Every marching band is unique. The terms they use and their meanings will vary slightly (especially the verbal commands used for directing the band). This glossary covers all the basic words you would need to know about Marching Band.
About Face- (Verbal Command)
A command that tells the group to turn the body 180 degrees to face in the opposite direction, without moving from the spot.
The special emphasis or stress that is applied to a particular note or beat in the music. How to Play 5 Types of Accents.
How marching bands create straight lines in ranks, files, and diagonals. Also referred to as the 5 points of alignment.
The measure of the amount of movement necessary to obtain 30, 45, 60, 90, 180, or 360 degrees.
A curved drill formation, part of a circle
As You Were– (Verbal command)
A command that tells the group to cancel the last command, and go back to the previous command or stance.
At Ease- (Verbal command)
A command that tells the group to remain where they are but relax from any rigid positions. Stay quiet and alert listening for further commands.
At Rest- (Verbal command)
A command that tells the group that they may move about and talk, but must remain in the area.
Atten-hut- (Verbal command)
A command that tells the group to go to attention.
Attention- (Verbal command)
Performance posture, feet together, head slightly upwards, and arms in front of the body
with the instrument in the proper position. Should be motionless, silent, waiting for the next command.
A side group supplementary or additional help.
In a band setting, this term can mean 2 things.
Backward March- (Verbal Command)
A command that tells the group to begin marching in the direction of your back. The reverse of forward marching, executed on the balls of the feet with gentle gliding motions and minimal upper body movement.
A group of musicians who play together.
The formation of a marching band into blocks; usually used while parade marching. The files and ranks are evenly spaced and defined by the instructor. Block formation sets the band up in a large rectangle formation. Can be 8X8, 7X9, 4X10, etc. This will depend on the need and spacing.
Band Booster– a parent or guardian of a student in a band program. Someone who supports the band in financial and logistical ways. Members are encouraged to volunteer and support. Volunteer opportunities vary from school to school but can include chaperons, moving equipment, band camp, and more.
A week or two-week-long camp of intense daily Marching Band practice. Where students learn the basic layout of their marching show for the season.
Drum/percussion section that marches. Generally comprised of snare drums, bass drums, quads, tenor drums, and cymbals.
Marching Band pants; part of the standard marching band uniform.
Box (The Press Box)-
A slang term for the judge’s box at the top of the football stadium.
Bring it in – (vocal command)
A command that typically signifies the end of rehearsal, but may also be used to impart important information when necessary.
The beat played by percussion during a parade or when marching on and off the field, indicating the tempo and marching pace. Also played as the band marches off of the field after a show, rehearsal, or competition.
Awards marching bands win at competitions. Can include: Best drum majors, best percussion, best auxiliary, best music, best marching, best general effect, best visual effect, best pit crew, etc.
How a person carries their body.
Parents or responsible adults that accompany the band to competitions or overnight trips. Responsible for the safety and order of the group.
Class A / B (Open Class) –
One way to classify bands by their size.
Slang term that means to make each movement well-defined and precise. Each has a definite point where the movement starts, changes, and stops.
The non-instrument playing auxiliary group to a Marching Band in High School or College or the military. They add to the showmanship and performance of the band by using flags, rifles, sabres, and other props. In Marching Band competitions their performance adds to the total score.
What is Color Guard? An In-Depth Guide
Two or more people standing behind one another (Same as File.)
An open area in a high school or college campus. Usually located in the central part of the campus and can be between or near the Auditorium, the Gym, and the Cafeteria.
A formation where the entire band or corps is in one large line, marching side by side.
A slang name for Drum and Bugle Corps, a type of marching group that performs using various pitched bugles, percussion equipment, flags, rifles, etc. Also means simply, a group of people.
A precise drill that has the band turn, rank by rank, and march the other direction.
Straight line in a column or file, aligned on the front person.
Cover Down- (Verbal Command)
A command that tells the group to straighten the column or file.
The metal ball on the top of the mace. These can be very elaborate or plain.
A signal that tells the band or corps to stop playing. (Same as Release)
Decrease Front- (Verbal Command)
A command that tells the band to reduce the width of the band by reducing the distance between files.
Detail…Halt- (Verbal Command)
A command that tells the group to stop marching.
The 45-degree lines established by the band block.
An oral command that tells the group that they are released from the rehearsal or drill.
Spacing between individuals front to back.
District (All-District Band)-
A combination of band members from different school districts across an area or across a state. Generally requires an audition.
An individual position on the field designed by the number of steps away from the hashes or sidelines, and yard lines. Each individual band member has their own dot on the field. For most bands dots generally line up with your right heel.
Dot sheet / Dot Book-
A sheet or book that gives your individual field positions during your show. Can also be called a drill chart. The dot shows your position on the field. Each individual band member has their own dot on the field.
A step where the band members move at twice the speed of the music or cadence. It is also a command that tells the group to move at twice their current tempo.
A musical term used in conducting to identify the first beat of a measure of music.
A metronome-style device that is connected to a megaphone.
A straight line in a rank, aligned on either the left, center, or right person.
Dress Left/Center/Right…Dress- (Verbal Command)
A command that tells the group to straighten the rank to the center person. Usually, the instruments are raised to the playing position, and each person’s head snaps toward the alignment point. This may be done in either one or two counts.
The steps and positions that make up the marching band show (see Sets).
Charts out the position of the entire band in different sets of the music.
Drum & Bugle Corps-
Musical marching group consisting of brass instruments, percussion instruments and color guard. Drum corps are specialized marching bands. Typically operating as independent organizations (no scholastic affiliation), drum corps perform on-field competitions, parades, festivals and other civic functions.
Leads the band in Marching, rehearsals, and performances. Their job is to follow directions given by the band director, be an example to the other students or members of the band, and help the program run smoothly. Generally, the Drum Major is a senior student member of the band.
Drum Major’s Stand–
A platform that is used on the field, for the drum major to conduct the band. It is usually about three to four feet square and three to five feet high.
Also known as the battery, the percussion section of a marching band which usually consists snare drum line, bass drum line, quad/quint/squint concert toms, bell lyra, and hand crash cymbals. They usually keep steady tempo with the band and provide a base rhythm of the music.
Eight to Five–
A specific measure/style of marching. Marching at a stride of eight steps to five yards (22.5″ stride). Using the chair step, eight 22.5 inch steps are taken per every 5 yards. The first step is taken with the left leg, the eighth with the right. The fourth step should fall halfway between the yard lines, and the ball of the right foot should hit the yard line on the eighth step.
How well or precisely something is done. This is often a key part of a judge’s evaluation of performances.
The last part of a command which tells the band to do the movement. It follows a preparation command.
Movement which produces larger intervals between members.
Face- (Verbal Command)
A command that tells the band to pivot and look in a complete different direction.
Examples: “Left Face”-90 degree turn to the left, “About Face”-180 degree turn to the reverse direction.
Fall In-(verbal Command)
A command that tells the band to get into a formation. example: “Fall in… at the beginning of the show.”
Fall Out- (Verbal Command)
A command that tells the band to leave a formation. example: “Fall out…and go into the band room.”
A small round metal piece that is used to hold the end of wooden instruments to keep them from splitting. The tapered, metal tip on the end of the mace.
A performance done by the marching band on a football field. Sometimes performed at a half-time football game, but also performed in marching band competitions.
Two or more people standing behind on another. (Same as Column.)
Also called silks, flags are used by the Guard during a Marching Band show. Sometimes the color guard is referred to as “the flags.”
Flank– (Verbal Command)
The side of a unit. Also, a command that tells the band to change direction and move toward that side.
Follow the Leader-
Movement including a lead performer marching a specified pattern with the remaining performers following the same path.
Forward March- (Verbal Command)
A command that tells the group to begin marching forward.
The distance across the first rank of the band.
Consists of keyboard instruments and auxiliary percussion. Also known as PIT.
Wrist and lower arm covering that is part of the Marching Band/Guard uniform.
Guard (Color Guard)–
Members of the band who add color and style to Marching Band performances with flags/props. Also known as Auxiliary, the term originally used for the flag/rifle carriers who stood at the front of a marching show. It evolved into modern Color Guard when dance and decorative flags were added.
General Effect / G. E.-
This is the title of a judging caption used for judging drum corps or bands. It has to do with the total overall effect created by all elements of the performance.
A gliding style of marching where the leg swings forward, (similar to a walking step) the heel contacts first, and the weight is smoothly rolled to the toe.
Correcting the alignment of the ranks, files or diagonals while moving.
Guiding on the Diagonals-
Aligning the position of a band member by matching the 45-degree lines set up by the band block.
A step where the band members move at half of the speed of the music or cadence. (Same as Hesitation step.)
A performance done by the marching band on a football field, between the two halves of a football game.
A step where the band members moves at half of the speed of the music or cadence. (Same as Half-tempo step.)
High Knee Lift Step-
A high-knee style of marching where the leg lifts with the foot coming to the opposite knee and then comes down to the ground. The toe of the foot contacts first and the weight is then rolled to the entire foot. (Same as Prance step or Leg Lift step.)
Hut– (verbal Command)
Part of an oral command that tells the band to execute the command. It is used to give an oral command a crisp sound.
Examples: ” Atten-hut”, “Mark-time-hut”, “Forward-hut”.
personnel hired to help out with various sections of the band, as in clarinet instructor or drumline instructor.
(In music) the stress or accent marking the rhythm. (In conducting) the movement made by the conductor’s hands or baton to show the accent of each beat. (In drum majoring) the movement made by the baton or mace to show the accent of each beat.
A command that tells the band to increase the width of the band by increasing the distance between files.
A marching movement where the person rotates either right or left while marking time. This usually takes four counts to turn 90 degrees for a slow turn and four counts to turn 180 degrees for a fast turn. (Same as Rotations)
The distance between two people standing side by side.
Left Flank- (Verbal Command)
A movement that has the band execute a 90 degree turn to the left while on the march. The command is called; “By the Left Flank…..March !” (or Hut!)
Leg Lift Step-
A high-knee style of marching where the leg lifts with the foot coming to the opposite knee and then comes down to the ground. The toe of the foot contacts first and the weight is then rolled to the entire foot. (Same as Prance step or High Knee Lift step.)
L – Pattern-
A competition pattern done to recorded music that has the drum major perform most of the commands they might use in a parade or band review.
The commands are: Step Off, Roll Off, Column Left, Counter March, Column Right, Salute, Mark/Time Halt. Oral commands are done before the drum major begins.
A traditional British/Scottish staff carried by a drum major. A mace is usually about 60 inches long. The shaft is made of Malacca cane, wood or fiberglass, is about one inch thick and tapers down to a metal tip called a ferrule. There is a hollow, decorative metal ball or crown at the top.
Marching and Maneuvering M & M-
This is the title of a judging caption used for judging drum corps or bands that focuses on the precision of the movement in the show.
A band that moves and plays at the same time. The band usually consists of woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments. They are often accompanied by flag carriers, identification units, drill or dance teams, or rifle teams. They are led in performance by a drum major. Marching band performances usually occur either on a street in a parade or on a football field.
Marching in place.
Mark Time…March – (Oral Command)
A command that tells the group to begin marching in place.
Master Class- A special class led by a master or expert musician who can give tips and help a specific section grow stronger as musicians. The leader of the class will generally be a professor of music, a band director from another school, or a college student working on their doctorate degree in music.
A musical instrument that produces sound through the vibration of a stretched membrane or drumhead.
Music Effect M. E.-
This is the title of a judging caption used for judging drum corps or bands that focuses on the overall effect created by the music performance.
Military Drum Major-
A drum major who performs using a military signal baton.
Military Signal Baton-
A baton that is used for twirling and giving signals. It is usually between 36 to 42 inches long. The shaft is made of wood, steel or plastic and is usually between 5/8 to one inch thick. There is a hollow, chrome-steel head on one end and a tapered tip on the other. Also simply called a Military or Signal Baton.
Songs a Marching Band plays. Our shows usually have 3 movements designated as Movement 1, Movement 2, and Movement 3.
A line or curve which rotates around a moving point at the end of the form.
Musical Analysis M. A.-
This is the title of a judging caption used for judging drum corps or bands that have to do with the musical aspect of the performance.
45-degree movement – half of a right or left flank.
Movement at a specified angle with the upper body remaining to the front. This movement can be done either backward or forward.
A spoken instruction given to the band. It has two parts, the preparation, which tells the band what to do, and the execution, which tells the band to do the command. It is said loudly and clearly so the entire group can understand the command. (Example: “Band! Atten……Hut!”)
Percussion Instrument Team (PIT)-
The percussion section of a Marching Band that does not march. They are staged at the front of the band during shows and competitions. Comprised of xylophones, electric pianos, gongs, timpani, etc.
Volunteers who help move, load, assemble, and push the PIT instruments onto the field for games and competitions.
The very fragile feathers on the Marching Band uniform hats. Provided by the band.
Raised platform where the Drum Majors stand. Moved by the PIT Crew.
A relaxed position of attention. Usually done with left foot moving about 18 inches to the left. Instrument/hand positions vary between bands.
Position of Ready-
A slight pause before the preparatory beat in conducting. This allows the players to get set and watch the drum major or conductor.
How a person stands or holds their body.
A high-knee style of marching where the leg lifts with the foot coming to the opposite knee and then comes down to the ground. The toe of the foot contacts first and the weight is then rolled to the entire foot. (Same as Leg Lift step or High Knee Lift step.)
The first part of a command that tells the band what they are about to do. It is followed by the execution command.
The rest just before the first note to be played by the band. It allows the band to take a starting breath, and it indicates the tempo and style of the music.
Pep Band –
The band members that sit in the stands and play music play for the basketball games; members vary.
Set of 4-6 connected drums played by a member of the Battery. Think of this as a drum set that you carry. Must audition.
Two or more people standing side by side.
Oral command that tells the group: Move from the dress position back to facing front. Example: “Dress Center Dress……..Ready, Front”.
A signal that tells the band to stop playing. (Same as Cut Off)
A direction that tells the group to return to an early point and get ready to do the action again. Example: “Reset to the start of the show.”
Movement during the formation constantly changes. Step size will vary during the movement. All performers will complete the movement at the same time.
Imitation rifles carried by the Guard to visually interpret the music.
Performers who use rifles. (These are replicas of rifles that don’t fire and are balanced for spinning). Many rifle teams will also perform with other types of equipment such as: hoops, scepters, etc.
A movement that has the band execute a 90-degree turn to the Right while on the march. The command is called; “By the Right Flank…..March !” (or Hut!)
A smooth change of direction as opposed to a one-count flank.
A drum cadence that tells the band to play.
For an individual: Person turns either right or left while marking time. This usually takes four counts to turn 90 degrees for a slow turn and four counts to turn 180 degrees for a fast turn. (Same as In-Place Turns) For marching band movement: A gate or wheel of an entire formation with the shape remaining consistent.
The competition that determines which marching bands will compete in the state finals (see District and State)
Practicing the entire Marching Band show at once.
Fake or Imitation swords carried by the Guard spun and tossed in order to visually interpret the music and add style to the show.
To show respect or show honor by some formal act. This may be a hand salute as in the military or a salute done with the baton or mace.
Salute Position: Hand-
(American) Right hand, with fingers together, is brought up over the right eye, to the brim of the hat. The hand is palm down. Left hand can be placed on the hip, on the diaphragm or at the side. (British/Scottish) Same as American salute, except that the hand is held palm forward. Left hand is straight down, in a fist.
Students who play the same instruments, i.e. the flute section.
Student who is in charge of a Marching Band instrument section such as also sax section leader. Must apply.
A practice or rehearsal by only a specific section of instruments.
The formations the band makes. Students receive drill charts to provide them a location on the field relative to yard lines, sidelines, etc. This information is then transferred to a dot sheet. This will be taught at band camp.
Marching Band uniform hat.
A style of marching where the band member marches in one direction and twists the upper body so they can play in another. (Same as Twist or Slide Marching.)
Another term for a performance. “The Show” is usually a slang term for a band or drum major’s field performance. Example: “What is the theme for the Show this year?”
A solo drum major competition that simulates the performance a drum major would use in a half-time show. The competitor uses primarily a baton or mace.
The overall effect created by the performance, the originality displayed and how well the performers “sell” their performance to the audience. It is also the name of the judging caption that evaluates the band’s showmanship.
A gesture, or action that conveys a command.
Six to Five-
Marching with a stride size that takes six steps to every 5 yards (30″ stride).
A style of marching where the band member marches in one direction and twists the upper body so they can play in another. (Same as Twist or Shift Marching.)
Making a stick, baton, mace rotate rapidly.
A slang term for the judge’s stand in a parade or band review.
Oral command that tells the group: They may move about and talk, but must remain in the area. (Same as At Rest.)
Music that is played during a football games from the stands.
competition for state championship (see District and Regionals).
The precise moment when a Marching Band parade performance starts. Can be a command that tells the band to start marching.
The Financial account that holds a student’s money which covers the cost of membership in the Marching band. Money can come from fundraising, family donations, scholarships, or payments.
A rhythmic technique in which the regular and expected pattern of beats is deliberately disrupted or altered. This disruption involves emphasizing weak beats or offbeats instead of the strong, downbeats that typically define a steady musical rhythm.
Performers who use twirling flags with poles five to eight feet long.
The speed of the music. It is expressed in the number of beats per minute. Example: “The correct tempo is 110 beats per minute.”
connects two notes with the same pitch together and indicates it should be played as a single note, matching the number of beats the notes indicate.
The quality or character of a sound that distinguishes it from other sounds of the same pitch and volume. It is often described as the “tone color” or “tone quality” of a sound.
A move where the color guard throws a flag, riffle, etc. up into the air and (ideally) catches it.
A style of marching where the band member marches in one direction and twists the upper body so they can play in another. (Same as Slide or Shift Marching.)
Uniform (Marching Band)-
specialized attire worn by members of a marching band during performances, parades, and competitions. These uniforms are designed to provide a cohesive and visually striking appearance for the entire band. They typically consist of several components:
the non-percussion part of the band; any instrument that is played by blowing air. Winds – The non-percussion part of the band; any instrument that is played by blowing air; includes both brass and woodwinds.
Rotation of a line or curve around a stationary point in the center of the form.
An instruction given to the band using a whistle. It has two parts, the preparation, which tells the band what to do, and the execution, which tells the band to do the command. It is usually done while giving a signal with a baton or mace.
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