Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

Banjo Lovers Online

Discussion Forum

Want to hide these Google ads? Join the Players Union!

 All Forums
 Playing the Banjo
 Playing Advice: 4-String (Jazz, Blues & Other Trad Styles)
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Banjo in marching band

Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link:

malarz - Posted - 01/22/2019:  06:49:19

I’m thinking of joining in with a marching/street band. I’d be the only banjo player. Are there any type of portable/chest mounted sheet music holders available? I don’t know anything about the Mummers (who are marching banjo players, right?) but assume some of the players need some type of portable music holder.

Thanks for any suggestions.


FlyinEagle - Posted - 01/22/2019:  08:00:25

They are called lyres, and typically used with small ring-bound books called books flip folders.


They are made for just about all of the typical marching instruments, but my cursory googling is coming up dry for banjo lyres.  There must be something out there though, maybe vintage.  OR maybe one of the commonly available lyres can be modified.


I’ve never been a Mummer, but I have spent a lot (too much) time around them, and they don’t read during performances, they memorize everything.

tdennis - Posted - 01/22/2019:  08:36:24

Mummers are strummers, & add a percussive voice to the overall sound. They do not play many individual notes & never use sheet music or lyres.

guitarbanjoman - Posted - 01/22/2019:  08:45:37

You won't need any music to play with a marching band... it'll be a great workout for your ears!

Alex Z - Posted - 01/22/2019:  09:01:26

As the single banjo, you won't need written music.  But you could use a wagon to drag along a 1,000 watt Marshall amp, just to be heard over the brass and the percussion.

You may not hear a note you're playing, in a 50+ piece marching band.  smiley

Now, if it's a dixieland-type smaller group,  5-8 pieces, then the banjo could add a good flavor to the rhythm.  The other pieces will all be trying to play together for the total sound, not just blasting out at max volume.

Sounds like fun.

mike gregory - Posted - 01/22/2019:  09:14:07

Fascinating project.
Please do keep us informed.
and have somebody post a video.

malarz - Posted - 01/22/2019:  11:12:15

Thanks to all. Membership seems to vary from 6-14 musicians depending on who is avaialable. i hope to get to my first rehearsal this week.

Veerstryngh Thynner - Posted - 01/22/2019:  12:24:54


I concur with Will.

Clipping music sheets on will be more of a hinder than a help. I have been street-parading  for years on end, with outfits of various sizes. Good fun, for most of the time. But remember that you'll be marching. Sight-reading whilst playing whilst marching motorically challenging, believe me. So I'm with Will here once more.

Do yourself a favour: leave all that paper at home (or at least just for stationary gigs), and play just by ear. You'll find it a damn good way of honing your skills in that area, I bet. But be kind to yourself in another way, too.

If there's more than one banjo to choose from, do pick the lightest one available. Honestly: your shoulders and your back will be eternally grateful for that. I made the mistake to use an instrument much too heavy for marching. A 5 hour gig still felt a week afterwards. I kid you not.

But if you're going to be in this marching band for the long haul, you might like to consider building a banjo entirely out of lightweight wood. Not a single piece of metal to it. I played one only once in my life, and I really enjoyed the occasion.

Please keep us posted on how you're faring.

Veerstryngh Thynner

PS: I bet Mike Gregory may jump at the challenge of designing and making a super-light, super-loud banjo custom-built for street-parading. :-)

Edited by - Veerstryngh Thynner on 01/22/2019 12:43:22

tdennis - Posted - 01/22/2019:  18:56:08

If you are the only banjo in the band, you don't have a chance in H... of being heard. ( i.e., The only time one can hear the banjos in the mummers parade is when the arrangement stops the rest of the band from playing & gives a few measures for the battery of 6 banjos to take a solo). (you might consider carrying a small pignose amp on your back. )

malarz - Posted - 01/23/2019:  03:47:15

Thanks again for your replies and advice and thoughts. After further investigation it appears this band marches seldom and performs mainly in concert-type settings: elderly care facilities, farmers markets, etc. I won’t need to concern myself with reading while walking/marching. Even so, I will try to memorize the tunes which is what I always try to do whatever the situation. As for being heard, as long as I can hear myself that is my only concern. If i do get involved in this project it will be for the experience of playing new-to-me material with new-to-me musicians.
Banjo weight is a concern. My Fender is only manageable and comfortable while I am sitting. Sounds good, though—even when I play it!

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories