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Palen Music Center Quick Note

Monday, September 26, 2011


The PMC Quick Note is part of our mission to support the lives of band directors across the Midwest. The Quick Note contains helpful tips and suggestions from area directors, spotlights on area college and university band programs, calendars of upcoming events, advocacy articles promoting music education, links to helpful web resources, and much more.  Comments, suggestions, ideas, and articles are always welcome.


Looking for help on a particular topic? Be sure to check out our Quick Note Catalog of back issues!

Marching Rehearsal Tips - Part One (of Two) by Eric Matzat

This article contains some tips on cleaning your marching show. There are hundreds of little things that can be done and we would love to hear your suggestions for other tips to share. If you have something that comes to mind, please send it and we will continue to share them in upcoming issues of the Quick Note. Part two of this article is coming next week. I hope that you can find something helpful. Good luck!

Don't Forget To Test

Individual accountability is critical for the group to succeed. What percentage of your students are truly contributing to the sound of the band? How many of them can play all of the show music from memory? Don't forget to do individual testing on the music! If you are short of time, just circle up the hornline according to their drill numbers. Hold a clipboard with the students numbered in order. Kick off the song you are going to test and walk around the circle, pausing in front of each student for a few moments. If the student clearly knows the material and is playing musically, they "pass" the test on the first pass and receive an "A". If a student does not demonstrate mastery, they need to re-test the next day. If they pass on the second attempt, give them a "B". If it takes them until the fourth testing day to pass, they receive a "D". Having weekly playing tests over specific parts of the show will encourage (err.....force) them to practice until they master the material. In addition, you are able to test the group very quickly and put some grades in the gradebook which reflect individual accountability.

Tips for Fundamental Block

  • Use a metronome for EVERYTHING. Don't rely on hand claps or stick clicks.
  • Use specific tempos from the show. Don't forget to work on fundamentals at both fast and slow tempos.
  • Have section leaders "patrol" their sections to watch for uniform technique.
  • Give very specific instructions on what you are working on. Don't let your group just "go through the motions".
  • Work on one specific skill each day. It is much better to do one thing extremely well, master it, and commit it to memory rather than glazing over a dozen things and find yourself re-teaching the same skills day after day.
  • Have your students assemble in a block based on drill numbers so that you can take attendance quickly. The block needs to be set in the same place on your practice field each day to save time.

Incorporate Fundamental Review Into The Drill

If you are having trouble seeing the work in fundamentals transfer to the actual drill, forget the block and use a particular drill sequence for the purpose of your fundamental review. Identify a particular spot in the show that has some clarity issues and then announce the specific skill you are addressing that day....maybe it is shoulder facings, or interval control, or marching style while taking very small steps and covering very little ground. Demonstrate what you want to see, then utilize the actual drill pages as you focus on improving the skill. Do repetitions at various tempos without instruments in the hands at all. Once you achieve mastery with the feet and body posture, add the instruments but do not play. Once the sequence can be executed with the proper carriage, play that passage. Identifying the sequence that needs the "fundamental review" and incorporating it into the actual drill will help make the work on fundamentals relevant.

Connect the Dots

While cleaning drill, stop in the set and tell the students to "connect the dots". They extend their arms from performer to performer. This allows the staff and students to quickly re-shape arcs, straighten lines, and adjust intervals. You can use this technique to improve clarity in set transitions as well. If you are cleaning a 16-count move, have them move eight counts, stop, connect the dots, adjust, then continue the next eight counts. Having students maintain spacing and form in transition will quickly clean drill.

Confident First Steps

Drill becomes very "mushy" if students either step off with small steps and then "pick up speed" to hit their spots, or even worse if they get to their destination spots early. Be sure they are aware of where they should be at the halfway point so that they can pace their progress from one set to another. Be sure that as they hit one set with their right foot, they pivot and take a confident step in the new direction. Be sure the students are not rounding off their corners...they need to put "points" on each set as they hit, pivot, and go. A confident step in the new direction will give the drill clarity and velocity.

Contact Your Local Palen Music Center Representative


Can we assist you with anything?  Please contact your local Palen Music Center school road representative for all of your music education needs.


Springfield Bob Hopkins, Wayne Blades, Jason Moore, Mike Steffen, AAron Bryan (417) 882-7000
Columbia Paul Bowen (573) 256-5555
Liberty Ken Crisp, Harlan Moore, and Victoria Clymore (816) 792-8301
Joplin AAron Bryan (417) 781-3100
Broken Arrow Mark VanVranken and Bryan Snyder (918) 286-1555


If you would like to submit material, make corrections, give comments, or wish to be removed from this mailing list, please contact Eric Matzat.  

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