Marching word wall, Sept. 24

This is the fifth 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.

Corps-style marching

A style of presentation for a marching band marked by a wide variety of music, tempos, and moods, in contrast to a military, or Big 10 style (q.v.), from which corps-style marching is derived. When Drum Corps Associates formed in 1965, followed by Drum Corps International in 1972, marching bands at the high school and college level followed the lead of the drum corps and got a lot more creative. Very slow and very fast music was incorporated. Bands faced the audience instead of the end zone so the music was substantially louder and more exciting for fans. Timpanis, xylophones, pianos, and organs started showing up in the pit, as did string instruments and vocalists on occasion. Classical music, jazz, pop, and everything in between started to be incorporated into shows that carried themes, such as the show from Purdue University in 2011, which even incorporated a narrator. Steps changed, as did the formations. While Big 10-style bands continued to make letters and words on the field, corps-style bands developed geometric patterns and curves, including pinwheels, company fronts, etc.

Show-style marching

A style of presentation for a marching band in which marching wind musicians spend more time standing in place than in other styles and the use of a drum line predominates more than the winds when it comes to providing a cadence for marchers to move around. The style was developed at historically black colleges and universities during the 1970s, and the shows typically are based on more popular music than other marching styles. While they’re stationary on the field, band members often dance to entertain the spectators. In addition, most show-style bands maintain a twirler and dance line instead of a color guard, although there’s wide variation even among show-style bands (e.g., Grambling State University).

Big 10-style marching

A style of presentation for a marching band characterized by the use of military-style marches, many of which were written by John Philip Sousa and Henry Fillmore, a baton-twirling drum major, and pictures and other formations, such as words like “Gophers” or “Illini” on the field. Unlike other styles, bands use a strict eight-to-five step, or 22½ inches (q.v.) and a step in which the knee is lifted so the thigh is parallel to the ground. After the Civil War, troops from the North and the South started sending their own bands to parades, using primarily military-style marches. The tradition continued through the two world wars and is still a major force in the US, especially among collegiate marching bands (e.g., the Marching Illini).

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.