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Drill Primer


The Marching Sycamores use a system of coordinate sheets, in addition to drill charts for selected members, in order to quickly and efficiently learn our marching drill. This tutorial is designed for those that have not previously participated in their high school marching band, or have little to no experience with reading a drill chart or a set of coordinate sheets (perhaps your high school bandused one to the exclusion of the other). It can also help you "brush up" on your terminology and make coming back to marching band a little easier.

This tutorial can also be helpful for those that only have a rudimentary knowledge of how to read a drill chart or coordinate sheet, and could help you learn to secure positions/spots/forms much more quickly – something quite useful if you are applying for a leadership position that involves the teaching of drill, for example.The best place to begin is at the beginning. Below you will find a sample page from a drill chart that was designed for the 2015 Marching Sycamores. Please take a moment to identify all the separate elements of the chart:


1. Title and basic instructions
This is where you will find the title of the drill (to differentiate it from other drill you may be learning), what set # it is, as well as the basic movement instructions, which might include “Move,” “Hold,” "Turn," or any of several other commands. In this area you will also find the measures in the music that you are moving during (so that you can pencil them into your part, which will help you learn the drill and the music much faster). Instructions found on a page are always how to get to that page from the previous one. 

2. Special instructions
If the drill move requires special or more detailed instructions, they will often be found in this lower area, where there is more room to discuss the needed move sequences.

3. Hash Marks (back and front)
These are the horizontal marks that divide a football field in thirds. The ones nearer the top of the page are the back hashes, while the ones nearer the bottom of the page are the front hashes. The hashes you may be used to on high school football fields are a little further apart from each other, while collegiate/NCAA hashes are closer together (and NFL stadium hashes are closer still!)

4. Sidelines (back and front)
The boundaries of the football field. The back sideline (top of the page) is often referred to as the "away sideline," even though here at ISU, that sideline is occupied by the home team. The front sideline (bottom of the page) is often referred to as the "home sideline," even though here at ISU, that sideline is occupied by the visiting team. The center drum major podium is at the front sideline.

5. Yard lines
NCAA football fields have yard lines every five yards, extending from the front sideline to the back sideline.

6. Yard Line Numbers
NCAA football fields have large yard line numbers painted on the field every ten yards. Since the measurements of these yard line numbers are standardized, they can be used to help in setting drill.

7. The Grid
If you look closely, you will see that the entire field is covered in a grid of large boxes, each made up of a smaller 4x4 grid. Each of these smallest "boxes" represents one standard step (8-to-5). You will notice that a performer traveling from the 20 yard line to the 25 yard line would cross 8 of these small "boxes," hence 8 steps to 5 yards, or 8-to-5. You can use this grid to figure out how many steps you are away from a yard line. 


The one thing we have not yet talked about is the actual "dots" on the field that represent each player. Every drill writer is different - some use letter symbols, some use actual blank dots, and some symbols that are supposed to represent instruments. There is nothing wrong with those systems, but here at ISU, we use the following symbols for our drill:


Using this system, your spot should be at the center of your symbol (e.g., middle of the F, not top of the F). Each symbol will also have a label (as you can see on the drill chart above) that identifies you. We try to make the labels as readable as possible, but sometimes for the sake of making the form "readable" we can't do can always ask the people around you or the Director for help if you cannot find your label - or you can easily find yourself on the coordinate sheets.

For example, using the drill chart at the top of the page, performer F5 is easy enough to find...they are on the Side One 45-yard line, 8 steps behind the Front Hash. F1 is a little trickier, but still not too bad. They are 9 steps behind the Front Hash, and almost two steps inside the Side One 35-yard line ("inside" means toward the center of the field, "outside" means toward the closest endzone).

Drill charts can sometimes be confusing from the perspective of the marching member, since he or she is looking at the chart from the front perspective, while on the actual physical field, one is looking at the back perspective. For example, to a drum major or the Director, Side Two is on the right hand side of the field. However, to a marching member facing forward, Side Two is on the left hand side of the field. For this reason, and to save on ink and paper, we usually only give drill charts to the drum majors and the section leaders (everyone else uses coordinate sheets). You are, however, always welcome to go to our Dropbox File Center and download drill charts to print out on your own, if you are more comfortable reading drill this way.


The use of coordinate sheets helps us save paper, so that we do not have to print a full chart for every member (though they are always available on our Dropbox File Center). For those who may not have experience the use of them before, let's take a look at a typical coordinate sheet:


1. Performer
This identifies which performer's coordinates are on the sheet. In the above case, it would be Cymbal 1.

2. Drill Title
As with drill charts, this simply identifies which drill chart we are working with.

3. Set Number
This column identifies which set (page) we are working on.

4. Move
This column should be ignored. Actually, while Pyware is great drill writing software, there are sometimes limitations to what it can do and show. This column is often wrong because it does not take into account any holds or special moves that require different counts. For that reason, you should ignore this column. The Director or faculty will always tell you how many counts a move is (or you can consult the drill charts).

5. Side
This column lets you know whether you are on Side One or Side Two. Remember, from a marching member's perspective looking toward the drum major podium, Side One is on the right, and Side Two is on the left.

6. Specifics (left to right)
This column tells you where you are in relation to a yard line, left to right. All steps are based on the regular marching step (8-to-5). "Outside" means away from the 50-yard line, "inside" means toward the 50-yard line.

7. Specifics (front to back)
This column tells you were you are in relation to the hashes, front to back. All steps are based on the regular marching step (8-to-5).

And that is drill, in a nutshell. If you are still having issues with reading or understanding a coordinate sheet or drill chart, your section leader, your Drum Majors, and your Director are all willing to help. Find us, and ask! Nothing ever gets solved if you're unwilling to ask for help from time to time. Keep in mind, while coordinate sheets are easy and helpful, if you prefer drill charts, you can always download drill charts for Pregame or the show we are working on from our Dropbox File Center (members will receive a link via email).

You may also want to check out our Glossary, especially if you are unfamiliar with any of the terms encountered above.