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Marching Band Shows: Where Do I Start?

Not sure where to start when there are so many marching band shows out there to choose from? Here is our take on designing the perfect marching band show for your program. Below are 10 steps you can take to ensure that your show will work for your students, program, and community.

Georgia Southern University Southern Pride Marching Band

1) Plan a design meeting.

In order to have a great show design, you must have your entire staff on the same page. Be sure to invite you arranger, drill designer, percussion writer, guard designer, and all your directors.

2) Construct an idea/concept.

What audience will you be performing for the most? Will this concept inspire all of your audience types? You want to make sure that the music will generate excitement and not just fill time during a football game.

3) Create a list of music selections.

This list of music selections should be exhaustive. Do not throw away any piece or idea at this point. For every concept/idea you come up with you will want to make a running list of potential music that fits that concept.

4) Narrow down the music selections.

You will want to consider if the musical selection is at the appropriate level and achievable for your musicians. You will also want to consider the tempos and time signatures as well. Tempo is very important for creating velocity and general effect with the show.

5) Research.

Look up composers and try to find out what the pieces are about and what emotions they were trying to convey. Brainstorm any and all ideas, thoughts, descriptions, and things that could be used in your show's music, visual package, or overall effect. Something else to consider is the color guard costumes, flags, and possible staging as well.

You are going to want to make sure that you research the necessary copyrights to any music you wish to arrange and perform. The copyrights to most music is easily obtained for a fee. However, there are some pieces that you cannot get the rights to or simply just too expensive. This should be done before any arranging is started.

6) Design from the outside and move inward.

Think about how you want the show to start and end. Could these two ideas become one in the same? Will the beginning and ending generate the excitement you want? It's important to think about the beginning and how that sets up your concept and how the ending might bring everything to a proper close for the audience. Then you can start working inward to get an idea of the intended flow of your show.

7) Coordinate & Integrate.

This is where the disconnect happens with many band programs. You must integrate all parts of your ensemble. The woodwinds, brass, battery percussion, front ensemble, and color guard are all equally important. Make sure you showcase them all. Will the music have appropriate places where you can feature each section? It is not a good idea to just picture frame the color guard for the entire show.

8) Write it out.

Map out the show on paper first. You can basically create a story board of your show. If possible go ahead and sync it to the source music so you can get an idea of flow and pacing. This can be done as simply as drawing it out on paper and then use a recording of the music to sync it in powerpoint or something like that.

9) Compose.

If you want a truly custom show with exactly what you want, then it's a good idea to go ahead and hire a professional arranger and drill writer who are willing to be flexible with you and each caption head.

The first step in this process is to get the wind book written first. Then the wind book will need to go to the percussion writer for battery and front ensemble music. Once this is done then it needs to be sent to the drill writer along with the necessary info to start designing the visual package. Once all that is done then the color guard writer needs the music and drill so they can stage and write work to what has already been written.

It's also important to know that there are companies out there that can provide this service from start to finish so you don't have to go out and find each component on your own. These companies typically do a better job because they already work together with every component ultimately getting you a very high quality product. This also takes the least amount of time and effort on your part.

You can simply come up with an idea and then let your team take over to create an amazing show for you where you don't have to lift a finger!

Keep in mind that you also do not have to go with a professional for this step. There are lots of companies out there that have prepackaged marching band shows. You might decide that you can't afford a custom show or that you found some stock charts and drill that works best for your program. You must do what is in the best interest of your program.

10) Finally: Teach to excellence.

All previous efforts are in vain without this dimension. You want to make sure that the students perform and execute the show to its fullest potential. The music must be clearly presented, drill must be readable and effective, the guard must be clean, communicative, and most importantly, your students must bring the show to life!

Marching Band Shows: In Conclusion

All things considered, the most important aspect of selecting a marching band show is to think through the steps before deciding on a concept. The last thing you want is to get half way through learning a show to find out it's not going to work for some reason or another. Make sure your entire staff is involved in the process from the very beginning. Communication is key! This will make for the perfect show for your program and a very successful season ahead!



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