Don’t Sweat Marching Band – Part 1
Nothing strikes fear and stress into the hearts of any horn player like Marching Band. Horn players on the whole tend to be hypersensitive when it comes to hitting the field. But don’t fret, little marcher. There are plenty of ways to survive marching season without making meat loaf out of your chops and ruining your horn playing for the rest of the year.
The first thing to keep in mind is that all other brasses survive just fine in Marching Band. In fact, to some extent it can really give you some strength and endurance, as long as you don’t get carried away.
The biggest obstacle is the instrument itself. Yes, you CAN march with a French Horn, but it’s not desirable for a few reasons. First, they tend to be a little more delicate (and expensive) than the other brasses. And second, they’re really not very conducive for the field. But does that mean you can’t march with one? Absolutely not! What you might consider, however, is to put aside your shiny new horn for a more “seasoned” school horn – just for the season. As a matter of fact, a single Bb horn might be a great alternative to field survival.
Another great option is the Bb Marching French Horn. These are essentially Bb single horns coiled like a Mellophone. They’re actually very nice instruments and should not be taken lightly. There are a couple of drawbacks to them, however. First, they don’t have the cutting ability a Mellophone has, so avoid the urge to overblow. Second, unless you’re used to playing exclusively on the Bb side of the horn (or on single Bb horns), your brain will short-circuit for a while on those middle notes that have different fingerings from the F side. And finally, they’re a little larger, and therefore heavier, than a marching Mellophone. None of these are deal-breakers, though, and a nice Bb Marching French Horn can get you through the season with a minimum of damage. Good models include the Yamaha 302M, the King 1122 and the Dynasty M551.
Keep in mind also that there ARE Marching French Horns in F. These are almost marching descant horns. The Kanstul 284 is a great one. Also, if your band can afford it, have your Yamaha or Jupiter Mellophones converted with the Patterson leadpipe! The conversion can potentially be cost-effective, but you have to contact Patterson to reserve the time to have the work done.
In the next part of this article, we’ll look at ways to survive Marching season with a standard marching Mellophone.