Brass Instruments

Shining Victory: Polish for Marching Band Instruments

Marching band shine

Art has a way of stirring feelings deep inside of people. However, when art encompasses more than one medium, it can bring about something even greater. For example, marching bands use both music and visual stimuli to create an emotionally stirring performance. But to leave the audience speechless, every detail must be perfect, including their musical instruments. That’s why it’s important to use polish for marching band instruments regularly.

The most commonly overlooked aspect of the show is the presentation of the instruments. Dingy or dirty instruments can’t make the same statement as their shiny counterparts. While polish is the answer, the outdoor environment and harsh elements are unlike those instrumentalists face in a concert venue. If you want to know which products to use, keep reading to learn much more.

Top Pick
Music Nomad MN700 Lacquer Polish

For Brass and Woodwind Instruments – This lacquer polish for marching band instruments comes in an easy-to-use spray bottle. It restores the shine quickly and lasts all season long. Even after four months of constant use, most instruments will look polished.

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03/25/2023 05:50 pm GMT

For the last decade, I have been engrossed in marching bands and what goes into making a nationally-recognized show. I play the tenor sax and mellophone, competed in two high school circuits and performed in college, including bowl games and NFL games. For the last four years, I have been in staffing for the same band I marched in high school, competing in multiple regional and state championships, as well as a national championship in U.S. Bands.

Part of my job has included polishing all the instruments before shows. I’ve tried them all  – some have either taken too long to work or did not achieve the shine required.

How to Choose a Polish for Marching Band Instruments

There are many options available when selecting a polish for marching band instruments since all are geared towards different needs. Marching in a band is a physically intensive activity that is taxing on the performer as well as the instrument. So, you need a polish that withstands the weather and elements daily. You also need to look for a polish that works quickly and is easy for students to use.

The point is, a long-lasting polish will save money in consistently slashed band budgets. And you need a polish that will create a bold finish people can see for miles, or at least the judge’s booth in parades or press box in sports stadiums. Also, it’s important to use the right polish for the right coating.

For example, silver polish and lacquer polish are not interchangeable. A polish that can’t hold up against rain like silver polish will cause tarnish, even if you wipe the water away quickly. Therefore, the product needs to match the intensity of the activity.

The Advantages of Using Polish for Marching Band Instruments

Polishing brings many benefits to the musicians, the performance, and the instruments. Keeping the coating of the instrument shiny makes it look beautiful. But it also helps protect the instrument beneath, especially silver instruments. Tarnish eats away at the coating, exposing the metal beneath to rust and damage. This can greatly shorten the lifespan of an instrument.

Replacing instruments can be expensive, especially for marching instruments like mellophones and tubas. Also, shiny instruments improve the overall effect of the show. Visual movements with the horn such as horn pops are more visible to judges and the audience. The bold shine of the bell catches the stadium lights, making impact moments in the music stronger.

One of the lesser-known advantages to the polish is the confidence boost the performers get from the shine. Numerous students have told me that they feel a new level of pride in their performance when using shiny band instruments. They feel like the judges and the audience are listening and looking at them.

Many bands encourage their students to polish and clean their instruments. This provides them with a new learning opportunity. And students who regularly use polish for marching band instruments are more likely to take better care of them. This can also minimize repair and replacement costs.

The Three Types of Marching Band Instrument Polishes

Polish for marching band instruments comes in three main forms: liquid, paste and cloth. Liquid forms can be watery enough for a spray bottle. They are ideal for lacquer and the treatment of small areas of tarnish. Thicker liquids cling to the instrument well and penetrate deep, so they can safely restore the coating.

Paste behaves much like a thick liquid and is easier to apply and control than liquid. These forms require the use of a soft cloth to apply and remove the polish. The final form is a polishing cloth that has the polish woven into the fibers. Cloth polish is ideal for small surfaces and spot treatments.

It’s also great for buffing an already polished instrument to an even brighter shine. When you’re looking for a polishing product for your marching band, a thick liquid or paste will provide that deep, long-lasting shine.

Things to Do Before You Polish Your Instrument

Before using any polishing product, you need to start with a clean instrument. Wipe down the outside of the instrument with a soft cloth to remove dirt and debris. Here’s how brass players can give their instruments a bath to get an extremely filthy instrument clean:

  • Remove the valves from the chamber and the pipes.
  • Submerge the instrument in a tub of warm water with a little mild soap.
  • Gently scrub with a soft cloth.
  • Repeat the same process for each of the pipes.
  • Dry all the pieces before restoring the valves and pipes correctly, being sure to oil the valves and grease the pipes.

This method has proven effective and is commonly used by those who march in Drum Corps.

The Best Ways to Use Polish for Marching Band Instruments

Temperature effects an instrument, causing a fluctuation in pitch even in the middle of a performance. Weather can also damage the coating as your cleaning it. The best way to use musical band instrument polish is to eliminate any outside influences. Here’s how:

  • For best results, polish and clean your instrument indoors at room temperature. Heat or cold could affect the active ingredients in the polish and harm your coating. The best time of the season to do this is at the beginning of fall.
  • Polish on a day when you won’t be using your instrument. Put it back in the case when finished, too. After polishing silver instruments, both performers and handlers should wear gloves during rehearsal to minimize tarnish throughout the season.
  • On days when performers encounter rain, wipe instruments immediately to avoid damage. Also, buff the instruments with a polish cloth before the end of the season.

The Top Marching Band Polish: Music Nomad’s MN 700 Lacquer Polish

Top Pick
Music Nomad MN700 Lacquer Polish

For Brass and Woodwind Instruments – This lacquer polish for marching band instruments comes in an easy-to-use spray bottle. It restores the shine quickly and lasts all season long. Even after four months of constant use, most instruments will look polished.

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03/25/2023 05:50 pm GMT

Music Nomad’s MN 700 Lacquer Polish and MN 701 Silver Polish are the best products for protecting instruments against harsh conditions during the marching band season. Both products are necessary because lacquer and silver polish are not interchangeable. Also, some schools can’t afford to issue instruments in the same finish for their band members.

Lacquer polish for marching band instruments usually comes in an easy use spray bottle. You don’t need to use much, either. Just spray the polish onto a soft fiber cloth. In fact, Music Nomad makes a cloth that works incredibly well. Gently apply the polish to the instrument to produce an instant shine.


Music Nomad offers this instructional video if you’d like detailed instructions:

Music Nomad’s MN 700 Lacquer Polish is easy to use and restores the shine. The polish lasts all season long. And you only need one coating to restore the finish. The product is so strong that one spray will cover large instruments like trombones and baritones.

Quality silver polishes for instruments are difficult to find. Silver tarnishes easily by the oils on the skin and water. Even if you successfully restore the finish, it can quickly return to its tarnished appearance.

When handling silver instruments, there are some precautions that will help the shine last longer. Wearing gloves during rehearsals and performances is your greatest defense. Much of the tarnish on silver is around the valves and their casing. When instruments are resting on the sidelines, they should be in their cases.

You can also lay them on their sides on a towel or cloth. This will prevent moisture and dirt from the ground to latch onto the silver. Also, performers should carry a cloth in their pockets during rehearsal to wipe down any moisture from rain or spit.

How to Use Music Nomad’s MN 701 Silver Polish

Even the most tarnished silver instruments are no match for Music Nomad’s MN 701 Silver Polish. Although a little more involved than the lacquer polish, it is still easy to use. Here’s how:

  • Fold a soft polishing cloth in half.
  • In one corner, add about a dime-sized amount.
  • Apply to the instrument in a circular motion, leaving behind a thin purple layer.
  • Once covered, use the clean side of the cloth to remove the polish, leaving the instrument like new.

The amount you apply will vary, depending on the size of the instrument. Applying too much will leave behind a residue, so it is better to apply too little than too much. Like the lacquer polish, silver polish for marching band instruments is fast-acting and leaves a beautiful shine. And if you follow the precautions during the season, you won’t need to reapply again until the next season.

You can also apply the polish to flutes. However, you must use extra care when applying it to avoid damaging the wires and keys. Also, you can conveniently find both products online. Best yet, because you only use a small amount, it will last a long time.

More Marching Band Instrument Care Items to Consider

Bach Silver Polish Cloth

There are other instrument polishing products you can add to your arsenal to improve the appearance of your instrument throughout the season. Music Nomad’s product provides the best finish, yet it is the most intensive. So, once you have a solid finish, sometimes a touch-up is all you need.


These types of polish for marching band instruments provide a touch-up, but don’t work for heavy duty tasks the Music Nomad polishes can tackle. The Bach Silver Polish Cloth is one of the best touch-up polishing products. Remember, you can’t wash musical band instrument polish cloths because that would remove the treatment from the fibers.

However, they are easy to carry in a pocket or bag for spot treatments and buffing on the run. Also, if you use too much silver polish on their instrument, you can clear the residue with the cloth to provide extra shine.

Herco HE92

The Herco doesn’t build up tarnish like the Bach cloth does. However, it doesn’t provide that deep penetrating shine that Music Nomad’s products do.

It is great for touch up of polished instruments and buffing out inconsistencies in the shine. It also works well for saxophones, as the cloth can slip under wires to clear dust and debris. You can use this polish for marching band instruments to buff the bells right before show time to give instruments an added shine.

It is especially useful during nighttime performances when the stadium lights are their brightest. This product is a helpful addition to any emergency maintenance pack.

Selmer Lacquer Polish

Selmer Lacquer Polish is exactly as its name says. It’s just a polish for marching band instruments. It doesn’t remove stains or add any additional protection. However, it makes shiny instruments even shinier. If your instruments are already out-of-the-box perfect, this musical band instrument polish will keep the shine up.


But the scuffs and rubs in the polish will remain. So, Selmer Lacquer Polish is best for new instruments since it won’t affect the finish too much.

Yamaha YAC 1060P Lacquer Polish

Yamaha YAC 1060P Lacquer Polish meets the same standards as the Selmer polish. But the Yamaha product is watery and runny. This means it doesn’t adhere well for the deep penetrating cleaning the Music Nomad products offer.

Like the Selmer, this polish for marching band instruments is ideal for out of the box instruments for keeping their shine. It doesn’t offer any additional protection than the Selmer. However, it does provide Yamaha quality when you use it to maintain the shine.

Instrument Clinic Woodwind Key Polish

Instrument Clinic Woodwind Key Polish is for the keys of woodwinds, like clarinets and flutes. However, you can also use it for deep spot treatments on silver instruments. Although it is a thick liquid, it is incredibly messy and can be difficult to use on the small parts of woodwind instruments.


So, be sure to wear gloves to avoid tarnish stains on your hands. The cloth that comes with it is not of great quality, so using another cloth would be better. You can use this polish for marching band instruments to remove deep tarnish stains on silver plated brass instruments with good results, too.

But, it is not suitable for the whole instrument. The kit comes with cork grease and key oil, which is useful throughout the season. This is a useful kit for woodwind products and deep penetrating spot treatments.

A Shining Victory

The type of polish for marching band instruments you choose depends on the type, finish, age and quality of your instrument. Also, consider if it’s for maintenance or a complete overhaul. You also need to think about weather conditions and budgetary constraints.

Marching in a band takes a great toll on instruments and tests its metal, quite literally. But, regular polishing and cleaning can increase the age of the instrument. This saves money on replacements. And it is important to treat your instruments well to achieve the utmost success.

In a competitive marching band, judges assess every detail. So, even a small smudge can keep you from winning. So, with a dab of polish or a wipe of a cloth, your instrument will give you a victorious shine.

Notable Replies

  1. “But to leave the audience speechless, every detail must be perfect”. - This is so true! It’s always so much more impressive to see the band come out with their instruments shining, whether it’s in the sun or rain. I really believe a powerful look - shining instruments - can lead to a win in competition, or as said just more proud, confident players. I wish my highschool band had similar feelings and made us keep ours clean. I think it would have made everyone more excited to play!

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