What is a Marching Band Field Show?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A marching band field show is a fascinating and exciting thing to watch. When executed properly, the field show combines many moves that place the marching band in different formations, while the band continues to perform music. You might watch a marching band field show during half time of various games, most often football. There are also marching band field show competitions.

A marching band field show might be performed during halftime of a football game.
A marching band field show might be performed during halftime of a football game.

There are many marching bands that don’t do field shows. Their choreography may be strictly limited to a minute or two of changing formation during parades. Some schools with full bands have even opted out of marching entirely. It’s certainly not easy to create or participate in a marching band field show, because these are often complicated, especially with bands that specialize in this form of entertainment. You also need a choreographer or coordinator on hand that will plan all moves and help all the band participants (musicians, color guard, and possibly cheerleaders or dancers) to learn complicated choreography. Additionally, you need an expert band that can play beautifully while moving around considerably.

Tubas may be featured in marching bands.
Tubas may be featured in marching bands.

It could be said that the marching band field show combines both athleticism and musicianship. Shows are typically about five to ten minutes long, and may be performed in any kind of weather. Depending upon the skill of the band, a show can be an extraordinarily hard workout. This may not be too difficult if you’re fit and playing the piccolo, but if you’re carrying a sousaphone or a bass drum while creating complicated formations, particularly in hot weather, you’re pretty much guaranteed a worthy cardiovascular experience when you do a show.

In addition to the athleticism in performing march moves, possibly dance moves and others, part of the appeal of a marching band field show is looking at the formations created by the band as they play. These can take the form of pictures, geometric shapes or even letters to spell out words. It’s actually worthwhile to sit higher up in a stadium to get the overall effect of field show formations.

A variant on the typical marching moves to change formation is called the scramble or scatter band. Instead of choreographed moves between formations, band members run to create each new picture in a marching band field show. They generally aren’t marching though, and performance tends toward the comic. These shows may even include narration. Scramble bands are popular in numerous Ivy League universities.

If you want to get a good look at a marching band field show, one of the best places to look is YouTube. You’ll find many enthusiastic fans have filmed these shows. Other videos are filmed parts of competitions, which are equally interesting to watch.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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I remember the marching band at our high school would win a lot of medals for its marching band field shows, but some of the band members weren't prepared for all of the hard work and sacrifice it took. A friend of mine told me that each band member had to go out on the field individually and march his or her exact route on the field in front of the band director.

I have to say I enjoy watching the college marching bands on television, but the networks don't always keep the cameras running during halftime these days. I have seen some incredible choreography lately, especially with Ohio State's marching band.


The marching band at my high school was very large, and they put on a very impressive marching band field show during the halftime of football games. Sometimes they would march in a rigid formation, but the band director was young and really liked to create comic dance routines and odd music arrangements. Half the fun was waiting for the entire band to break into a signature dance routine.

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