Thousands of prospective members will be traveling across the country over the next two weekends to audition for spots among the elite of Marching Music's Major League. For those uninitiated to the experience, the drum corps activity can sometimes seem like it has a language all its own. Study up on these common drum corps terms so you feel right at home from the time you arrive at the tryout. Best of luck to you!

Rehearsal Terms


The universal term for a corps' off-season rehearsals. Usually taking place once a month over a weekend, camps are where corps members will eat, sleep and rehearse at the "campsite," typically a high school with gym and shower facilities. Campfires and grizzly bears not included!

Jimmy said he was practicing a lot between classes to make sure he was prepared for camp the next weekend.


Chunks of time that divide up a rehearsal. During a typical 10-15 hour rehearsal day, a corps may split the time into three or four hour "blocks" with breaks in between.

Looks like today will start with a visual block with the marching staff before we take lunch and get back together to rehearse music.

Sectionals and sub-sectionals

When a subdivision of the corps (e.g. brass, percussion, color guard) or specific instrument (e.g. snares, tubas, rifles) breaks out to rehearse in individual groups.

The lead trumpets are having sub-sectionals today to work on those tricky passages in the new piece of music.


A rehearsal with all sections of the corps participating. Many times during the off-season, corps sections will rehearse separately from each other until the final day's ensemble rehearsal which showcases the culmination of everything they have been working on throughout the weekend.

I can't wait for ensemble today! I've been dreaming about what these percussion parts will sound like with the brass section in the room.


A "basics block" or simply "basics" is time set aside during a rehearsal to work on and break down the fundamentals of marching. Corps members will generally assemble themselves in a "block" formation on the football field or in an indoor facility to break down marching techniques like posture, body carriage and step-size.

My legs are killing me after this morning's basics block! I didn't know my calf muscles could feel like a flaming steak and bowl of Jell-O all at once.


Short for "physical training." Many corps will have PT sessions during off-season rehearsal camps to keep current and prospective members in shape. It also serves as an opportunity for corps members to learn how they can work out at home as preparation for the summer season.

Today's PT session started with a run outside before we made our way back into the gym for Jazzercise and some Bikram Yoga.

Audition Terms

Cut or getting cut

A term for not making a spot in a corps.

Even though Deb got cut from the tuba line, she knew she had received incredible instruction that will help her when she returns next year to audition.


A second or third round of an audition.

Axel didn't think he played very well at his audition, and that's why we saw him do a back flip when he found out the staff gave him a chance for a callback.


A term for earning a spot in a corps. While some corps have a more formalized process where members will actually sign a contract-like document to commit to marching in a corps, many times this term is used informally.

Hiroshi knew he would never have a chance at a contract without practicing and performing with everything he had.

Dues, camp or tour fees

Monies owed to a corps for participation in audition and rehearsal camps, as well as the annual summer tour. Corps charge audition fees to cover the costs of food, housing and instruction. Many corps will setup payment plans with members so a certain amount of money is due at each off-season rehearsal camp.

Be sure to stop by the table at the front entrance at the start of the camp to make sure your dues are paid for this month.

Member Roles


Short for "Drum Major." This is the corps member who conducts the ensemble. In many groups a drum major is the highest leadership position a corps member can attain, making her/him more than just a conductor. This individual serves as an important liaison between corps management, staff and the membership.

Before we get started this morning, check with the DMs to make sure you are clear on the start and end times for rehearsal.

Captain or Sergeant

Member leadership positions within certain sections of the ensemble, typically working with or reporting to the drum majors (e.g. horn sergeant, guard captain, drum captain).

Since the drum majors were busy working with the brass and percussion sections for most of the day, Judy decided to talk to the color guard captain about a personal problem.


Short for "veteran members." These are corps members who have spent more than a year with their respective groups.

Keep an eye out to see how all the vets are holding their horns during rehearsal and follow their example. They've been through this before and can tell you exactly what you need to know.

Age-Out and Rook-Out

An age-out is a corps member who has reached the maxim age of 21 or 22 years old to perform with a Drum Corps International unit. A rook-out is a corps member who is a first-year or "rookie" in his/her age-out year.

Not wanting to pass up his last year of eligibility to start marching as a member of a drum corps, Hakeem decided that he'd like to spend his summer as a rook-out with the Geneva Appleknockers.

Staff Roles


A staff member whose expertise and focus is on one particular section of the ensemble or program (e.g. mellophone tech, bass drum tech, visual tech).

Hans is the perfect person to serve as the trumpet tech. He's played with the London Philharmonic and other professional orchestras for years.

Caption head or caption supervisor

The staff person who oversees each section and each section's staff members (e.g. brass caption head, color guard caption head, percussion caption head)

Jeremiah, the brass caption head, had a meeting with all of the other staff members to coordinate the rehearsal schedule for the weekend.

Program coordinator

The main person in charge of the creative aspects of a corps' production. This individual often oversees the design staff members while giving input into both the creative and educational approach of the corps.

Delilah, the program coordinator, was behind the scenes most of the time. She gave the majority of her instructions to the caption heads to work with the corps on.

Tour Terms

Chuck or cook truck

A corps' mobile food kitchen that is usually equipped with refrigeration units, stoves, sinks and ovens to handle feeding a corps on the road.

When you get dinner tonight from the chuck truck, don't forget to say please and thank you to all of the incredible volunteers who are making and serving your food.

Lights out

Bedtime for a corps. Not necessarily referring to the actual act of turning off the lights in a room, but a specified time when all corps members are required to be in the sleeping area and in their beds.

Lights out is at 11 tonight, but this being the first rehearsal camp since last summer, I imagine there will be a lot of people chatting it up late into the night.

Bed roll

Air mattress, sheets, blankets, luggage … anything associated with a corps members' personal sleeping area. While constantly traveling throughout the summer, corps members break the bed roll down to a science, learning how to quickly roll it up, store it under the bus, and unroll it after pulling into a new housing site late at night.

The color guard will be rehearsing in the gym tomorrow morning, so when you wake up, make sure all of your bed rolls are moved off the floor and put up on the stage.

Learn more about the upcoming audition season at