Scramble Bands

What’s the difference between a scramble band and a regular marching band? Start by recalling everything you know about regular marching bands. Now forget it.

Where a traditional band usually gets from one formation to the next through some precision marching, we typically scramble, a maneuver that can be described as “Entropy in Action” or “Random Incarnate.” A well-executed scramble may look like a cross between a riot, a fire drill, and a half-off sale at Macy’s….. shown here, actual size.

Traditional bands’ halftime shows usually consist of marches or big production numbers, perhaps preceded by an announcement of what they’re playing. A scramble band’s shows usually involve, unless you go to Penn, a clever script, with the music and formations acting as punchlines to the jokes. And while a traditional band may be accompanied by a color guard or twirlers, a scramble band is more often accompanied by people playing things you never thought of as musical instruments. At Princeton, we call them Trash Percussion. Watching a scramble band is a broadening experience.

Scramble bands also have something else in common: they all like to tilt at windmills. A scrambler’s favorite tool is satire. While scramblers’ views may vary wildly, one thing we all seem to agree on is that nothing is so sacred that we can’t poke fun at it.

Other Scramble Bands

Scramble bands are rare; besides Princeton, there are fewer than a dozen others in the USA:

As you can see, many of the scramble bands are Ivy League; of the eight Ivy schools, only Cornell’s band does not scramble (or scatter, as our Western cousins would say). Why Cornell is allowed to stay in the Ivy League with such a band is anyone’s guess.


The Ivy Bands join forces once per year at a Conference to discuss grievances, recruitment strategies, etc.  So sometimes we are friends.