Marching Dictionary

This resource is for drum majors, band directors, and instructors to clarify many of the key terms in marching bands / drum corps. Knowing the definitions of the key terms of a subject is the first step to understanding it. Using a standard glossary also assures that everyone means the same thing when they use a term.

Ask yourself: "Can you quickly give the definition of "Attention?" A survey of students done over 17 years showed that 98% could not - yet they had been in their marching programs for a number of years!

The definitions below are only the specialized terms for the marching activity. Please use a standard dictionary for other complete definitions of each word.


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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z



Accent:
The special emphasis or stress applied to a note or beat in the music.
Aerial:
A move where the drum major throws a baton or mace up into the air. (Same as Toss)
Alignment:
Straight lines in ranks, files and diagonals.
As You Were:
Oral command that tells the group: Cancel the last command.
At Ease:
Oral command that tells the group: Keep the right foot in place and remain silent. Other movement is allowed.
At Rest:
Oral command that tells the group: They may move about and talk, but must remain in the area. (Same as Stand Easy)
Atten-hut:
Oral command that tells the group: Go to attention.
Attention:
The motionless, silent, waiting for the next command while standing in a military posture.
Back Pass:
Passing the baton or mace from one hand to the other behind the back.
Backwards...March:
Oral command that tells the group: Begin marching in the direction of your back.
Band:
A group of musicians who play together.
Band Block:
The formation of a marching band, usually used while parade marching. The files and ranks are evenly spaced setting the band up in a large rectangle formation.
Band...Halt:
Oral command that tells the group: Stop marching.
Basic Band:
Every marching band member in his/her permanently assigned position. (Usually a parade formation.)
Baton:
A staff used by a drum major for twirling and giving signals. Also a small stick used by a conductor to direct a group of musicians. (See Signal Baton and Twirling Baton)
Baton Twirler:
A performer who uses primarily a twirling baton but may also twirl fire batons, hoop batons, streamers, twirling knives, etc. They do not have the responsibility of leading the band.
Battery:
Drum section that marches on the field as a group. The Battery usually consists of snare drums, bass drums, tenor drums, and cymbals.
Box (The Box)
A slang term for the judge's box at the top of the football stadium.
Butterfly Twirl:
A hand to hand twirl the makes the baton or mace rotate in front of the body. (Same as Front Spin or Hand Over Hand Twirl).
By The Numbers:
Oral command that tells the group: Do not do the command until I call each execution number. Example, "Right Face...One!" (band turns)... "Two!" (heels come together). This continues until the command, "Cancel By The Numbers" is given.
By the Right Flank... March:
Oral command that tells the group: Execute a right flank.
Cadence:
The tempo, or number of beats per minute. Also a drum beat used while marching.
Carriage:
How a person carries their body.
Checklist:
A written group of items. It is laid out so items can be "checked off" as they are done.
Cleaning:
Slang term that means to make each movement well defined and precise. Each has a definite point where the movement starts, changes and stops.
Color Guard:
Originally the armed guards who protected the U.S. Flag (the Colors). Since drum and bugle corps evolved from the military, they also carried colors and had a guard. As drum corps got more elaborate, the color guard began to include teams of rifle spinners, tall flag performers and dance teams. The name is still used for these teams by drum corps and corps styled bands, even though the national flag is rarely used in performance.
Column:
Two or more people standing behind one another (Same as File.)
Column Turn:
A precise drill that has the band turn a corner, rank by rank.
Company Front:
A formation where the entire band or corps is in one large line, marching side by side.
Contraction:
Movement which produces smaller intervals between members.
Corps:
A short 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.
Corps Style Drum Major:
A drum major who leads and conducts a band or corps without using a baton or mace.
Counter March:
A precise drill that has the band turn, rank by rank, and march the other direction.
Cover:
Straight line in a column or file, aligned on the front person.
Cover Down:
Oral command that tells the group: Straighten the column or file.
Crown:
The metal ball on the top of the mace. These can be very elaborate or plain.
Cut Off:
A signal that tells the band or corps to stop playing. (Same as Release)
Dead Sticking:
Angular baton or mace movements that do not use twirls.
Decrease Front:
A command that tells the band to reduce the width of the band by reducing the distance between files.
Diagonals:
The 45 degree lines established by the band block.
Dismissed:
Oral command that tells the group: They are released from the rehearsal or drill.
Distance:
Spacing between individuals front to back.
Double Time:
A step where the band members moves at twice the speed of the music or cadence. It is also is a command that tells the group to move at twice their current tempo.
Down Beat:
A musical term used in conducting to identify the first beat of a measure of music.
Dress:
Straight line in a rank, aligned on either the left, center or right person.
"Dress Left/Center/Right...Dress":
Oral command that tells the group: Straighten the rank to the center person. Usually the instruments are raised to the playing position, and each person's head snaps towards the alignment point. This may be done in either one or two counts. Members then dress the rank. The command is called, "Dress - Center - Dress." To return to their original position, "Ready - Front" is called.
Drum & Bugle Corps:
A type of marching group that performs using various pitched bugles, percussion equipment, flags, rifles, etc. They are lead in performance by a drum major. There are Drum Corps competitions through out the Summer that finish with an International Championship. The organization that governs the activity is Drum Corps International (DCI)
Drum Line:
The field drums collected together in a single marching unit. This unit often includes; snare drums, tenors, bass drums, cymbals and/or timpani. The drum line is most often used by drum and bugle corps and corps-styled marching bands.
Drum Major:
A person who leads a marching band or drum & bugle corps.
Drum Major's Stand or Box:
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.
Eight and Eights:
A training drill that is used to develop a smooth marching stride. The student marks time for eight counts and then forward marches for eight counts. This is done while holding a glass of water filled almost to the brim. To pass, the student must complete ten sets of "eight and eights" in a row without spilling any water.
Eight to Five:
Marching at a stride of eight steps to five yards (22.5" stride).
Execution:
How well or precisely something is done. This is often a key part of a judge's evaluation for the performance.
Execution Command:
The last part of a command that tells the band to do the movement. It follows a preparation command.
Expansion:
Movement which produces larger intervals between members.
Face:
Oral command that tells the group: to pivot and look towards a different direction. Examples: "Left Face"-90 degree turn to the left, "About Face"-180 degree turn to the reverse direction.
Fall In:
Oral command that tells the group: to get into a formation. example: "Fall in... at the beginning of the show."
Fall Out:
Oral command that tells the group: to leave a formation. example: "Fall out...and go into the band room."
Ferrule:
The tapered, metal tip on the end of the mace.
Field Show:
A performance done by the marching band on a football field. It may or may not, be done during the half-time of a football game.
File:
Two or more people standing behind on another. (Same as Column.)
Finger Twirl:
A movement where the baton or mace rolls from finger to finger.
Flank:
The side of a unit. Also a command that tells the band to change direction and move toward that side.
Flat Spin:
A twirl where the baton or mace rotates flat to the ground.
Flourish:
Making a stick, baton, or mace rotate rapidly. Same as Spin or Twirl.
Follow the Leader:
Movement including a lead performer marching a specified pattern with the remaining performers following the same path.
Forward Flourish:
A twirl that rotates the baton or mace perpendicular to the body, in a forward direction.
"Forward...March":
The command that tells the group: Begin marching forward.
Front:
The distance across the first rank of the band.
Front Spin:
A hand to hand twirl the makes the baton or mace rotate in front of the body. The baton or mace is passed from right-to-left. left-to-right hands. It may rotate in either direction. (Same as Hand Over Hand Twirl, or Butterfly Twirl).
G. E.:
A slang term for General Effect. 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.
Glide Step:
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.
Guide:
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.
Half-Tempo Step:
A step where the band members moves at half of the speed of the music or cadence. (Same as Hesitation step.)
Half-time Show:
A performance done by the marching band on a football field, between the two halves of a football game.
Hand Over Hand Twirl:
A hand to hand twirl the makes the baton or mace rotate in front of the body. The baton or mace is passed from right-to-left. left-to-right hands. It may rotate in either direction. (Same as Front Spin or Butterfly Twirl).
Hesitation Step:
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.)
High Aerial:
A move where the drum major throws a baton or mace up into the air and catches it. A high aerial should go very high in the air. (Same as High Toss.)
High Toss:
A move where the drum major throws a baton or mace up into the air and catches it. A high aerial should go very high in the air. (Same as High Aerial.)
Hut:
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".
Ictus:
(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.
Increase Front:
A command that tells the band to increase the width of the band by increasing the distance between files.
In-Place Turns:
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)
Interval:
The distance between two people standing side by side.
Left Flank:
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.
M. A.:
A slang term for Music Analysis. This is the title of a judging caption used for judging drum corps or bands that has to do with the musical aspect of the performance.
Mace:
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.
Mace Drum Major:
A drum major who performs using a mace. There is an American Mace Drum Major that beats time in the right hand, salutes in the American style, and wears a military style uniform. A more common style wears a traditional British or Scottish uniform, salutes in the British/Scottish style and beats time in the left hand.
M & M:
A slang term for Marching and Maneuvering. 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.
Marching Band:
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 lead in performance by a drum major. Marching band performances usually occur either on a street in a parade or on a football field.
Mark Time:
Marching in place.
"Mark Time...Hut":
Oral command that tells the group: Begin marching in place.
M. E.:
A slang term for Music Effect. 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.
Moving Gate:
A line or curve which rotates around a moving point at the end of the form.
Oblique:
45 degree movement - half of a right or left flank.
Oblique Shift:
Movement at a specified angle with the upper body remaining to the front. This movement can be done either backward or forward.
One-Finger Conversion:
A twirl that rolls the baton or mace over the index finger to switch which end of the baton or mace is up.
Oral Command:
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!")
Palm Spin:
A twirl where the baton rotates on top an open palm.
Parade Rest:
A relaxed position of attention. Usually done with left foot moving about 18 inches to the left. Instrument/hand positions vary between bands.
Pit (The Pit)
A slang term for the percussion equipment and players who do not march on the field, but are stationary on the sideline. This also describes the area where those percussion instruments are set.
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.
Posture:
How a person stands or holds their body.
Prance 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 Leg Lift step or High Knee Lift step.)
Preparation Command:
The first part of a command that tells the band what they are about to do. It is followed by the execution command.
Preparatory Beat:
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.
Pumping the Band:
A slang term for getting the band excited and increasing their energy level.
Rank:
Two or more people standing side by side.
Ready...Front:
Oral command that tells the group: Move from the dress position back to facing front. Example: "Dress Center Dress........Ready, Front".
Release:
A signal that tells the band to stop playing. (Same as Cut Off)
Reset
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."
Reshape:
Movement during the formation constantly changes. Step size will vary during the movement. All performers will complete the movement at the same time.
Resume...Hut:
Oral command that tells the group: Begin marching again.
Rifle Teams:
Performers who use twirling rifles. (These are replicas of rifles that don't fire and are balanced for twirling). Many rifle teams will also perform with other types of equipment such as: hoops, scepters, etc.
Right Flank:
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!)
Roll Around:
A smooth change of direction as opposed to a one count flank.
Roll Off:
A drum cadence that tells the band to play.
Rotation:
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.
Salute:
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.
Salute Position - Mace:
The mace is held crown-up, in a cross body position. (There are a variety of acceptable positions). A hand salute is done with the right hand. In a parade, the head looks over the right shoulder towards the reviewing officer.
Salute Position - Military Baton:
The baton is held, thumb to tip. The right hand is placed thumb down, against the left shoulder. The ball is even with the eyes. The baton is straight down. The right arm is parallel to the ground. Left hand is on the hip, fingers together. In a parade, the head looks over the right shoulder towards the reviewing officer.
Shift Marching:
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.)
Show
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?"
Show Competition:
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.
Showmanship:
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.
Signal:
A gesture, or action that conveys a command.
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 called a Military Signal Baton. A drum major who uses this type of baton is called a Military Drum Major.
Six and Six:
Hitting the salute position six steps before the reviewing officer and holding it six steps after the reviewing officer. One of the items used in judging drum majors is how closely they come to saluting six and six.
Six to Five:
Marching with a stride size that takes six steps to every 5 yards (30" stride).
Slide Marching:
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.)
Solo Competition:
A competition for drum majors without the marching band. Recorded music is used. Events include simulations of parades, and field performances. Solo competitions are useful for sharpening a drum major's skill and gaining experience in a performance situation.
Spin:
Making a stick, baton, mace rotate rapidly. Same as Twirl or Flourish.
Stand (The Stand)
A slang term for the judge's stand in a parade or band review.
Stand Easy:
Oral command that tells the group: They may move about and talk, but must remain in the area. (Same as At Rest.)
Step Off:
The command that tells the band to start marching forward.
Study Checklist:
A written list of learning steps laid out in the best order for learning.
Tall Flags:
Performers who use twirling flags with poles five to eight feet long.
Tempo:
The speed of the music. It is expressed in the number of beats per minute. Example: "The correct tempo is 110 beats per minute."
The Box:
A slang term for the judge's box at the top of the football stadium.
The Pit:
A slang term for the percussion equipment and players who do not march on the field, but are stationary on the sideline. This also describes the area where those percussion instruments are set.
The Stand:
A slang term for the judge's stand in a parade or band review.
Toss:
A move where the drum major throws a baton or mace up into the air and (ideally) catches it. (Same as Aerial)
To The Left Flank... Hut:
Oral command that tells the group: Turn and march to the left.
To The Left Oblique...Hut:
Oral command that tells the group: Turn 45 degrees and march to the left.
To The Rear...Hut:
Oral command that tells the group: Turn around and march in the opposite direction.
To The Right Flank... Hut:
Oral command that tells the group: Turn and march to the right.
To The Right Oblique...Hut:
Oral command that tells the group: Turn 45 degrees and march to the right.
Twirl:
Making a stick, baton, or mace rotate rapidly. Same as Spin or Flourish.
Twirling Baton:
A baton used that is used primarily for twirling and is usually between 18 and 30 inches long. The shaft is usually chrome plated steel between 3/8 to 5/8 inch thick. There is most often a molded rubber ball on either end.
Twist Marching:
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.)
Wheel:
Rotation of a line or curve around a stationary point in the center of the form.
Whistle Command:
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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