Marching Fundamentals


I can't imagine any sports team going through a year without doing fundamentals daily.  And yet, so many bands skip this vital area in order to have more time to clean the drill.  Performance suffers all because we don't like to bore our students.   Spend at least 10 minutes per rehearsal on fundamentals with the emphasis on uniformity and you will reap tremendous rewards.

Put your students in a 4 step by 4 step box formation.  Now you can see the value of those 4 step marks you put on the field.  Work on the following:

You can see by warming up with these few fundamentals we have worked on being able to move forward, backward, left and right while keeping the instrument facing straight ahead as in slides or straight in front as in follow the leader.  Now we want to take the 4 by 4 box and move it 8 steps forward, 8 step slide to the left, 8 steps backward, and 8 step slide to the right.  Everyone should wind up right where they started.  I call this an 8 step box to the left.  You can do the same thing to the right and you can expand the counts to a 16 step box to the left or right.  The main purpose of the drill is to teach spatial awareness.  Students use their peripheral vision to maintain their 4 step distance from each other.  Have them be sure and keep their heads up during the drill and no looking over the shoulder. 

I like to call military commands to aid in quick thinking.  You can march in the 4 step block at any tempo.  As students improve, pick up the speed.  I use these commands:

All commands are executed based on the direction of the instrument.  Students would continue in the new direction until the next command.  They should constantly be adjusting to the 4 step marks on the field.  This will establish a strong 8 to 5 size step in any direction. 

As the year progresses and the band feels comfortable with these commands at any tempo, you can add variety by delaying the "hut".  Just be sure when you give it, it will be on the left foot so the action can be taken on the following right foot.  "Left Flank _ _ _ _Hut" pivot.  You can wait as long as you want to give hut.  It is a great way to fight anticipation and mental laziness.

Try giving the commands in a chain of two or more commands.  "Left Flank, Right Flank, Left to the Rear Hut" After the students hear Hut, they execute each of the commands in the order they were given.  You can use as many commands as your students can absorb.  Try these at a fast tempo and you have the ultimate marching challenge.

These are fundamentals and games.  We do them to foster good marching technique, spatial awareness, and quick thinking.  I have never worked with a band that didn't like to do drill downs and they work at any level of these commands.  Everyone starts in the 4 step block.  You give the commands and as students make mistakes they remove themselves and stand quietly on the sidelines.  Before long, your block will look like Swiss cheese, so you halt and re-form the block.  Increase the difficulty (tempo, delayed hut, or chain commands) and cause others to fall out.  You will eventually wind up with only one student marching and all others watching.  It builds pride and self-esteem.  Don't worry about cheaters, they get caught quickly.  I only do drill downs once or twice each week, but by the end of the year you probably will have several different winners.

Ten minutes a day to have a band that marches better than most of the bands you will see!  Seems like a pretty good investment of time to me.