marching band · teaching

A quick way to improve your marching band music scores…

If you have a marching band that competes, here’s a tip that could be the easiest thing you could do to improve your music caption scores:

Go practice in your stadium, even for a half hour, and sit in the press box.

Big deal, right? But at least half the directors I’ve talked to in critiques so far this season in Indiana and Ohio never get off the tower at the practice field. And of course, the tower is always closer to the field than the typical press box is, and rarely as high.

I know that at some schools getting permission to use the stadium is very difficult. Still, so far the biggest problems I’ve heard with bands this year that could be corrected quickly have to do with balance – especially with the front ensemble. In many cases the directors weren’t even aware of the problems because they were never in a place where they could hear it.

Also, if you know you are going to be performing in a high stadium, start working early to get the bell-front brass to be playing more “horns to the box.” We used to compete every year at Northern Illinois University, which is a very high stadium. We started tipping the horns up about three weeks before the show. It takes a while before kids can play effectively with the heads tipped back. Without doing that the band would have been almost impossible to hear in the press box. I know it improved our scores, and some years later, when I was judging for Drum Corps Midwest, I saw it borne out with many drum corps in the same stadium.

Free bonus tip – Buy about a dozen of those little cheap quartz tuners and give them to your section leaders. Make them check pitch within their sections at the start of rehearsal and any time you take a break. It’s another of those little things that empowers student leaders and makes your job easier!

May your rehearsals this week be without rain…


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