Marching word wall, Sept. 19

This is the second part in a multi-part series defining key terms about marching bands. Although marching band participants know exactly what most of the terms mean, many fans, including their parents, are baffled by the discussion sometimes.

This word wall will be posted on our main marching band page, here, for public information, and we’ll add two or three words a day. However, it’s also part of a contest. If you can improve on any of the definitions on the word wall, click on the word and submit a redefinition as a comment to the blog post.

If we think your definition is better than the one given—and it probably will be—we’ll update the definition on the word wall and give you credit. If you’re an Illinois marching band student who enters a winning redefinition, you may also win a prize, to be determined at the end of the marching season.


A trait of a marching band’s show that judges should evaluate independently of all other traits. For example, some scoring systems say that “marching and maneuvering” is a caption, while “music performance” is another caption. Typically, one judge scores each caption. Some caption scores count toward the final score, whereas other captions may be used only to give trophies to the top score earners, such as Best Drum Major and Best Percussion. Captions are occasionally divided into sub-captions, as in Kentucky state series performances (see here), and judges are advised not to leave any tie scores in the sub-captions. This instruction to judges introduces bias into the scoring, but since there’s already a lot of bias in the scores, adding a little more can’t do too much damage.

Counter March

A marching maneuver in which the entire band turns, one row of band members at a time, and marches in the opposite direction. The drill only works if the band is marching with precision, since a failure to do so will result in marchers stepping right into each other. A disaster would ensue.

Crack of Dawn

In meteorology, the time of day just before the sun comes up, when temperatures are usually coldest in any 24-hour period. In marching, the time of day, usually on a Saturday, when parents or guardians are expected to drive band members to the school, so they can stand out in the parking lot until bus drivers open the buses and let them in. This scene is most commonly observed when a marching band has to get to a marching band festival several hours away from their home school.

We welcome suggestions for new words for the word wall to help people understand marching band at a more appreciative level. To prevent spam, we can only accept suggestions for new words or redefinitions of existing words as a comment to blog posts. If your definition’s good, we’ll replace the word wall definition with yours and enter your name in a contest that may involve the awarding of prizes at the end of the marching season.

About the Author

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more biographical information, see the About page.