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Home > Spotlight > Marching Posture Checklist

The new "checklist" for marching posture

Look great without creating too much tension in your body

By Jeff Young, Dynamic Marching

When learning correct marching posture, consider the checklist to look great and be consistent with everyone in your group. I was asked by a good friend of mine at The Band Hall to help set up a marching style guide for the brand new Music City Drum & Bugle Corps in Nashville, Tennessee (pictured here). He told me that the overall look and feel of the group will be very traditional and we started discussing what the goal of their visual identity was going to be. He mentioned the Marine Corps as a look that he liked, so I started doing some research on how the Marines stand at attention. For years I have been calling the attention position the "checklist" because mentally that is what performers should be doing when learning the posture—checking things off of a list one at a time each time they come to attention.

The following is from a style manual on the Internet describing the actual Marine checklist:
  1. Bring left heel against the right.
  2. Turn your feet out equally to form an angle of 45 degrees. Keep your heels on the same line and touching.
  3. Your legs should be straight but not stiff at knees.
  4. Hips level and drawn back slightly, body held erect and resting equally on hips, shoulders square and falling equally.
  5. Arms hanging straight down without stiffness, thumbs along seams and/or side of skirt, back of hands out, fingers held naturally.
  6. Weight resting evenly on heels and balls of feet.

One of the things I have been working on with my groups lately is getting the hips, shoulders and ankle bones in alignment. As I read the Marine attention position I thought we needed to change the hips a bit. When the hips are drawn back slightly, that creates a larger curve (arch) to the back and the rear end sticks out. When we revised this we made sure to talk about rolling the hips slightly under and "squeezing the grape." I remember when I first heard of squeeze the grape. My high school band director in the mid '80s told us to tighten the gluteus maximus muscle slightly so that you could—theoretically, of course—hold a grape there without making grape juice. This phrase still makes kids giggle today, but has just as much validity. Squeeze too tightly and you create tension ... too loose and you have an arched back. You can check this arch of the back by lying on the ground and sliding a hand under the small of your back. Decrease how much room there is for your hand by tilting the hips under.

Hand and arm position varies depending on your instrument, but the fundamentals of body posture are universal to all sections. Another issue not addressed by this particular Marine Corps posture checklist was anything regarding the head and neck. I used to teach kids to roll the shoulders back and down, but recently I have found that I like a different look (and it just so happens to also cause less tension in the shoulders which is of utmost importance while playing). We have revised our old thinking, now telling students to find the spot where their shoulders naturally rest furthest down away from their ears without tension. Try this! See how long you can make your neck without creating tension ... that is the spot. To really make the upper body look great, next we address the neck and head. "Forward Head Posture" is a bad look and eventually will lead you to the chiropractor, so make sure the ears are pulled back to be in line with the shoulders. Also make sure the cervical vertebrae (neck bones) are lengthened toward the top of the head.

All of the other changes that we have made lately to update the "checklist" have come from the way we hold our hands, elbows and instruments. Remember, consistency and detail of teaching is the key, not necessarily the style choices that you make. Good luck!

The Music City Drum Corps Attention Position
  1. Feet – Heels together, toes at a 60 degree angle to each other, weight equally distributed throughout feet
  2. Knees – Straight, but not locked
  3. Hips – Level and drawn under slightly, removing some of the natural curve to the spine
  4. Back – Spine lengthened, arch removed by tilting hips under, separate the upper "block" of the body from the lower "block" by lifting the weight out of the hips and lengthening through the top of the head
  5. Chest – Lifted, body held erect and balanced equally (but not resting on the hips), do not lift/tilt the chest so much that the back arches
  6. Shoulders – Shoulders square and falling equally, lengthened away from the ears
  7. Neck – Lengthened, separating ears from shoulders, lifting up through the top of the head, ears pulled back to be in line with the shoulders (avoid forward head posture)
  8. Chin – Level with ground
  9. Eyes – Forward and set on a point in space
  10. Arms (with no instrument) – Elbows slightly bent and aimed to the rear, light fist, thumb on seam of pants
  11. Arms/Hands (with instrument) – Based on individual instrument

For information about the Music City Drum & Bugle Corps from Nashville, Tennessee, visit

Jeff Young is president of Dynamic Marching and has been involved with marching band and drum corps since 1988. His pageantry experience comes from various areas including trumpet, gymnastics, dance, movement and design. He is currently the visual caption head for the 2005 Bands of America Grand National Champion Carmel H.S. Marching Band. Jeff has been the marching and movement instructor for the BOA Summer Symposium for the past five years. In addition, Jeff judges for Drum Corps International, designs drills and frequently teaches clinics on marching and movement instruction. His marching fundamentals are featured in the Dynamic Marching & Movement DVD series. For more information visit

Text by Jeff Young. Photos by

Copyright 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published or redistributed without permission.

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