3 Easy Steps to making a Dot Book

With Spring finally here (although quite a bit late on the East Coast), bands are beginning their preparations for marching band season! While not all bands begin their preparations in the Spring time, it’s never too early to start thinking about drill! Top performers are prepared and ready to rock out to put on a spectacular show in the fall! There are a few things you’re going to need in order to max out your time on the field though, and none more important than your drill sheet and your handy dandy dot book.

While in the beginning of the season you may not use your dot book yet until you learn where you’re going, it pays to get ahead of the game and having it prepared. Those sheets of paper with drill will eventually blow away, get wet, or worse, you lose it, and printing out large volumes of drill is not going to happen on the regular. There’s also a method to the madness of writing down what you are doing and where you’re going to help with remembering how to perform on the field.

With that in mind, there’s several ways you can prepare a dot book for on the field reference, but below are my 5 Top Tips for making your dot book

1. Learn how to read your drill sheet

I know, it sounds crazy right? The first thing about dot book making has nothing to do with the actual dot book, but stick with me here for a second. Since your drill sheet is going to be your first point of reference when it comes to understanding where you are and where you’re going, it pays to know how it was put together. While each drill sheet in each program will have slightly different looks, the fundamentals are usually the same. We’ve covered the fundamentals on this blog here.

2. Highlight and Write all over your drill sheet

This part you can customize to your liking (unless you’re being told to do it a certain way). My recommendation to get several highlighters and mechanical pencils (the ones that you click out the lead) to get started on marking up your drill. Now you may be thinking, why am I marking up my drill so much? This is a very visual activity as well, and being able to find yourself on the field quickly and easily is essential in maximizing your practice time. To get things started, we’ll start with 4 colors of highlighters: Blue, Green, Yellow, and Pink will work.

A) Take a big sharpie, and write the set number on the top left or right, wherever there is more space. It’s easier to read a big number than a small printed one.

B) Find your dot on the drill and mark it with blue (I prefer the darkest color to be used in this instance). The reason for the darkest color, is so you can find yourself on the page as fast as possible.

C) Find the 50 Yard Line and highlight it with Green (or whatever color you prefer that’s not the same as your dot). This will help you to locate side 1 and side 2 quickly if you know where the 50 is at all times. If you’re looking at the drill normally, side 1 is to the left and side 2 is to the right.

D) Find the closest yard line, to you and mark it with Pink or yellow (your preference). That way you can see where you are relative to the 50. Quick Caveat, if the closest yard line is the 50, no need to mark another yard line.

E) Find if you’re closer the sideline, the hash, or the back hash, and mark it with the last highlighter color you got. That way you can figure out your ‘front to back’ location, or rather, how far from the side of the field you are.

F) Take your mechanical pencil and begin writing on your drill where you are on the field. Whatever order you choose to write, you should keep it consistent so you don’t get lost, but this is the order i’ve seen written several times.
-Write what side you’re on (Side 1 or Side 2)
-Write whether you’re on a yard line, or whether you’re whatever number of steps inside or outside that yard line. (i.e. On the 45 Yard line, 2 Outside the Yard Line, 2 Inside the Yard Line).
-Write However many steps you are from the sideline, front hash, or back hash. For example, 3 from the sidelines, or 2 in front of the front hash, or 2 in front of the back hash. Back when I marched, I used abbreviations such as BS, FFH, BFH, FBH, BBH (Behind  sidelines, front of Front Hash, Behind Front Hash, Front of Back Hash, and Behind Back Hash respectively).
-Repeat for every drill sheet you have

3) Now it’s time to take out the dot book!

Take out out a mechanical pencil and get ready to get your first set of coordinates on your dot book. Here’s the easy trick, you did the work already on the drill sheet! All you’re doing is transcribing it to the dot book. Write your set number on it, then write the coordinates you’ve already got down.

I know what you’re thinking, why am I doing this twice? Well, there will be times you need the drill sheet again. Do you really want to spend time trying to locate your dot on a tiny print then try to read the drill sheet instructions? At least, with what you wrote down, you can quickly reference where you should be!

Pretty easy right? To recap, you will need some sort of index card book to write all these coordinates on, but you will also need some rope or shoelace to keep on you, but that’s a discussion for another time. As always, if you have any questions or comments, let me know, and I’ll be happy to help!

5 Top Brands for Hot Weather Marching Band!

We are getting to that point in time where band camps are starting up and Drum Corps are beginning their competitive seasons throughout the country. One thing is a given when it comes to marching in the summer. It’s going to be HOT! No matter how much water you’re drinking, if you don’t have the right gear and equipment on, you can find yourself suffering through those long, sunny days!

There are plenty of brands out there that sell hot weather gear, but make no mistake, not all are created equal. There will be times where you truly, ‘Get what you pay for’ and if you cheap out on the attire you get, you’ll get it in the long run. That doesn’t mean there aren’t decent brands out there at an affordable cost. So let’s run a couple while we’re here.

1 – Under Armour 

One of the most familiar brands of all weather sports gear, Under Armour stands out as one of the most recognizable brands in the market. So much so that people have taken to calling any compression gear, Under Armour. With it’s massive catalog of items from Compression Shirts to Shoes, it has been a staple of athletic wear, and does not disappoint for the warm weather. The only downside I can see is the price tag on some of the merchandise, but if you’re looking for something simple like a short sleeve compression shirt or some compression underwear. You can’t possibly go wrong with them.

2 – Champion 

More notable for their regular sorts and shirts that they sell, Champion has been a brand that’s been great for those who can’t afford the price tag that comes with more expensive brands like Under Armour, but without sacrificing much in quality. Their ‘Flatlock’ stiching helps with those whom are prone to bad chafing. Let’s be real, in Marching, it’s bound to happen, so why not get the gear that helps prevent it just a little while longer? While not the cheapest brand that will be on the list, their mid price costs can help alleviate some pain in your wallet. Depending on your size, they can float on an average of $15-$20 each for a decent compression shirt or under garments.

3 – CW-X

One of the top brands that you may not even have heard of. Their compression designs are made to help stabilize your joints when you’re extremely active. It helps for those whom may be working through a knee injury or have issues with their hip flexor. Their conditioning shorts have stretch mesh material to keep you cooler and their ‘Support Web’ mimics the use of KT-Tape. For those who’ve used it, you know how amazing that stuff is! They even have a Ventilator Web Top for back support as well!

4 – Nike

Nike has come out swinging with amazing apparel over the years! It’s also a brand that’s been around for a long time, so you know they don’t play around with coming out with good items! Their assortments of Cool Compression Shirts and Pro Shorts will keep you cool all summer long!

5 – Reebok 

There lineup of short sleeve shirts and Performance Shorts are top notch without being excessively overpriced! There one of my favorite brands out there as I do gym workouts in this gear and never had a complaint about it’s sweat wicking material! While you don’t have to go with my recommendations on this, you won’t be disappointed with their brand lineup!

These aren’t the only brands out there that you can shop for, but keep in mind, while price is an important factor before getting anything, do a bit a research and make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck. You don’t even have to take my word for it, but knock off brands and brands that you normally find in a supermarket are massed produced for the public and doesn’t have quality in mind, just usage and low mileage. If you have any questions on when and how i used each brand, hit me up and i’ll try to get to you as fast as I can!

How To Read Your Drill Sheet

So here we are, getting to the part of the season where we begin to learn where we are on the field and where we’re going. It can get a little overwhelming at first, but here at Marching Music Maniacs, we’re going to break down how to read the drill to get you started on your adventure in putting dots to drill to performance!

  • Find your ‘dot’
    When you’re given drill, you’ll most likely be assigned a ‘dot’ or a point on the drill that is supposed to represent YOU. That number, letter, or number & letter do not change, most of the time. What this does for you, is let you know where you should be on each page. The best way to find out EXACTLY how you should look at the dot, consult with the band director or your section leader. Especially when dealing with letters as you need to know exactly how you should look at it so you don’t learn it incorrectly.
  • Side 1 & Side 2
    Another term you’ll hear a lot. When you’re given your drill, you’re going to be on one of three areas. You’re either on one side of the 50, the other side, or on the 50 yard line itself. For anything NOT on the 50 yard, can be denoted as side 1 and side 2. Here’s the trick though, side 1 and side 2 is based on how the audience is going to be looking at you, which can get confusing at first but it’s not too hard. If you’re facing the audience, side 1 is the right of the 50 and side 2 is the left. If you’re the audience (or you’re facing away from the audience) side 1 is the left of the 50 and side 2 is the right of the 50. Take a look at the image for reference.It’s not terribly difficult to learn, but can confuse you if you’re not paying too much attention. We’ll get into more details on how to differentiate it easily, including reorient how you look at the drill, but if you can get this fundamental down, you’ll be good to start.
  • Inside and outside a yard line
    Another term that may be slightly confusing, BUT this goes hand in hand with Side 1 & Side 2. Whenever you’re ‘inside’ a yard line, it means you’re getting closer to the 50 from that yard line. If you’re outside a yard line, it means you’re getting farther from the 50 from the yard line. Confused?I get it, so lets take a small example. You’re on Side 1 and your drill says you’re 3 outside the 40 yard line. So if you’re facing the audience, the 50 yard line would be to your left. So if you’re 3 steps outside the 40 yard line, you’ll be going three steps to the right of the 40. Still confused? The illustration on the left should help a little. Once you have this concept mastered, learning drill will go by faster.
  • Every line is a step
    So you’ll be given drill and told to find your dot and you may just scratch your head or find someone who knows what they’re doing since you’re not quite sure what all these boxes mean. It’s actually easier than you think. Each intersection of the lines is a step on the drill. So if you’re trying to count from the side lines or from the hash, you’re counting the lines going across (so if you’re 3 from the sidelines, it’s 3 horizontal lines from the sideline on the drill, if you’re 3 steps outside the 40 yard line, it’s the 3 vertical lines from the 40). We’ll get into more details about step size and how to find yourself on the field, but that conversation is a lot longer than this blog is intended for.

That’s all for now as far as the basics in reading your drill sheet. In our next blog, we’ll cover how this works with the creation of your dot book. We’ll also be covering spacing in the future, but we’ll hopefully have some videos out so you can see what we mean. For now, have a great day!


So you’ve taken the plunge and heading to your first few practices of the season. Being new to marching band can be a little bit intimidating depending on where you’re at with your abilities. Probably several things going through your head, “What are they going to make me do? Am I good enough? What if I play a wrong note or embarrass myself?”


Take a moment and breathe. The first days are always hectic and crazy for new members and current members. Even the best run bands have kinks that need to be worked on from time to time and your group might not be any exception, BUT you may want to prepare yourself just in case. Believe it or not, band is still work, just like any other class, but can be fun as well! My advice is to follow a couple of easy ways to survive the first few practices until you get used to the routine.

1 – Find Your Section Leader

Every band typically has someone in charge of your particular instrument or equipment. They’ve been trusted by the director to make sure you get what you need and answer questions you might have about what you’re about to do. They’ve been through it. Think of it as your assigned Big Brother / sister that will take care of you. Make sure you ask questions before practice starts and afterwards so you can get an understanding of what is expected of you.

Now don’t get me wrong, some section leaders can and have taken it over the top before because of some feeling of empowerment of being a leader. Don’t let that get to you too much in the beginning. While they may not say things the best way, if they’re passionate about what they are doing, they’ll still generally say the right things.

2 – Find a Buddy

There are large programs where friends all join band in large groups, and there are smaller groups where people may not know each other as well. It’s okay, there’s always going to be someone you can talk to in the group. Find someone who’s as new as you and try to start a conversation. Even if you’re a bit shy and it’s hard to talk, saying ‘Hello” can go along way as you never know if the person you said hi to is just as shy as you. Either way, you’re still going to have a shared experience with them. So make the most of it and have someone you can go to when things get difficult. You’ll absolutely enjoy this as the year progresses and your circle of friendship gets bigger.

3 – Don’t Sweat it if you don’t get it at first

The Marching Arts isn’t about getting it right the first time. Some of the most amazing shows put together had simple beginnings as a group, and every individual has a story to tell. Just because you may not get things right away, or perform the best right away, doesn’t mean, “you stink,” or “you’re not good at it.” Part of the excitement is getting better at things. Which means practicing. Working at the hard stuff a little bit at a time until you’re good at it.

Everything we’ve ever been good at we started by being not so good at it. Walking, swimming, sports, video games, whatever it is, we’ve all practiced on it before and may not have even realized it! The same goes for the Marching Arts. If you want to be the best you can be, you have to dig deep and do the work. Part of band is having fun, and it’s a lot of fun when you improve! Not so much if you don’t, so why not put the work in and enjoy it? Grab that buddy or section leader and get to work together, so that you’ll have the motivation and drive of a partner to help you!


5 Best Cardio Workouts for New Marchers

Confused Baby

Wait…working out already? I know, right away we’re already talking about exercising and you may be less than thrilled with the idea, but the reality is, the marching arts are a very physical activity. Just think about it for a second:

  • Wind Instruments – You get to march around a football field from anywhere between 5 to 15 minutes straight, doing choreography and precision movements, all the while trying to breathe normally AND put air through your instrument properly to play music. Yikes!
  • Field Percussion – You get to carry around a heavy piece of drum strapped onto your lower back and shoulders while trying to move your hands a mile a minute using a different marching style; at the same time, not being allowed to stop for any reason whatsoever because the bulk of the rhythm on the field is wholly dependent on you.
  • Color Guard – Oh boy, don’t get me started on how much you all move. Dancing, acting, flag or weapon work and manipulation, etc. You probably move the most out of the entire ensemble!
  • Front Ensemble……we’ll get to you later.

This does not even begin to mention the amount of hours you have to stand outside for parades, or being at rehearsal doing the same movements over and over again.

Pro Tip: Make it a game with someone and workout with a friend, it makes things easier!

1 – Interval Walking / Running (Workout Length: 15 to 20 Minutes)         

The bread and butter of the marching arts. No matter what you think about your running ability, ANYONE get can started with this simple routine. While you won’t be running a marathon in a week, you will definitely be increasing your endurance when it comes time to work at rehearsal and ultimately, your performance. Make sure you have a decent pair of sneakers for this, and remember to pace yourself in the beginning if you’ve never done running before (but do the workout).

Materials: For this, you will probably need a watch or timer (most smartphones have a timer, or your workout buddy, or you can even use a Fitbit.

  • 2 Minute jog or 5 minute walk to get the legs warmed up
  • 30 Second Run followed by a 45 second walk (don’t trudge and hate your life during this time, actually walk)
  • Repeat up to 8 times
  • 2 minute cool down after the last jog/run
  • 1 minute stretch (Quad Stretch, Calf Stretch, and IT Band – This one you should google)

I promise, this isn’t a punishment to begin your routine, but fundamentally, you’re moving quite a bit on the field and getting your heart rate up. While jogging or running may not initially be the most enjoyable experience for everyone, it is one of the most beneficial thing you can do for yourself when it comes to marching performance conditioning. There are several other benefits associated with this:

  • Improves your cardiovascular (heart) health and fitness
  • Efficient calorie burner
  • Helps build strong bones (it’s a weight bearing exercise)
  • Strengthens leg muscles

2 – Side Shuffles (Workout Length: 5 to 7 Minutes)

Also known as ‘laterals’ or ‘lateral shuffle,’ this is a great workout to enhance agility, balance, strengthen hip flexors, and improve flexibility. The exercise is a pretty simple movement, but to maximize the effectiveness of this exercise, you have to repeat the movement quickly in a direction, then switch directions.

  1. Stand with your fit a little wider than hip-width apart and point your toes forward.
  2. Go into a squat or ‘athletic bend’ by bending your knees and hip as if you’re going to sit in a chair, but keep your knees over your toes.
  3. Take a sideways step to the left with your left foot, then take a sideways step again, but with your right foot so that you end in the same position you started in.
  4. You would then repeat this sideways step 10 times to the left.
  5. After you do this 10 times, go in the opposite direction, but beginning the move with your right foot.
  6. Repeat the sideways step 10 times to the right.
  7. That would be 1 set. You would then repeat this process 4 times.

Keep in mind, this is not a ‘small step by step’ movement. Once you get the motion down, do this quickly to one side, then quickly to the other. It should almost feel like you’re hopping sideways. The trick is the speed in which you can do the movement as that will get your heart rate up and help you reap the health benefits of this move.

3 – Karaoke (Workout Length: 5 to 7 Minutes)

No I don’t mean pick up your favorite Rock Band game and start missing those high notes. This is a classic exercise that will help you open up your hips which is essential for longer strides. This will also help with your footwork, balance, and leg & foot coordination. This may take some time to get used to, but once you start doing this on the regular, you’ll see tremendous gains in your marching ability.

  • 10 sets to the left or right direction, then repeat in the opposite direction (Click Here for a demo).
  • Repeat up to 4 times.

4 – Shadow Boxing (Workout Length: 5 to 7 Minutes)

Weird name for a useful exercise that is low impact and you’re able to do at home. No, you’re not taking swipes at that dark reflection on your wall, but rather a low impact method of getting your heart rate up very quickly. You’ll be exhausted faster than you think and is very similar to how martial artists practice in a gym. A very good demo of this can be seen here.

  • 1 minute of work
  • 30 seconds of rest
  • Repeat up to 5 times

5 – Jumping Jacks (Workout Length: 5 to 7 minutes)

What can I say other than this simple workout can give you quite a bit of benefits. There are lower impact options to this if you’re worried about your knees and/or ankles that you can see here. I won’t spend too much time with this description since I’m assuming you’ve done jumping jacks sometime in your life. If not, reference the image below for positioning.

  • 20 Jumping Jacks
  • Rest 15-30 seconds
  • Repeat up to 5 times

There are many other exercises you can do to help get your endurance going and if you really want to dig deep and get a jump start on making sure you’re performing at your best rather than suffering through it, I’d begin by doing two or three of these exercises in a row. Once you begin easing into the workouts as something routine, trying building up to four in a row, all the way to all five!

You can also add variety and help confuse your muscles (more on why that’s good later) and alternate the order you do these in or throw in another exercise you will pick up along the way!

Eventually I’ll have all the videos of the exercises and routines on the site as fast as possible.

That’s all from me today, I’ll be back with some more and if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me through the contact page!