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Category Archives: Drill Writing

Hornline Visuals

As is generally the best rule…simplier is better.  Keep it simple.  Pretty much always.  You don’t need to tell the students this.  High school age kids need to be motivated and they are often very competitive so you may want to encourage them to believe what they are being asked to do is amazing and challenging and hard and unique.  Surely, too, much of it is!  High school band is, in my opinion, the best and most rewarding way to mature and experience your late teen years.  The challenges of preparing your music, bringing your horn/folder everyday, navigating the social scene, participating in marching/jazz/concert band etc. and trying to achieve superior ratings or all-district band are both humbling and inspiring ways to live.  Far superior to many other activities teenagers get into.

Check this out:

Movement and drill has been a tradition around for centuries and not just in the marching arts.  This is an all girls academy in the UK that has a strong tradition of drills like in the video.  Good stuff!  I wish all schools had these activities.

Visuals in Marching Band

Visuals in marching band for the hornline need to be simple, one step motions that are angular, easily defined, and simple.  The above video has tons of examples and I’m sure you’ll agree it is effective.  Here’s the thing about marching band…it’s so effective because at its core it is simply:

Seeing people doing the same thing the same way at the same time.


All you have to do is have everyone raise their right arm straight to the sky, fingers together, no bend in the wrist or elbow.  Do that in one count – BOOM, effect.  Hold for 3 counts and take 2 counts (move-stop/1-2) to return the hand to holding position.   That is an easy to teach, easy to clean, easy to remember visual that when everyone does it will be effective.  Now if you start to ripple it or make it sequential you add layers of effect and can eat up time in holds with this choreo.

Marching Bands Don’t Need to March All the Time

anymore.  This is a trend in the activity and although I used to oppose the idea I’m fond of it now.  The ultimate reason is because it allows the players to focus on their ability to sound good – which is what band is all about.  That great guard work?  the great drill? the great show concept?  all flounders into nothing if the band doesn’t sound good.  And if the band sounds good then any show will be effective.  So, I’m a huge proponent of giving kids a chance to focus on playing their music, catching their breath, and sounding amazing.  That all carries over to concert season as well.  Just a few weeks after the end of marching band you’ve got to be ready for your winter concert…don’t forget!

We are music educators.  We are musicians.  The “activity” and related winter activities can never get away from the fact that kids playing instruments well is what we are here to teach and preserve in our culture.


A Letter to Students – Band Camp, Part 7

Dear Band Students, I have good news for you today. Marching Basics Scared?  Don’t be.  Our basics are about training your mind not just your body.  Seriously. Marching band is about getting students to understand and internalize a series of tasks.  The average show will have about 45 drill sets in it although it ranges… Continue Reading

A Letter to Students – Band Camp, Part 6

Dear Band Students, Almost done I swear! So now we know all this stuff (and yes, congratulations you do now know A LOT of stuff about the marching activity)  about how things are designed, the history, your responsibilities and philosophy but what about the actual location where it all takes place?  How do you know… Continue Reading

A Letter to Students – Band Camp, Part 5

Dear Band Students, Now its time to talk about something very, very dear and special to you.  To you?  Yes, to you and you don’t even have it yet!  I am of course talking about… Marching Band Dot Book Your dot book!  Behold!! You’ll also need a shoe string or some variation of it to… Continue Reading

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… Continue Reading

A Letter to Students – Band Camp, Part 3

Marching Band Drill Writing Evolves Dear Band Students, Drill writing is an art form that has been evolving for decades.  As developments in technology and resources reinvented the way society and band enthusiasts experience and approach the marching activity so too was drill rapidly influenced.   Did you know:  As late as the 1980’s corps… Continue Reading

A Letter to Students – Band Camp, Part 2

Interval Training for Marching Band Camp Dear students, Band camp is coming up and I hope you are all very excited to get started. I know that I am really looking forward to getting to know you all and working with you all. I have heard great things about the students and the program here… Continue Reading

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