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Top 5: “Dos and Dont’s” for Visual Basics Block

Josh Harris • Archives • September 19, 2007

2. DO focus only on visual aspects. DO NOT play during basics rehearsal.

When in basics block, the sole purpose is to work on visual technique. I have worked with many directors that advocate playing simple note lengths or scales during basics block to get the students used to marching and playing; this creates numerous problems for the members. Especially for more inexperienced students, or in the beginning of the season, marching is an entirely new aspect, much less marching and playing simultaneously. In addition, students tend to focus too much on playing and are not fully attentive to their upper and lower body technique. I prefer to have students breathe to specified counts during exercises, for example: “in for four counts, out for four counts, repeat through exercise.” This allows students to maintain a relaxed heart rate and attain greater stamina. There are plenty of other opportunities to work on marching and playing; during basics block, however, when the focus is meant to be solely on visual aspects, the students should only focus on upper and lower body technique. Marching and playing time can always be added into rehearsal, putting equal emphasis to both aspects.

3. DO always give the directions before the exercise, DO NOT call out direction changes in the middle of the repetition for students to respond to.

There are many instructors that call out commands during exercises, allowing only 1 count for students to respond; for example, “(while clapping in steady tempo) forward, march, (1,2,3,4), backward, march (8,1).” The drum major or visual instructor shouts, “backward, march,” during counts 5, 6 and 7, leaving only count 8 to comprehend the direction. As written in #1 of this article, the goal is to keep students focused. In most situations, this method of instruction causes direction change technique to be extremely poor, as the students are concentrating more on which way to go so they don’t bump into the person next to them, rather than on good direction changes. Regardless of the exercise, directions should be clear and concise, and always given before the repetition begins. For example, “the exercise is forward 8, left 8, forward 8, right 8, repeat. All slides are forward slides, (repeat if necessary).” This provides students with the opportunity to soak in the information and directions given, allowing them to put more mental energy into proper execution of technique, rather than worrying for the entire exercise which way to go next.

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