Arranging for the IU Athletic Bands


This page covers the general guidelines for successful athletic band (Marching Hundred, Basketball Band, Crabb Band) arranging at Indiana University. ALL arrangements prepared should adhere to the following rules and guidelines:


All songs must be approved by the Director of Athletic Bands prior to the start of the arrangement.  Songs should be selected for their entertainment/athletic team support value – many songs sound good on the radio, but do not transfer well to the athletic band medium. In general terms, each arrangement should be NO LONGER than 1.5 minutes. This allows them to be performed at most events. Take out repetitive parts, and condense background lines into different verses, if necessary.

You should do a sketch of the tune (lead lines, chord changes, general outline of the piece) and bring a copy of it and the original recording to be approved by the Director of Athletic Bands.  At that point, with proper approval/changes, you may begin working on the score and parts. All completed arrangements MUST have computer-generated parts – computer-generated
scores are not required, but strongly preferred (see below for FINALE sizes).  One copy of the score, and one copy of each part should be given to the Director of Athletic Bands for a final check before copies are made.


a) Select keys that are “band-friendly” – F, Bb, Eb, Ab (concert keys) are the best.  Avoid sharp keys and keys with more than 4 flats. Occasionally, songs go in and out of the keys above, and move into “less-friendly” keys – thats OK, as long as the majority of the tune is in a key listed above.

b) Soloists (with the exception of drum set and bass) are NOT allowed.  Our performance venues do not support a soloist.

c) Rhythmic selection – all complex rhythms should be simplified (if necessary) in order to increase the playability of the arrangement. Choose rhythms that represent the music, without adding difficulty to the arrangement.  We do not have the rehearsal time necessary to clean
extremely difficult rhythmic sections.

d) Instrumentation – please use the following instrumentation for all arrangements (MAXIMUM number of parts per instrument follows name):

Piccolo (1), Clarinet (1), Alto Sax (1), Tenor Sax (1), Mellophone(1), Trumpet (3), Trombone/Baritone (3), Sousaphone (1), Bass Guitar (1), Drum Set (1).

    Common doublings used in the IU Athletic Bands:

  • Piccolo/Clarinet/Trumpet (various parts)
  • Trombone/Baritone/Tenor Sax
  • Alto Sax/Mellophone
  • Mellophone/Trumpets (lower parts)
  • Mellophone/Low Brass (doubling at the octave or unison)
  • Others, as necessary – Avoid independent lines for piccolo/clarinet, as their numbers will not support (volume) that line.

e) Length – all arrangements should fall into the 1- to 2-minute category.  For the BRBB, the length should be closer to 1- to 1.5 minutes only (they will fit nicely into a timeout at that length)

f) Ranges –

  • Piccolo (upper range – F concert – above 3rd ledger line)REMEMBER – piccolo sounds 8va higher than written
  • Clarinet (upper range – C concert – 2nd ledger line)
  • Alto Sax (upper range – G concert – top of staff)AS with Trumpet – use upper range wisely
  • Tenor Sax (upper range – Bb concert – 3rd line of staffbeware of low-end writing – it becomes “honky” at times)
  • Mellophone (upper range – C concert – 3rd space, Treble clef)
  • Trumpet (upper range – Bb concert – above 1st ledger line)USE UPPER REGISTER WISELY, AND NOT OFTEN!
  • Trombone(upper range – F concert – above 2nd ledger line)DO NOT WRITE fast moving parts below 4th line FBaritone – same as Trombone
  • Tuba (upper range – F concert – 4th line, bass clef)KEEP most fast-moving lines medium/high in range

Although all of the above instruments can play higher than the suggested ranges, it is recommended (for safetys sake and playability) to use the above list.

g) Delete repeated material from the original, and condense “the best parts” from the original into one or two verses. It’s best to start the arrangment “thinner”, and then add voices to the end.

h) Electric Bass/Percussion parts – Every arrangement for the BRBB should contain an electric bass and percussion part.  The bass part can simply be a sousy part with chord changes written in.  For percussion, you should either notate exact rhythms, or simply do a lead sheet with comments (for example, you could write “8 bars of rock, with a fill on bar 8” or “4 bars of swing, followed by double time”). In addition, you may wish to write in “kicks” from the wind score to let the percussionist know what is coming up.  See the attached
page for an example of a studio “lead sheet” for percussion. Another solution (although not the best) would be to take a trumpet or trombone part, and write the above information.

In any case, both parts should be on 8.5×11 paper, so that it can be placed in the respective binder.

j) FINALE numbers for parts and score:

  • Parts – you should use the EVPU numbers of 1600 and 2000 when splitting parts.  I normally reduce the music to 55% as well – most 2-minute arrangements will then fit on no more than 2 marching band-sized pages.  Reducing the music to under 55% will make it very difficult to read.
  • Score – you should use the EVPU numbers of 3168 and 2448 for a landscape score (reverse the numbers for a portrait score). As with the parts, I normally reduce to 55% – anything smaller will make it more difficult to read.

In closing, I welcome the addition of student arrangements; however, we do not guarantee performances of arrangements simply because they are completed.  I will do my best to offer helpful suggestions as long as you are willing to accept them!