There is just something insanely cool about college marching bands and the atmosphere they help to create pregame buzz. But, I think it’s fair to say that some are better than others. Now, this is not about selecting one school over another, but rather a list of the 15 best college marching bands of all time.
1. Texas Tech University
Texas Tech University takes the entire thing about college marching bands very seriously indeed, even to the point of having a course available about it. This marching band has over 400 members, and that’s impressive. But what’s even more impressive is their ability to keep everything together even when it’s so large. If you want to get a glimpse of band management, then Texas Tech is the one I think you should be looking at.
2. Florida State University
What stands out with the Florida State University marching band is their belief in keeping things nice and simple. Why complicate matters when one of your main aims is to get the crowd involved as much as possible? At times, it seems as if marching bands are playing for themselves, but that’s not the case here. Instead, Florida State plays to the crowd, and they keep them entertained for hours at a time.
3. Michigan State University
Known as the Spartan Marching Band, there’s no doubt that Michigan State University has one of the most widely known marching bands around. They actually march to the stadium before the game but don’t think for a moment that they will not put on a show once in the arena. Their ability to add so much energy to their music is something that will get the fans pumped up for the game, and they do come across as experts at this. For me, it’s the absolutely lively nature of what they do that stands out.
4. Texas A&M University
There’s no way I couldn’t include Texas A&M University in this list because they are widely accepted as being one of the best college marching bands in the entire country. They have the ability to flow perfectly between songs, and it’s immediately apparent that they work hard at organizing themselves both in placement and their music. They can make something that is complicated appear easy, thanks to their desire to produce something seamless while entertaining the crowd. Other college marching bands could learn a thing or two from them when it comes to the production side of things. They are just that good.
5. Pennsylvania State University
The Marching Blue Band has the luxury of knowing they do not have to work too hard to get the crowd pumping for the game. After all, the fans of Pennsylvania State University have a reputation for being excited and full of energy, no matter the sport or who they are up against. However, the band itself is slick and well-drilled both in its music and formations. They produce so much energy that you cannot help but be sucked in by them even if you are not a supporter of Penn State or have that raw love for their college.
6. University of Michigan
Not to be confused with Michigan State Spartan Marching Band, the Michigan Marching Band is the University of Michigan’s. It’s often viewed as perhaps the number-one marching band in the country. This is due to their formations, but the music they produce is also pretty impressive.
Of course, they are helped out by the fact they have 100,000 individuals cheering them on, but you cannot help but love the way they manage to get all those people involved in their music. It’s a sight to see, and also a wonderful thing to listen to. If you have never listened to a marching band before, then they would be a great one to start as they will blow your mind.
7. Ohio State University
What I enjoy about Ohio State University is the way they have no desire to complicate things with their performance. They produce solid songs in classic formations, and they don’t try to create too much of a spectacle. It’s all about the music rather than how intricate they can walk around the field. But they still have this insane ability to build excitement and enjoyment within the crowd to ensure everyone is pumped before the game begins. However, the fact they allow their own talent to speak rather than the glitz is a fantastic thing in my eyes.
8. University Of Notre Dame
There was no way I was not going to include the University of Notre Dame because the Band of the Fighting Irish is an expert at getting everyone ready for game time. Of course, Notre Dame fans do not require too much in the way of encouragement, but this marching band is explosive in their delivery, and by the time they have finished, everyone just wants the game to start to let that raw energy and emotion out. Clearly, their fans do not need much in the way of temptation to show their excitement.
9. Georgia Institute of Technology
The Yellow Jacket Marching Band has a good grip on what’s required for a marching band to make an impact on the crowd before a game. For me, this is something they achieve with absolute ease. But it’s also cool how they don’t believe in adding on some extras just to pad out the music. Instead, they strip it down and let their music speak for itself. Also, I do love the way you can feel the pride seeping out from the band, and that is something that always resonates with the crowd at the game.
10. University of Iowa
The University of Iowa doesn’t like change, and that means the Hawkeye Marching Band has not changed much since the 1950s, but I think there’s something cool about that. It does mean there’s a sense of it having been stripped back, and it doesn’t have the same appeal as some colleges where they use all kinds of add-ons. However, if you want to get a sense of what pregame used to be like with college marching bands, then this is what I would suggest you check out. There’s not really anything else like them out there, especially if you love nostalgia.
11. Louisiana State University
Louisiana State University has an amazing college marching band, and you only have to look at its ability to get 90,000 people to join in to see the control they have over everything. Their music is loud and well-coordinated, and it is perfection on a field. Also, they have this skill whereby they do not have to do too much in order to get the crowd involved. It’s as if the crowd just knows what’s expected of them, and the music pulls them in whether they like it or not. Ultimately, it does lead to a mind-blowing outcome when tens of thousands join in. Now, that is a sight you need to see, and it’s all thanks to the ability of the marching band.
12. University of Tennessee
The way the University of Tennessee organizes its performances is astonishing. Now, they do seem to be playing for themselves more than the crowd at times, but that’s not something that the crowd seems to mind. Actually, they get involved with every song, so check out the amount of singing and foot-tapping. Also, the energy they manage to create would get even the lamest of individuals involved even if it’s just via a video online. This is one marching band I stress people need to listen to just because of how they keep playing at such a high standard through every single song.
13. University of Oklahoma
The Pride of Oklahoma is one college marching band that knows how to kickstart a party and get everyone ready for the game. Their ability to throw so much energy into their fighting songs is the stuff of legend, and they always put a hundred percent into every performance. Of course, Oklahoma fans don’t need much in the way of help to get themselves prepared for the game, but this marching band just adds a whole other level to preparations, and the gusto they play with will blow your mind. Even if you are not a fan, you will struggle to not be drawn into the energy they produce and appreciate their skills.
14. University of Wisconsin–Madison
Now, this one is a bit different because if you thought college marching bands were completely clean-cut, then that’s not the case here. Instead, the University of Wisconsin Marching Band has even had to deal with being banned at different times thanks to various allegations about them. Pushing that to one side because they also have so much skill in playing their song list and getting the crowd on their side. It’s almost as if they are rock stars rather than anything else, But don’t forget about their skills when it comes to music. They will grab the crowd and drag them along behind them, and there’s something pretty cool about all of that, in my opinion.
15. University of Arkansas
University of Arkansas Razorback Marching Band does not spend too much time focusing on the intricacies of formations. Instead, they just love to keep things as straightforward as possible as they just know their ability to produce some amazing music and songs is enough. Of course, they always have a passionate crowd to help them along, but I also think it’s fair to say that this is something of a show band. You see, they love to deliver on their performances where it’s all about them rather than anything that has been added on. If you want a basic marching band, then this is one to check out.
Barry has worked as a freelance writer for over a decade and has developed an eye for detail when it comes to unearthing cool and interesting facts.
His love of music stems from his student days checking out up and coming bands playing in the darkest corners of bars and clubs in Edinburgh.
The love of uncovering something new also remains with him. With an appreciation for music that’s best described as eclectic, his musical tastes range from Eric Clapton to Eminem through to Snow Patrol and Incubus. The memories that music can bring back to the fore is something he tries to portray in his writing.
For him, the voyage of discovery and unearthing something new is what makes this task of writing for MusicGrotto.com so interesting.