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March (music)

March music is a genre of music originally written for and performed by marching bands.

Marches follow a fairly strict structure. They always have two beats per measure, and thus are written in either cut time (2/2) or fast 6/8 (if a triplet feel is desired).

  • The first section is a fanfare, and is either 4, 8, or 16 bars long. The fanfare is big, brassy, and exciting in order to catch the attention of the listener.
  • Next, section A, which is 8 bars long and repeats once. Section A is quieter than the fanfare, but establishes the first of the two melodies used in the march.
  • Section B is also 8 bars long and repeats once. It has the same melody as section A, but may use somewhat different instrumentation or may alter the relative dynamics of the different parts. It is louder than section A.
  • Section C, called the trio, is very soft, and usually utilizes the woodwinds more than the brass. A flat is added to the key signature and stays that way for the remainder of the song. The trio also establishes the second melody, which is completely different from the one used in sections A and B. This second melody is used throughout the remainder of the song.
  • The last two sections, D and E, do not repeat. Instead, at the end of E, the song skips back to the beginning of the trio and plays sections C, D, and E over again. Section D is louder than the trio. Section E is louder still.

The second time through, the respective sections are played even more loudly so that, by the end of the song, things are fortissimo. The melody established in the trio, while played for sections D and E as well, is modified in those sections somewhat. There is not usually a Coda on the second time through the trio. Instead, a stinger is added to the last measure of the song. The stinger is a single quarter note played by the entire band on the downbeat after a quarter rest. It is the traditional end-of-march "da-dun DUN".

The greatest composer and conductor of marching music is probably John Philip Sousa. Other composers such as Henry Fillmore are less well known, but have contributed many standard pieces to the march repetoire. See Colonel Bogey March.

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