formation:

Beginning in 1981 through the collapse of the Soviet Union, field drummers were added to the massed bands during the famous Red Square parades in between the chromatic fanfare trumpeters. Parades in other Soviet cities only used the chromatic fanfare trumpeters in file formation in front of the bands, the parades in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) also used the field drums as well.

Formations in present day Russia

Instrumentation and formation of Russian Military bands in the 1990s
With the advent of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation Military Bands Service, Major General Mikhailov's term as its first Director of Music ended in 1993, and was replaced by Lieutenant General Viktor Afanasyev, the first ever senior director to attain that rank, who was later replaced by Lt. Gen. Valery Khalilov, who was then a Colonel, in 2002, who in summer 2016 retired after 13 years of service with Colonel Timofey Mayakin today becoming the Senior Director of Music and Senior Conductor of the Central Military Band of the Ministry of Defense.

The 1995 Victory Day Parades at Red Square and Moscow's Poklonnaya Hill created the modern Russian Military band we know today. The Afanasyev massed bands formation in the 1990s is as follows:

In 2000, the formation setup was partially revised so that the field drums and fanfare trumpets are now clearly separated, with the fanfare trumpeters at the sides and the field drummers now holding the center of the band, with the Directors of Music in between the two groups of field drummers. This is the formation used today in Moscow, but in other Russian cities band instrumental formations tend to differ in usage. It was revised again to include the 1st glockenspiels in 2012, symbolizing the homage given to bandsmen of old times.

The band formation was made longer in 2009, as seen on the video footage of the Victory Day Parade of the same year (2009), compared to the size of the massed bands in the previous years. The size of the massed bands is retained on the parades from 2010 onward. The Bands are now led by 12 Drum Majors, together with the Senior Director of Music, who serves as the bands' conductor.

Formation of massed military bands in Moscow today

Formation of massed military bands in St. Petersburg today

The sousaphone on the massed bands on Victory Day in St. Petersburg is a rare sight, tubas are normally used in place of sousaphones as per tradition.

Formation of Massed military bands in Khabarvosk

The band formation in Khabarvosk since 2010 during the Victory Day parades have the snare drums and flutes forming the right side of the band while the rest of the band formation remains just like in other Russian cities, but with glockenspiels marking the sides of the formation and the fanfare trumpets in between them.

Formation of Massed military bands in Yekaterinburg

Formation of massed military bands in Ukraine

Given the Russian band influence today's military bands of the Armed Forces of Ukraine follow nearly the same formation pattern as Russian bands do.

Formation of massed military bands in Kiev until 2010

Formation of massed military bands in Kiev from 2015-16


Inspired by British military bands, military bands in Thailand play uniquely Thai military marches. Especially during the Trooping of the Colours ceremonies in Bangkok every December 2 since 1953, Royal Thai Armed Forces military bands perform at every military function attended by the Royal Family and other military officers and local executives, together with the general public.

Thai military bands' formations closely follow either that of the Royal Marines Band Service, being that the percussion are at the front rather than the middle, followed by the main band itself or that of the British Army's Household Division Foot Guards Bands, being that the percussion are at the middle of the main band. But another formation followed is that of the Brazilian military bands, wherein the percussion are in front of the brass and winds, with the bass drums as the lead instruments.

1st Formation

'2nd Formation


Military band formations differ in the two Korean countries' armed forces.

Democratic People's Republic of Korea

The bands of the Korean People's Army and the Korean People's Security Forces follow the general instrumental setup of Daechwitas, the Korean traditional military bands.

Instrumental formation

Republic of Korea

Although patterned after American and British military bands, the bands of the Republic of Korea are also inspired by the daechiwtas of the old Korean kingdoms. Their formation mirrors US and British military band formations. The Republic of Korea Army maintains a Traditional Band playing in the daechiwta styles of old, using Korean traditional musical instruments.

China and Taiwan

Chinese military bands both in the mainland, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan play a mix of foreign and native marches and musical pieces.

During the Boxer Rebellion, the xenophobic Chinese General Dong Fuxiang who commanded the Muslim Kansu Braves, refused to allow his troops to play western musical instruments, making them play traditional Chinese instruments such as the Sheng Jia.[14]

Hong Kong SAR

Military style bands in Hong Kong (save the Band of the PLA HK Garrison), although now playing Chinese and international marches, still retain British and Commonwealth influences. A band formation modeled on that of the British Army is one such tradition, as is the use of pipe bands.

Macau SAR

The Macau Security Force maintain a military style band which reflects the region's Portuguese military traditions.

People's Republic of China

Although inspired by Soviet military music throughout their history, the military bands of the People's Republic of China (either belonging to the People's Liberation Army or the People's Armed Police) play indigenous and locally composed military marches, during official ceremonies and other events as called for.

Instrumental Positioning

Republic of China (Taiwan)

Military bands of the R.O.C. can trace their origins to the 1911 revolution. Existing units including the Ministry of National Defense Symphony Orchestra, the Army Band, the Navy Band, and the Air Force Band.[15] All these bands are inspired by American and German military band traditions, and their formation mirrors those used by US bands. Taiwan also has a great military drum and bugle corps tradition as well with several military DBCs in active service, with their formations not quite similar to US corps plus corps style marching bands in the Armed Forces Preparatory School and the ROC Military Academy.


The Mounted Band of the Life Guards

Traditionally, every Swedish regiment had a band. During the 20th century many of them were disbanded and in 1957 all remaining military bands were merged into one per garrison or disbanded entirely. The Swedish military music was made into a non-military organization in 1971 but this proving unsuccessful, the Swedish Army Band was set up in 1982, followed by several other bands in the 1990s. As of 2010 the Swedish Armed Forces no longer have conscripts, but professional soldiers. The military musicians in the Swedish Armed Forces Music are now professional musicians with civil ranks (CR-1/8) or professional soldiers with military ranks (OR-1/5). Today, Swedish military music has undergone new cuts, retaining two bands only in the army and one in the navy. In addition there are 26 bands in the Swedish Home Guard.

Formations in these bands are a mix of the Italian, German and British band traditions.

Active bands of the Swedish Armed Forces Music


Netherlands and Belgium

A strong military band presence is evident in the armed services of the Netherlands and Belgium. Bands of the Armed forces of the Netherlands and the Belgian Armed Forces sport formations similar to those used in the UK and France.

Formation of Dutch military bands

General formation

General formation if the Corps of Drums leads (infantry only)

Formation Format of the Band of the Royal Netherlands Navy

Formation of Belgian bands

Military marching bands, Fanfare bands and Pipe bands

Mounted brass bands

These formations are also used in civilian military styled bands and brass bands (including fanfare orchestras). The Netherlands has several civilian corps of drums in active service plus veterans and reserve bands as well.

Formation of Dutch fanfare orchestras in military service


The modern Indonesian military band tradition includes Japanese, Dutch, British and United States influences. Known locally as Ceremonial Bands (Korpus Musik Upacara), they form part of the Indonesian National Armed Forces. Similar ceremonial bands are maintained by the Indonesian National Police.

Indonesia also maintains a "corps of drums" tradition. Such ceremonial units are also part of the Dutch colonial legacy, as both the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army and the Royal Netherlands Navy included similar formations before Independence.

Formation of Indonesian military bands

Formation of Indonesian military and police corps of drums and drum and bugle corps


See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Military music.


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  13. Archived July 24, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  14. Lanxin Xiang (2003). The origins of the Boxer War: a multinational study. Psychology Press. p. 207. ISBN 0-7007-1563-0. Retrieved 2010-06-28.scroll down to next page from 206 to get to 208
  15. Chou, Shih-Wen. "陸軍軍樂隊 (Army Military Band)". Taiwanpedia. Retrieved 27 November 2011.
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