There are many strategies to choosing pep band music, but a lot of the decision will necessarily center on the capabilities and circumstances of your group. Choose songs in a range of styles that your band members can confidently play. It usually is best to keep a practiced repertoire of fight songs, cheers and taunts that match the skill set and playing level of the musicians in the pep band.
Much of running a pep band depends on specifics, and choosing pep band music is no different. Large trumpet fanfare pieces do not sound as good in bands that have small or weak trumpet sections, for instance. Similarly, complex fight songs tend to fall flat if the musicians are not skilled enough to keep up the tempo or hit the notes correctly while marching at a pep rally.
It is usually best to start by taking stock of the instruments that you have available, as well as your band’s overall skill level. Look at the kinds of events where you will be performing, too. Songs that sound good in a closed gymnasium while musicians are seated are bound to change outdoors or at a crowded event. Pep band music is different from concert music because context is often a big part of the performance’s success or failure.
If your pep band is for a school that has a fight song, this should be one of the first pieces of music that your group learns. Most high school bands and college bands use their fight song as their hallmark, and fans will expect to hear the tune at sporting events and parades. It can also motivate your school’s sports teams and trigger cheering sections in the stands. Starting with a tried-and-true favorite is a good way to set the tone for pep rallies and sporting events alike.
From there, expand your pep band music collection by adding recognizable tunes with uplifting, fast tempos. It is often a good idea to include songs in two main genres outside of fight songs: cheers and taunts. Cheers are designed to encourage a team, and taunts are meant to challenge the opposition. Though not a lot of pep band music is designed to be played with lyrics, choosing well-known songs will often lead to impromptu cheering or singing from the crowd.
Depending on the skills of your group, it might make sense for you to rearrange or re-set at least some of your pep band music. Even the most established songs might sound better for your specific band if certain portions are dropped, or if certain segments re-written. It is always acceptable to take creative liberties with sheet music, particularly when it improves the end result.