Band, something which "binds" or fastens one thing to another, hence a cord, rope or tie, e.g. the straps fastening the sheets to the back in book-binding. The word is a variant of "bond," and is from the stem of the Teutonic bindan, to bind. From the same source comes "bend," properly to fasten the string to the bow, so as to constrain and curve it, hence to make into the shape of a "bent" bow, to curve. In the sense of "strap," a flat strip of material, properly for fastening anything, the word is ultimately of the same origin but comes directly into English from the French bande. In architecture the term is applied to a sort of flat frieze or fascia running horizontally round a tower or other parts of a building, particularly the base tables in perpendicular work, commonly used with the long shafts characteristic of the 13th century. It generally has a bold, projecting moulding above and below, and is carved sometimes with foliages, but in general with cusped circles or quatrefoils, in which frequently are shields of arms.
The two small strips of linen, worn at the neck as part of legal, clerical and academic dress, are known as "bands"; they are the survival of the falling collar of the 17th century. These bands are usually of white linen, but the secular clergy of the Roman Church wear black bands edged with white. The light cardboard or chip boxes now used to carry millinery were formerly made to carry the neck-bands, whence the name of "band-box."
In the sense of company or troop, "band" is probably also connected with bindan, to bind. It came into English from the French. The meaning seems to have originated in Romanic, cf. Italian, Spanish and Portuguese banda, and thence came into Teutonic. It has usually been taken (see Ducange, Gloss. s.v. banda) to be due to the "band" or sash of a particular colour worn as a distinctive mark by a troop of soldiers. Others refer it to the medieval Latin bandum, banner, a strip or "band" of cloth fastened to a pole. In this sense the chief application is to a company of musicians (see Orchestra), particularly when used in armies or navies, a military band.
In all countries bands are organized and maintained in each infantry regiment or battalion if the latter is the unit. The strength of these bands and the number and nature of their instruments vary considerably, as also do the rank and status of the bandmaster. The buglers and drummers belonging to the companies are generally massed under the sergeant-drummer and on the march play alternately with the band. In action the British custom is to use the bandsmen as stretcher-bearers, but on the continent of Europe the bands are as far as possible kept in hand under the regimental commanders and play the troops into action; and in all countries the available bands, drums and bugles are ordered to play during the final assault. The training of bandmasters for the British service is carried out at Kneller Hall, Hounslow, an institution founded in 1857 and placed under direct control of the war office in 1867. The average strength of the various classes of instrument in the band of a British line regiment has been stated as - twenty flutes, oboes, clarinets and bassoons, four horns, eight saxhorns, six trumpets and cornets, three trombones, two drums. The buglers and drummers are in the proportion of one of each per company.
The saxophone, which is the characteristic instrument of military bands in other countries, has not found favour with the British authorities. Another specially military instrument, universal in the Russian army and more or less common to others, is the so-called "Jingling Johnny," a frame of small bells that is sharply shaken in the accented parts of the music. The "glockenspiel" is also fairly common. The peculiar instrument of Scottish regiments is the bagpipes. Cavalry, and more rarely artillery corps in the various armies, have small bands. The mounted arms, however, have little need of music as compared with the infantry, the order and ease of whose marching powers are immensely enhanced by the music of a good regimental band. In the navies of various countries bands are maintained on board flag-ships and sometimes on board other large ships.