How to Make a Marching Band Dot Book

A dot book or drill book is a band camp essential. It is a miniature notebook that is easy to carry around, that contains shorthand versions of marching drill. Make your own marching band dot book, and you'll be ready for all of the most elaborate drills you can think up!


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    Check with the band directors on the format they prefer. Most times the band director will give specifics on how they want you to make the drill book or what they want in it. If they don't give direct instructions, it may be a good idea to check if they have any preferences.
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    Learn the band field terminology. It's important to know how to read your drill first before you start putting it in the drill book. The band director will often give a run down of how to do that or you can ask for help from a more experienced band member. Important terms to know include the front sideline, the front hash, the 50, the back hash, and the back sideline. The field is also often split in half horizontally with one side being called something such as side A and the other being called side B. See How to Read Marching Band Drill for more information.
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    Get the right materials. You'll need a small notebook type thing to put down all your notes. A pack of index cards bound by a spiral works well. Note that the index cards must be bound together in notebook style-loose index cards will not work. You will also want something that allows you to attach the dot book to your being. A common thing to use is a shoelace or string although if you know you will have pant loops, a ring may work too.
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    Put in the information according to the format advised by your band director. Here is an easy and common form:
    • If the show has different movements, write the title of the movement or the piece at the top, centered.
    • Write how many counts the move is at the top on one side.
    • Write the page and measure numbers of the music that the move covers at the top on the other side.
    • In the center write the coordinates of the position you are supposed to be at for that drill page. This should include the side of the field, and then your position in steps from lines on the field vertically and horizontally. This should be written in shorthand. For example, 12 FFH would mean 12 steps in front of the front hash. Instead of this you may be asked to insert a small picture of your drill position.
    • At the bottom of the page add special notes. This may include where to dress or anything else you may need to remember for that set.
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    Continue this process, putting information in the same order until all the drill has been written out.
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    Familiarize yourself with your dot book before practice so you can use it quickly and efficiently.
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    Add your method of attaching your drill book to your person. If you are using a shoelace simply loop the shoelace through the spiral at the top of the drill book and then tie it. The dot book can now be worn around your neck, across your body, or over your shoulder.


  • Don't forget to bring the dot book to practice!
  • Don't forget to do it! You will get yelled at repeatedly by the band director. Don't worry it's not as much work as you think. ;)!
  • Don't be afraid to ask your director or a more experienced band member for help.

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Categories: Music Techniques