Electronic Musical Instruments

Question: Personally, I don’t think electric guitars, keyboards, etc. should be considered “marching band”. My biggest concern is the keyboards. Even many bottom-of-the-line keyboards can be programmed to play entire ensembles. What steps do judges take to make sure what they are hearing is the marching band and not some pre-recorded “boost” to a band’s true playing capabilities?

Answer: Change is inevitable. If this activity had never evolved, we’d all still be playing Sousa marches with kick lines or a corps of baton twirlers as the primary visual enhancements. The entire electronic genre has created a wider variety of musical textures and has been instrumental (pun intended) in the development of musical nuance. I can understand your concern regarding bands using the electronic media to “mask” their own musical shortcomings. In some circuits, there are guidelines as to what needs to be “performed” vs. “pre-recorded”. I think both the music as well as the percussion judges closely sample to determine the extent at which the electronics are utilized. If the dominate the show, it also presents a balance problem (similar to lack of woodwind exposure). Most judges want to hear the ensemble vs. 8 minutes of a soloist.

– Mark Culp