There’s a Way Your Saxophones and Clarinets Can Be Heard When Marching by Michael Skinner

Marching requires a unique set of skills from both the band director and student. For students, playing while walking, hitting marks, and remembering music can be a real challenge. When those skills are close to being met, one of the big challenges for band directors, among others, is achieving a balance of sound out of their marching band. A common concern is not being able to hear the saxophones and clarinets. Below, are some suggestions to get the best quality and volume of playing out of your saxophone and clarinet players on and off the field.


Clarinet: Have your clarinet players select a larger mouthpiece (B45, B40 or 5JB by Vandoren) and use softer reeds. They’ll be able to push more air and create more sound.

Saxophone: Have your sax players use their jazz band setups outside. Similar to the suggestion for your clarinet players, jazz band setups tend to be larger with longer facings. Using softer, faster-responding reeds on those mouthpieces will allow your saxophone section to generate more sound.

There are two advantages to this concept:

1. You need more sound from your woodwind section and this technique will provide it.

2. When it is time to come inside and begin concert season, your musicians switch to their concert setups. Along with that setup comes a different mindset. They will get into concert tone much quicker than if you used the same mouthpiece and reed setup outside. Now, you’ll have to beg them to play softer with better tone.


It may require a few years and a little help from your band boosters to get to this point because of the cost of additional mouthpieces, but it’s a worthwhile goal.


For the best results, these players should be playing on different equipment than what they are using in concert band. The right equipment will not only provide more volume, but will help your players enter the ‘marching’ mindset from the moment they assemble the instrument.

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