A Letter to Students – Band Camp, Part 4

Dear Band Students,

Last time I told you how drill is written and how the computer executes it perfectly. Now it is time to figure out how we can emulate what the computer does to achieve amazing visual clarity.

Marching Band Benefits

Did you know (I like these cheesy tid bits): Famous intelligence and educational philosopher Howard Gardner stated there were 8 categories of intelligence. There are:

1. Bodily-kinesthetic
2. Interpersonal
3. Verbal-linguistic
4. Logical-mathematical
5. Naturalistic
6. Intrapersonal
7. Visual-spatial
8. Musical

Now tell me how many of those don’t we use in marching band?! All of them! Realize that working hard in this activity isn’t for the people who want to major in music or have an awesomely clean band. Working hard in this activity will make you a brilliant person and give your entire brain and body a workout!

Marching Band Drill Secrets

Keeping in mind that the computer executes drill moves perfectly because every count of the show is choreographed and calculated we can derive that the primary skill in achieveing visual clarity is the ability to divide space over time.


All of our marching basics even down to our horn carriage and breath exercise are about developing this side of your intelligence. The ability to control and divide space over time incorporates the sides of intelligence from our list above numbers 1, 4, 5 and 7. We can tackle 4 birds with one stone if we approach our drill in this way (and really this is the only way to have clean drill).

Space over time. Remember the example of the two dots and how the computer is able to connect the two and divide it into 8 even portions (steps)? Well we as marchers must apply the same mental energy and calculations to achieve this as well. For every dot you have in your dot book you will need to learn 6 pieces of information. Although they may seem like a lot of information really they are all related and are steps in one process.

The 6 Pieces of Information for Clean Marching Band Drill

1. Left to Right                                    4. Front to Back
2. Total Distance Left to Right        5. Total Distance Front to Back
3. Midset Left to Right                      6. Midset Front to Back


I start 2 steps outside the 50 and end up 2 steps outside the 50.
Well right off the bat we have the 1st piece of information for 2 dots; (1) our left to right; two steps outside the 50. That is our left to right. The total distance refers to how much distance you cover from the previous dot to the current.
The total distance is 4 steps (2).
From 2 outside the 50 to 2 outside the 50 on the opposite side is a total distance of 4 steps. From here we calculate the midset. Divide the total distance by 2. (4/2=2). Your midset will be 2 steps from the starting (or ending) left to right coordinate.
My midset is on the 50 (3).
This occurs on the middle of the move so if this is an 8 count move then your midset occurs on count 4. If it were a 12 count move, the midset would occur on count 6.

The same process needs to be repeated for the front to backs. And don’t worry, remember that left to right are much more important than the front to backs. They are more visible, easier to calculate and should be your first priority. The rest will come.

So when you are on the field and a staff member poses you a questions, 99% of the time your answer needs to only be a number. We’ll probably just be asking you things like:

“What’s your left to right?”
“What was your previous left to right?”
“What is the total distance you cover left to right in that move?”
“What is your midset?”

All those instances you’ll need to just give a number. Nothing else, no um’s or hmm’s or “well I think.” Nope, just the number. Most often the number will be less than four. …can you think of why that might be? Left to rights are always less than 4. Think about it. Once you get to splitting or 4 off you start to get closer to the other line. So instead of being 5 off you’re actually 3 off from the other yard line.

Again we find this information to make sure that we cover space over time evenly. That is what makes clean drill. First you must know where you start and stop and then figure out how to cover that distance evenly. Not arriving at your coordinates early or late. The 6 pieces of information are useful and are related to these 3 principles of drill from a previous letter:

All of the steps in any given move must be of the SAME
1. Pathway
2. Size
3. Technique

– An 8 count move has 8 steps that are exactly the SAME PATHWAY, SIZE AND TECHNIQUE.
– A 16 count move has 16 steps that are exactly the SAME PATHWAY, SIZE AND TECHNIQUE.
So do we take a big last step? NO
Do we take small steps near the end of the move? NO
Do we curve our paths? NO

– A 12 count move has 12 steps that are exactly the SAME PATHWAY, SIZE AND TECHNIQUE.
– A 20 count move has 20 steps that are exactly the SAME PATHWAY, SIZE AND TECHNIQUE.

Do we use less technique as we end one move into another? NO
Do we arrive at our left to right’s early? NO
Do we ever allow our step size to change during a move? NO


All of the steps in any given move must be of the SAME
1. Pathway
2. Size
3. Technique


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