Which instruments typically double up (play unison) in military bands? I have googled this question in different ways, but without an answer.

  • A clarification: By "doubling", do you mean having, say, several tubas playing the same tuba part, or do you mean two or more different instruments playing in unison?
    – Aaron
    Mar 20, 2021 at 23:28

2 Answers 2


This would be purely up to the composer/arranger and the particular sound they want. Short of a rule to follow, the best option is to do a study of orchestration of martial music. That study could be done primarily in two ways.

  1. Study scores in the IMSLP library. For example, the music of John Philip Sousa is there, so his scores can be examined for his choices of doublings.
  2. Listen to military bands. The US Army Band, for instance, has its own YouTube channel.
  • 1
    This wouldn't necessarily be reflected in the score if the question is about having multiple instruments play the same part (as is normal for string instruments in a classical orchestra). Many band performances I've seen reflected this practice.
    – phoog
    Mar 20, 2021 at 18:46
  • @phoog Do you mean as when the first and second violins play in unison?
    – Aaron
    Mar 20, 2021 at 19:15
  • No, that's not what I mean (and of course that is something that would be evident from the score). I mean as when there are 8 violinists in the first violin section. This happens in bands as far as I'm aware, although with fewer players in the section, perhaps three or four to a part; for example, I recall seeing a video of one band playing The Stars and Stripes Forever with a piccolo section playing the piccolo solo rather than a single player.
    – phoog
    Mar 20, 2021 at 23:24
  • @phoog Got it. It didn't even occur to me to think of that as doubling. I took the OP to mean different instruments. PiedPiper's answer makes more sense to me now.
    – Aaron
    Mar 20, 2021 at 23:27

It depends on the size of the band. Some bands are so small that there is one player per part (maybe not even that, some parts might not be covered). In the case of a huge band almost everything might be doubled (or tripled, or more). In general, any time there are more players of an instrument than there are parts for it, some of the parts will be doubled. Mostly the first parts are doubled, but in some cases it can make more sense to double a lower part (e.g. if the first player is very strong and all the others much weaker).
For average sized bands (30-40 piece) you can generally rely on each of the B-flat clarinet and flute parts to be doubled and maybe the first trumpet/cornet.

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