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Band Dictionary


This is a mostly humorous dictionary of marching band slang and stuff. Feel free to steal definitions, since most of them aren't mine anyway.

3/4 time ~ The guaranteed way to be sure that your band is never in step.

4/4 time ~ The guaranteed way to be sure that your band is never in step.

5/4 time ~ A game only conductors and drum majors know how to play.

6/8 time ~ Last resort. Only use if your band is in step in 3/4 and 4/4 time.

Accelerando ~ When the Drum Major starts to follow the percussion.

Accent ~ Something that makes a tuba player sound like he's making bodily noises.

Alto Saxophone ~ A musical instrument that either plays very loud or not at all between squeaks.

Attention ~ Standing completely still, even when attacked by vampire mosquitos, gnats fly into your eyes or your contact lens rolls behind your eyeball.

Band Camp ~ Five days of marching on asphalt while the staff attempts to train the woodwinds. A time of gathering between most band geeks (including color guard) for 2 weeks during August. Also known as hell.

Band Director ~ 1. A person who loves music, but has absolutely no life outside of his band. 2. A profession where you are overworked and underpaid.

Band Geek ~ If you understand these, and find them funny, you are most likely one of these.

Band Member ~ One who willingly gives up their free time to spend endless hours marching on a football field with no apparent destination.

Band Mommy ~ A member of the boosters extremely proficient in keeping track of minute details and making band members feel special; angels in band jackets.

Band Orgy ~ When a group of band members huddle together for "warmth". This is very prone to happen late in marching season.

Band Room ~ Place of fellowship for band geeks.

Band Jacket ~ 1. Status symbol. 2. Proclamation of true geekdom.

Band 'Ten Hut ~ Sharp verbal command given by those in charge, immediately responded to with stiff (correct) posture.

Band Uniform ~ A collection of the least breathable materials on earth.

Baritone ~ 1. A device for doubling with trombones except using the right notes. 2. Instrument played by those who began on trumpet, but could not achieve a big enough head.

Basics ~ Warm-up before competitions and rehearsal; marching back and forth in a 6-by- whatever block, paying attention to posture and staying in step, among other things.

Bass Drum ~ Device used to instill fear in all smaller instruments.

Bass Drummer ~ Person who enjoys playing drums but doesn't really like notes.

Bell - Front Instrument ~ Always brass, these are directional instruments designed to play extremely loud.

Brass ~ 1. Metallic looking and sounding devices designed to over-blow and blast. 2. A definite argument against the theory of evolution.

Bus ~ The coed dressing room of the marching band. Home away from home on trips.

Caffeine ~ The fuel that keeps sleep-deprived musicians functioning (relatively) normally.

Cherry Coke ~ the official drink of marching band.

Chops ~ 1. The muscles located in the wrist of a drummer and mouth of all others. 2. Muscles you didn’t know you had but now hurt.

Clarinet ~ An instrument used solely when the music calls for sound effects of cats in blenders.

Clean ~ when a passage is technically correct, in the ensemble, and in unison.

Coffee ~ A hot, brown liquid containing large amounts of caffeine of great value to tired band members and staff.

Colorguard ~ People who swing flags and toss rifles to keep the audience from noticing band members who are off-step. Makes the band seem better.

Competition ~ 1. A day when every local high school band comes out and performs to show that each one's band is better than the others. 2. A chance for band mommies, parents, and interested administrators to come and see just why band members have no lives.

Conducting ~ Waving one's arms wildly about in the air to make the audience think something is going on, while, in truth, the band already knows what they're doing and the drummers won't pay attention anyway.

Conductor ~ One who takes the place of the colorguard during a concert, entertaining the audience with new and astounding dance moves.

Concert ~ Extremely dangerous form of torture for both students and audience. Fatal if used in duration exceeding one hour.

Crabbing ~ A strange marching ritual that only percussionists are able to perform.

Cut Time ~ When you start to play and then realize that the rest of the band is going twice as fast as you.

Deccelerando ~ When the director begins to follow the tubas.

Director ~ The person who claims to be in charge when everything is going well and claims denial when things go wrong.

Dollar Bill ~ A piece of paper used to purchase caffeinated beverages.

Drill ~ Obscene pictures to be made on the field. Designed to prevent band members from learning or playing music correctly.

Drill Chart ~ A small notebook that has complex drawings and strange numbers that people say are their spots for each picture. Designed to keep people from learning music.

Drum ~ Round hollow devices with covering on the top and sometimes the bottom. Loud.

Drum Captain ~ The leader of the percussion section who's main requirement for the job is to not be able to hold a steady tempo.

Drum Corps ~ 1. Very similar to marching band, except for a few differences: 1)They’re good. 2)No woodwinds. Coincidence? 2. How over-devoted musicians spend their summer vacations when they're forced to go out into the "real world."

Druminese ~ the universal language spoken by all drummers, using mouth sounds to imitate sounds made by different drums.

Drumline ~ The people hitting the drums (or each other) with sticks in time with each other. They seem to think that they are a highly-evolved group of musicians when in reality, neither of those terms apply.

Drum Major ~ The person in the front who waves his arms and dances wildly to the music.

Drummer Wannabe ~ Those horn players who insist on coming to the drums and beating them EVERY day.

Dut ~ Chant used to keep time.

Duct Tape ~ Grey cloth of amazing strength backed with heavy-duty adhesive; an integral part of band philosophy and solution to every problem known to man.

Dynamics ~ Volume of the music. Either loud or louder.

Early ~ On time.

Fake It ~ To try to look like you know the part, while you are trying to remember the drill at the same time... when you really only know half the part.

Fiberglassaphone ~ A fiberglass sousaphone, it is an instrument that sounds so much unlike a brass sousaphone that John Phillip Sousa is rolling over in his grave.

Flags ~ Large, floaty, shiny pieces of cloth on sticks waved by members of the colorguard. Good for "accidentally" thwacking annoying field judges.

Flaggot ~ 1. Derogatory nickname for any color guard member. 2. A member of the drumline who has secret aspirations to be in the colorguard.

Flute ~ An un-tuned device for people who want to be in the band who have weak arms and don't wish to be heard. Immensely popular with beginning band students as it is the only instrument in which one can cross her legs while playing sitting down.

Football Field ~ A patch of grass which is used by marching band to compete on. However, it is forbidden by the Phys. Ed department for the marching band to practice on it.

Football Game ~ Event where the marching band acts like cheerleaders during the game and entertains the crowd during halftime. The only time the band can actually march on their own home football field.

Football Team ~ The main reason the band can't always use the marching field.

Forte ~ The lowest dynamic marking a brass instrument can play at.

Freshmen ~ Designed to make up half the size of the band.

Fund-Raiser ~ Pizza sales, car washes, and more pizza sales.

Geekism ~ Something related to marching band which spontaneously happens (such as walking with friends down the hall in step or whistling warm-ups or scales without thinking about it).

Ghost ~ To "fake-drum" - to take out notes of a passage you're playing but still air drum them like your playing it.

Gong ~ A loud, large cymbal-like device. It is the goal of all good percussionists to break or crack this instrument in any way possible.

Graduated Band Geek ~ Someone who no longer attends the school, so he is no longer in the band. Now returns (usually with food) to rehearsals to watch just for fun.

Hacking ~ Messing around and playing while an instructor is trying to talk.

Haul Balls ~ To march very fast in order to make a distant set.

Hell ~ 1. Band camp. 2. getting up for school at 6:00 AM after a late night of rehearsal and cramming.

Home ~ A place existing only in band members' imaginations as it is often described yet rarely seen.

Home Competition ~ A major fund raiser for the marching band in which it just happens to pour down rain the whole time.

Horn Pop ~ Bells pointed to the press box.

Instructor ~ One who spends three months telling you everything you're doing wrong, then congratulates your excellence.

Interval ~ The space between two band members, often changing in an amoebic fashion.

Laps ~ An alternate to 'shups, although not as effective.

Late ~ Something never to be.

Life ~ Supposedly it exists, but has yet to be discovered by band members.

Low Brass ~ The "clowns" of the band. During rehearsals they generally yell obnoxiously, do perverted things with their instruments, and rehearse lines and songs from Monty Python movies.

Mallet ~ Fun to throw, twirl, bounce, etc.

Marching baritone ~ A version of a baritone created based on enhancements over the successful design of a Marching French Horn.

Mark Time ~ 1. The act of marching in place out of time 2. Marching without going anywhere.

Mellophone ~ A French horn that was dropped when it was little.

Melody ~ Whatever is being played the loudest, usually the trumpets by default.

Memorization ~ An action that is supposed to take place in conjunction with sets and music between band camp and the commencement of the regular year, but does not generally happen, except for the captain, until 'shups are issued or the year is completed.

Metronome ~ Also known as Dr. Beat, this is the annoying bleeping sound that is supposed to keep the band in time. Studies have shown that constant exposure to metronomes can leave the brains of band members deformed in a matter where they constantly hear a bleeping sound in their head for as long as they live. "AAAAAHHHHHHH.....STOP THAT ANNOYING BLEEEPING!!!!!"

Mezzo Forte ~ The highest dynamic marking of any woodwind.

Misting ~ The meteorological term that the adult staff use for saying, "It's raining, but we don't give a &@#%"

Monkey drum ~ To "flail" each stroke, whipping the stick down and back very high, usually above your head.

Mountain Dew ~ A cold, green liquid containing great amounts of caffeine. The Nectar of Life.

Mouthpiece ~ A critical piece to a brass instrument which is meant to be dropped or thrown onto grass, loud stages, and/or sometimes mud. Has a tendency to sprout legs and wander off of it's own accord.

Music ~ 1. Papers which contain little black lines and dots with strange symbols that somehow show what the music is to sound like. 2. The succession of these notes that, in theory, should sound good. Unfortunately, we're not all in Theory - we're in Marching Band. 3. That noise which can be heard emitting from the band room or rehearsal field at any odd hour of the day.

Nirvana ~ A state of being achieved when you are playing so effortlessly you give out an aura that you could play 10 times better than anyone else around you.

Notes ~ 1. Little round dots on lines that show the approximate pitch that the instrument player tries to hit. 2. The language of music.

On Time ~ Late.

Parents ~ Adult figures seen only occasionally, usually at home.

Parking Lot ~ The practice field of the marching band with a light pole on the left 45 yard line on the back hash.

Pass Through ~ A move in which two lines cross paths, often resulting in bruises for both parties involved.

Percussion ~ The group of instruments hit by sticks or mallets that keeps some beat or other.

Piccolo ~ 1. A high-pitched instrument similar to that of the flute, only you can actually hear that it's out of tune. 2. Has a tone that only a banshee could love, therefore relegated to the extremities of the field.

Ping ~ A rim shot played 2-3 inches away from the rim.

Plume ~ Dead chickens that were rejected by KFC, Tyson Farms, or Perdue.

Practice Field ~ Place of much work and sweat; Place made entirely of mud, rocks, and holes.

Psuedo Geek ~ Somebody who isn't in band but thinks he is. Attends band parties, competitions, and rehearsals. This is not to be confused with a former band geek, or graduated band geek.

Public Displays of Affection (P.D.A.) ~ A touchy (literally), debatable subject among band geeks. Something that happens on the bus, in the stands, during water breaks, before and after rehearsals, during lunch and dinner breaks, in the band room, and just about anywhere else where the rest of the band is forced to watch a couple be disgustingly cutesy together.

Rain ~ God's way of saying that maybe it isn't a good night to be marching. Not only is the football field messed up, but you become wet and cold. This only happens at Chapter Championships or at your home competition. Will not stop rehearsal.

Reed ~ 1. A piece of wood that makes a great excuse for not playing well (particularly for brass instruments) if broken or brand new. Usage's: "Sorry, new reed," or "I broke my reed."

Rehearsal ~ Five or six hours spent marching around the back field while under constant scrutiny by the staff.

Rehearsal Arc ~ A loose semi-circle in which the band stands for long periods of time while waiting for flutes to tune.

Resetting ~ Definitions vary by sections. Woodwind: Wander aimlessly for 3 minutes and talk quietly. Brass: Run as fast as you can back to your set yelling at the top of your lungs and slipping in the mud then doing pushups. Battery: Wander and swear as you walk slowly back to your set. Colorguard: Prance back to your set and avoid getting hit by stupid, yelling brass players. Pit: Sit there and laugh your @$$ off while you watch this 3 minutes of confusion.

Roll step ~ Method in which a geek should walk if his shoes are round on the bottom in which his head does not bounce. Good for preventing lunch-tray-spillage in a crowded cafeteria.

Scale ~ A pattern of notes progressing in a logical order that, in theory, sound relatively pleasant.

Section Leader ~ One who thinks they are in charge, though they have just as much trouble remembering music as anyone else.

Sfz-Piano-Crescendo ~ The act of blasting, stopping, then blasting.

Shako ~ 1. It looks like a hat, is worn like a hat, and has other similar properties to a hat, but you dare not call it a hat. 2. Never to be set with the top on the ground. 3. Decorated with plumes.

'Shups ~ Sometimes called "pushups," these you do when something goes wrong due to you. Usually done in increments or multiples of ten or fifteen. Designed as a method of self-discipline. Punishment for tardiness, wayward mouthpieces, mouthing off, and anything else seen fit.

Sight-Reading ~ The first time playing a new piece of music. Usually sounds as if the composer had intended their music to be played during a train wreck.

Solo ~ Ego inflation technique used by first trumpets and mellophones.

Squeak ~ The only sign that the woodwinds give that they are actually playing. Clarinet section's tuning note of choice.

Spankophone ~ The lowest bass drum of the battery line.

Staff ~ Adult leaders who arrange music, write drill, etc., but do not perform in order to avoid embarrassment from their own creations. (See Techs)

Stand Music ~ 1. Cool songs played at football games that other bands wish they could play. 2. Cool Songs played at football games that start to get annoying after a while.

Street Time ~ Westminster's drum cadence. It is used to entertain the crowd during parades when the hornline is not playing. After a parade Street Time is stuck in every band member's heads for weeks to come.

Stretch Out ~ A term geeks frequently misunderstand as "time to talk".

Tempo ~ 1. The correct beat, usually (but not always) carried by the conductor. 2. Directly proportional to the amount of Mountain Dew consumed before rehearsal.

Tenor Saxophone ~ A larger version of an alto sax, but sounds like a German cat in a large food processor.

Theory ~ A two-hour annual lecture from the director, explaining why key signatures are relevant in the whole scheme of Life, the Universe, and Everything.

Tick ~ 1. A pulsed roll, unclean flam-drag, or any other technical error that makes the song sound worse. 2. A person who plays poorly.

Toys ~ 1. Any pit accessories used for sound effects (ratchet, triangle, sleigh bells, etc.) 2. Parts for people who suck too bad to play mallet parts.

Trumpet ~ An instrument that is designed to make a band sound better. The idea is that if the trumpets play loud enough, you can't hear the rest of the band, so only the trumpets' mistakes are heard, not everyone else's. Strangely, has a tendency to swell the head of the player. At the moment, there is no scientific evidence to prove this, but it's underway...

Tune ~ A time for the band to rest while waiting for the piccolos.

Uniform Violation ~ Wings not turned, jacket not zipped, hanger backwards, junk in shako boxes, etc. Results in cleaning the band room.

Valve ~ A key object on most brass instruments that sticks only during important performances and solos. Sort of like woodwind buttons, but greatly simplified for brass mentalities.

Vibe ~ The intensity that a band produces while playing, evident by their body language or facial expression.

Visual ~ 1. Something the percussionist does to add a visual texture to a song (in the case of snares, checking watch) 2. Futile attempts to turn the band into a colorguard.

Wannabe Band Geek ~ Someone who hangs out with true band geeks.

Water ~ To simplify music.

Westminster Look ~ The intimidating look used to scare other bands, parents, friends, other sections, etc.

Woodwinds ~ 1. A true sign that God has a sense of humor. 2. A biological mistake.

Some definitions are from: The WHS Band Dictionary, The Official Band Dictionary, Drummer's Slang, and Band Dictionary.