|University of Wisconsin Marching Band executing the Stop at the Top. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Today, most all bands use a low mark time. Much like a drag right, the toe remains planted on the ground, while the heel lifts up. In this case, the command is "mark time mark" and the response is "and one." The left heel lifts first two inches or more on the "and" beat and goes up on the "one" beat. This repeats for the right foot. Thus, in two counts both feet have moved up and down. Marking time only occurs when feet are together and shoes should rub against each other. Make sure to keep the upper body solid throughout this move.
Most high school Marching Bands now use the glide step as the method of choice when marching. Some bands still high step or double time, but that is pretty antiquated and rare, even though proper execution makes it neat. The glide step is synonymous with rolling the feet. Teaching just this concept should take a few hours.
The point is to take all of the wobbles out of the upper body when marching. This allows for the vibrato that occurs from the mouthpiece bouncing against the lips to be eliminated. Have the new marchers stick their left foot out with toes up as high as possible. Then, have them individually practice transferring their body weight from the left to the right foot. Start slowly sticking out one foot while the other rolls up onto the toe. Gradually increase the tempo.
Now that the new marchers can perform a glide step, it is important to cover a basic eight to five stride as well as cover points and dressing and covering ranks and files while marching.
The most basic and essential step of the band, this step is what is practiced when learning to roll the feet. "Forward march" is the command and the response is "and one." Once the glide step is mastered, this command is easy. Marching always starts on the left foot and feet move one in front of the other. The step size should be eight steps per five yards or 22.5 inches per step. Feet should not lift off the ground, rather be pushed out from the body along the grass with as much force as possible. On beat eight, the shoelaces of the right foot should be in the middle of the yard line.
Back marching is done from the standstill (lock, lift, step) or while changing direction (touch and go). The basic concept involves elevating the feet as high as possible. Keep toes planted on the ground, while the heels rise more than two inches from the ground. Move feet back so that each has its own "channel" and they do not cross each other. Slightly lift the foot off the ground for each step, but do not pick the foot up or bend the knees.
From the standstill, the command is "backward march" and the response is "lock, lift, step." On the "march" command of execution, the band says "lock" while stopping previous marking time or movement. During the first beat of the execution, the band says "lift" and elevates their heels as much as possible, while keeping toes planted. Finally, the first step occurs on the "step" beat, where the left foot pushes hardback from the lift position to take a large first step.
Transitioning between forward and backward marching is extremely difficult. One must still take a full last step with the right foot, keeping the shoelaces in the middle of the yard line. This is the "touch" response to the "backward march" command. The second beat is the "go" response and involves transferring weight from the right to the left foot and starting the back march with the left foot. The key is not to move the feet on the "touch and go" response. They should be in a good position from the eighth step of forwarding marching.
A slide is a version of forwarding marching (usually). The purpose is to keep the horns pointing forward to the audience while changing the direction of the feet. Slides can only be called with horns up or at attention. The command is either "right/left shift hut" or "right/left slide hut" and the response is "and one." Key to this move is planting the right foot on the fourth count of the command with the toe still pointed up and turning on count one. The left foot is the one that always moves, no matter what slide direction. A left slide is easier as the left foot simply executes a ninety-degree snap turn. After the command, the movement occurring before the slide continues. For right slides, the left foot must snap over the right foot.
In slides, the most difficult part is keeping "square." This means that the shoulders continue pointing completely parallel to the sideline as marching continues. Hips should move thirty degrees, the torso should move sixty degrees, and the shoulders complete the ninety-degree turn. Such a distribution will help keep slide position throughout the move. Be careful when calling slides, as they can get tricky. For example, you can back march in a slide; the feet simply change direction. More confusing, however, is executing another slide while already sliding. When in a left slide, calling a right slide returns the move to forward march. You cannot call a backward march during a slide and expect people to return to the direction of the horns and back up. Instead, marchers should reverse the direction of their feet. Calling a left slide while already in a left slide is just asking for an "as you were sir"! (the error command)
Flanks are simply snap turns. On the "right/left flank hut" command and "and one" response, the right foot plants on count four and the left foot initiates the turn to the right or left. Motion continues in the forward direction. Pivots occur on the ball of the right foot and weight immediately transfers to the left heel as the move is completed. The entire body turns in a flank and, thus, the horn is pointing in the direction of march. A right flank can be called to cancel a left flank. Multiple flanks can be called on top of each other; this is a difference from shifts. Because the body moves along with the horn, flanks can be repeatedly called without error.
A special kind of flank is a to the rear. The command is "to the rear hut" and the response is "and one." Instead of planting the right foot and turning ninety-degrees, the turn is 180 degrees. The left foot still is the one to complete the turn and it is executed to the left starting on count four with the right foot planting and finishing on count one with the turn. Motion continues in the forward direction after the turn. Be careful not to anticipate to the rear because it is a very quick turn.
Obliques are unpleasant and often overlooked, for few field shows include them. The command is "left/right oblique hut" and the response is "and one." Instead of turning the body ninety degrees as in a flank, one turns forty-five degrees using a pivot turn on the ball of the right foot. The right foot plants on count four of the command and the left foot execute a snap turn forty-five degrees to the right or left on count one. The challenge with obliques is not starting the command, but marching in the new direction. Since you are moving at a diagonal, the step size is twelve steps every five yards. You now dress down the diagonal and cover to the left and right. To get out of an oblique, the Drum Major can call another oblique that results in a forward march or flank. Back marching can be called when in an oblique, but you cannot go from forward march to a backward oblique in one command. A good exercise with obliques is to make a diamond or stop sign shape with the band. Forward eight left oblique eight, left shift, right back oblique, et cetera. Doing this exercise with horns playing a scale is a real challenge and improves marching greatly.
In Sum and Other
In terms of moving commands, these are the most important. There is an entire list of stationary commands in another article that the band should also master. The biggest challenge is to vary step sizes: 16-5, 12-5, 6-5, 5-5, 32-5. There are also some other terms for commands that may be useful. For example, "march" can be replaced with "move." I think this sounds a bit ridiculous, but so be it. Also, the Drum Major can call a "band port arms" or "band trail arms" to move horns up while moving. Then, of course, there is high mark time. For resources directly related to your band, ask a Drum Major or your director. Marching style tends to vary by region, so make sure that what you teach is applicable to your band. Also, consider attending a Drum Major camp. There you will learn some of these commands again as well as more useful teaching methods.
This list of commands is completely my own; I used no resources or Internet sources just my own knowledge to compile it.
William O'Brochta is a recipient of the William T. Hornaday Silver Medal for Distinguished Service to Conservation in the Boy Scouts of America and William T. Hornaday Badge. He is an Eagle Scout with nine Eagle palms and has earned sixty-five Merit Badges. William is currently an Assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 17 in Roanoke, Virginia working with Troop elections, new Scout advancement, and Eagle projects. He also serves as an active member of the Blue Ridge Mountains Council Conservation, Advancement, Eagle Board of Review, and Troop Committees. He has been involved in Scouting for more than ten years.
William attends Patrick Henry High School and the Roanoke Valley Governor's School and is ranked first in his class of 500. Currently, he is working on a three-year environmental research project dealing with using plants to remove pesticides from the soil. He has presented this research at the Society of Toxicology Annual Meeting. A musician, he plays trumpet and serves as Drum Major for the Marching Band.
Committed to community service, he has volunteered for six months for Habitat for Humanity in Hungary and helped Breakell, Inc. General Contractors achieve LEED Platinum energy efficiency certification.
William can best be contacted through his LinkedIn page: http://linkd.in/q8dXm0
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