Ever since ancient times, music has been the key signaling source for thousands of armies. Chances were that a person would not be able to hear his officer or serjeant shouting over the raucous of war, so naturally the Music was an integral part of the Regiment on the battlefield. Drummers and Fifers would play tunes to relay commands across from one company or regiment to another.
Another duty of the Music was that of the beat keeper on the march. The officers in the British army had the soldiers’ average pace determined. They also knew the distance they wanted to travel. By determining both the pace-size and the distance they needed to travel, the army could establish their travel time based on a certain beat of the drum. For example, if the pace of a soldier is 4 feet and the soldier was trying to get one mile, it was determined that it would take 1,320 paces to cover that distance. The average drum beat is 96 beats per minute (a beat equals a step). It is determined that it will take 13 minutes and forty five seconds to cover that distance. Here is the proof:
• 5,280 feet (or 1 mile) divided by 4 feet (or 1 pace) = 1,320 paces.
• 1,320 paces divided by the 96 beats = 13.75, or 13 minutes and 45 seconds.
By using this equation the officers are able to know how long it will take to get from point A to point B. The beat could also be manipulated to arrive earlier or later than this projected time.
Also on the march, the Music provided the soldiers’ entertainment. Besides just the common marches, the Music would play country dances, folk songs (Yankee Doodle, for example), ballads (Welcome, Welcome Brother Debtor), songs of love (The Girl I left Behind Me), and patriotic songs (Rule Britannia, British Grenadiers).
As you will notice, the Music wore reversed colors from the soldiers in the Regiment. While the soldiers wore red coats with yellow facings (trim), the Music wore yellow coats with red facings. This helped to identify which musicians belonged to which regiment during battle. This was helpful not only to the soldiers fighting, but also for any observers watching the fray from afar.
By the time of the American War for Independence there were two drummers assigned to each company and four fifers assigned to the Grenadiers. A Drum-Major commanded the drummers and a Fife-Major commanded the fifers. These did not become ranks in the British Army until 1810 when they were given the rank of a Serjeant.