Strategies for Blocking Marching Band Drill
Here are some tips for helping to get the unpleasant task of blocking marching band drill learned quickly, efficiently, and with maximum retention
1. Reinforce Rehearsal Technique While Collecting Your Markers
- Most bands use some kind of marker to mark their spots - poker chips, colored clothes pins, etc. Once they have put all the markers down and run some reps, be sure to go back to chip 1 and recollect them in order. Do not do “drill in reverse” to pick them up – it confuses the issue. Get them used to getting an instruction and moving quickly between reps.
2. Connect Drill to Music As Soon As Possible
- The sooner you can get the musicians singing their parts while they move, the better. Everyone should be counting sets out loud loudly if they are not singing. I tend to let them ground the instruments and carry just their charts and chips when first blocking drill, but pick up their instruments and march the sets when we review. The sooner you get the hardware in their hands so they can begin learning facings, effort, etc. the better.
3. A Suggestion for "Dot Books"
- At the Cadets, we had to create our own dot book and were expected to write down every small detail of every set. I have found that the average high school student is not that meticulous. The most effective way of doing this for me was to print out their individual coordinate sheets from Pyware, have them laminated, and put them on lanyards to wear around their necks. At the end of rehearsal, the Drum Majors would collect all the lanyards and keep them in a shoe box with the rest of the field equipment.
4. Make Memorizing Step Size a Priority
- Above all, as students learn their dots, emphasize the memorization of step size above all other aspects. What the body needs to establish in terms of muscle memory is the direction and length of step from coordinate to coordinate. Be sure to emphasize that a 16 count drill phrase has 16 even-sized steps. For any phrase longer than 16, establish a sub-set at the midpoint.
To read more, check out Thomas J. West Music's blog: Strategies for Blocking Marching Band Drill.
Thanks goes to Thomas J. West Music for letting us use his blog!
Thomas J. West is an active music educator, composer, adjudicator, clinician, and award-winning blogger. http://thomasjwestmusic.com