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How To Read
A Drill Chart
by Victor Neves

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To read a marching band drill chart, you have know three basic things, the vocabulary, the layout, and how coordinates work.

Marching band drill vocabulary terms.  
The terms aren't listed alphabetically.  
It's more of a hierarchy.

Up – moving away from the director’s (home side) viewpoint.

Down – moving toward the director’s (home side) viewpoint.

Side 1 and Side 2 – from the director’s (home side) viewpoint, side 1 is on the left.  Side 2 is on the right.  Side 1 is sometimes called “Side A” and Side 2 “Side B.”

Yard lines – There are 21 yard lines on an American football field.  The center line is the 50 yard line.  Yard lines count down in 5 yard increments to the goal line, also called the 0 yard line.  The band performance area includes the end zones which extend 10 yards past the goal lines.

Inside – measured toward the 50 yard line.

Outside – measured toward either end zone, away from the 50 yard line.

In front of – measured toward the director’s (home) viewpoint.

Behind – measured away from the director’s (home) viewpoint.

Sidelines – The sidelines are the front and back boundaries of the football field.  The front sideline is nearest the director’s viewpoint.  The back sideline is on the opposite side of the field.  In marching band the performance area extends 12 feet in front of the front (home) sideline.  It extends behind the back (visitor) sideline, all the way to the backfield stands.

Steps - In marching band we measure distance in “steps.”  There are 8 steps in 5 yards.  One “8 to 5” step is 22˝ inches.  

Hash Marks – The hash marks intersect the yard lines 28 steps away from the side lines.  The front hash is nearest to the director’s viewpoint.  The back hash is nearest to the back sideline.  College hash marks are 4 steps further away from the sidelines.  Competitions on college fields will have both sets of hash marks.

Vertical Hash Marks – The vertical hash marks are not always marked, but when they are, they show one yard increments.  When marked, they appear at the sidelines and lined up with the hash marks.  At competitions on college fields, the vertical hash marks will be 4 steps behind the regulation hash marks.

Yard Line Numbers – The Yard line Numbers are placed so that the top of the number is 9 yards away from the front side line.  The numbers are 6 feet high.  IF the numbers are regulation measurements, the top of the number will be one yard in front of a position measured 16 steps from the sideline. The cross hatch on the number 4 is marked approximately 12 steps away from the front sideline.

IMPORTANTNot all fields are marked according to regulation.  Most NCAA stadiums are.  Many high school stadiums are not.  Most often the discrepancy is in the location of the hashes and numbers.  Placing the hashes and numbers closer to the sideline changes the nature of the football playing area.  If the hash marks are wrong, they’re usually 4 steps (2.5 yards) too close to the sidelines.  Trust the markings your teacher tells you to trust.

Regulation marching band field show layout.

Marching Band Drill Layout

Marching Band Coordinate Sheets

To find a coordinate on a drill chart or field, a student MUST know their position number, and where their position is located on the print symbol in the drill.  Using this information, the position is located using a system similar to the x/y system in math.  A position is located by its horizontal and vertical position, relative to the markings on the field.  For example: “4 outside the side 1 45, 3 in front of the front hash” means this position:

Marching band coordinate example

LEARN YOUR COORDINATES – When the student receives the drill chart, they should mark their coordinate on the corresponding count in the music, and they should memorize their coordinate on every page as quickly as possible.

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