Adapting Marching Band selections for worship

WHAT DID I JUST SAY – Adapting Marching Band arrangements for use with an instrumental group in a worship setting?!?!?!

Yep, you can do that!  There is a wealth of material out there that has been written for marching bands.  There is so much of it that there are even arrangements of traditional songs and hymns like “Amazing Grace,” “Be Thou My Vision,” and other songs of a general nature. There are also arrangements of Christmas carols and patriotic songs…new charts as well as classic concert band and orchestra library selections that have been transcribed/simplified/adapted for marching bands.  The scope of musical voicings and other concepts of marching band arrangements are much more concise, but less elaborate, than full concert band and orchestra.  The pieces tend to be much shorter – most are no more than two minutes in length. Also, they are written to be playable and sound good with any size group – in easy key signatures and time signatures.  The woodwinds are usually written in unisons and octaves, and the brass are (usually) written “in the staff,” which means they’re in the most powerful musical range of their instruments.

So, how do you ‘adapt’ a marching band piece for a church orchestra?  Well, it takes a little bit of effort, but it can be done.  And the payoff can be 100% worth the effort. Here’s what you’ll need to do: 1-replace the drumline and multiple percussion parts with a drumset and rhythm section that consists of keys, bass, and (optional, depending on the style of the song) guitar (acoustic, electric, or both).  If you have string players in your group, you’ll need to write parts for them.  The easiest way to do that is to have the violins play a flute part (if range is a problem for some of your younger players, you may need to write in octaves or just write the line down an octave), the violas play a 2nd or 3rd clarinet part (which you’ll have to transpose) and the cellos can play a trombone 3 part.  This will give everyone a part to play in the quickest and least labor-intensive manner.  If you can’t or don’t have the time to do the writing yourself, contact a local public school or college band or orchestra director and ask them to help you find a writer.

These days it has been getting harder and harder to find fresh, new, and interestingly written literature for the church orchestra.  The process written above hopefully will help you in that quest. The same adjustments as above can be applied to a concert band piece to make it suitable for church instrumental group.

Blessings to you as you minister the praises of His Holy Name!

Ron Blount


1 Response to “Adapting Marching Band selections for worship”

  1. November 18, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    Good thought, Ron. I did this once with a marching band arrangement of Make His Praise Glorious by Sandi Patty and it rocked the house!



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