Marching word wall, Sept. 21

This is the third 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.

Eight to five

Taking eight steps to travel a distance of five yards (a main grid line on the gridiron), or using a stride length of 22½ inches. It’s the most common stride length used by marching bands, mainly because marching band arrangements often use simple meter, dividing each “beat” into two notes, an even number. So eight steps, taken on the notes, will move marchers to the next yard line when they get to the next natural boundary in the music, known as a measure. Also common is “six to five” marching, which computes to a stride length of 30 inches.

Company front

A marching formation where the entire band (most of it, anyway) is in a straight line across the field, with marchers standing or marching side by side, facing forward. The term is derived from “front,” which represents the distance across the first row (rank) of a marching band. A company front simply means the entire band, or company, is part of that distance.


An area of the field, usually forward of the front sideline, where musicians, usually percussionists, remain stationary. Pit musicians may play marimbas, timpani, gongs, drum sets, and other large percussion instruments that can’t be moved around easily. The “opposite” of the pit is the drum line, which does march around while playing and is usually reserved for cymbals, snare drums, toms, or bass drums. Some bands construct stages, which allow pit performers to move around on the field. Pianos, organs, and other instruments may also be played in the pit area.

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.