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Courtesy of Ohio State University (All Images)

STANDARDS

CCSS: 8.G.A.3, 6.NS.C.8, MP4, MP5

TEKS: 8.10A, 6.11A

Music in Motion

Plotting out routines on an iPad helps make this marching band’s shows spectacular

During the halftime show at an Ohio State University (OSU) football game, you might see Superman stop a speeding train or a T. rex tromp across the 50-yard line. Marching band members crisscross the field to make these designs—all while playing their instruments!

The key to the band’s intricate routines is the iPad. Since 2013, each band member has been issued an iPad. After designing the routine, the band director sends it to a special app. While using the app, a band member can follow his or her individual position, watch the full drill during practice, and quickly download any new updates.

Ohio State University’s (OSU) football games are exciting. But its marching band steals the show at halftime. You might see Superman stop a speeding train or a T. rex cross the 50-yard line. Marching band members crisscross the field to make these designs. And they do it all while playing their instruments!

The key to the band’s detailed routines is the iPad. The band has used iPads since 2003. At the beginning of the season, each member gets an iPad. First, the band director designs the routines. He then sends it to a special iPad app. The band members use the app to learn the routine. In the app, they can watch the full routine, follow their position, and quickly download any changes to the routine. The routine is also called a drill.

“Decades upon decades ago, drill design was done with little pegs on a board that had a football grid on it,” says band director Christopher Hoch. Later on, drills were written by hand on paper. Since the late 1980s, bands like OSU’s have used a computer program called Pyware to design their routines.

Hoch used to print out the drills for each of the band’s 228 members. Now he sends the drills directly to their iPads. “It allows you to see the animations right in the app that we use,” says Christian Deiderich. He’s squad leader for the baritone section, which includes trombones, baritone horns, and sousaphones.

The app also lets students “touch a dot on the screen and see what their coordinates are on the field, and see how that dot moves from place to place,” explains Hoch. He estimates that each season the digital drills save the band 80,000 pages of paper—not to mention the time spent printing and copying.

Christopher Hoch is OSU's marching band director. He says that drills were originally designed using a board with a football grid on it. One tiny peg represented each band member. Drills were later written by hand on paper. Starting in the late 1980s, computer programs changed how drills were designed. Bands like OSU’s now use a computer program called Pyware.

There are 228 members in the band. Hoch used to print out the drills for each of them. Now he sends the drills directly to their iPads. “It allows you to see the animations right in the app that we use,” says Christian Deiderich. He’s the squad leader for the baritone section. The baritone section includes trombones, baritone horns, and sousaphones.

Marching band members can “touch a dot on the screen” to see how it moves from place to place, explains Hoch. This dot represents the individual student. It also shows them their coordinates on the field. Hoch estimates that each season the digital drills save the band 80,000 pages of paper. It also saves them time spent printing and copying.

Formations designed on an iPad (left) are brought to life on the field (right).

When learning a new show, members work on the marching and music separately. “The first day we go out there just to work on the drill aspect,” says Deiderich. They practice, record, and start to memorize the music while sitting down in the rehearsal hall. Eventually, they march to the music from the recording. Then they add the instruments—and finally uniforms as they prep for the first football game of the season.

“From my perspective, I’m just one dot,” says Deiderich. “On the field, I can’t see what picture we’re making. I trust that it’s fitting into the whole animation.”

When learning a new show, members work on the marching and music separately. “The first day, we go out there just to work on the drill aspect,” says Deiderich. They then learn the music while sitting down in the rehearsal hall. The band records these rehearsals. Eventually, they march to the music from their recording. Once they've memorized the music, they add the instruments. Finally they march and play while wearing uniforms as they prep for the first football game of the season.

“From my perspective, I’m just one dot,” says Deiderich. “On the field, I can’t see what picture we’re making. I trust that it’s fitting into the whole animation.” 

The computer program that bands use to plan routines treats the football field like a coordinate grid. We've marked the center of the field as the origin (0,0). Use it to answer the questions. Record your work and answers on our answer sheet.

The computer program that bands use to plan routines treats the football field like a coordinate grid. We've marked the center of the field as the origin (0,0). Use it to answer the questions. Record your work and answers on our answer sheet.

A. The band’s 2013 show featured a T. rex. Its foot was a rectangle with students marking the corners at the points E(-6, -4), F(-3, -4), G(-3, -2), and H(-6, -2). Draw it on the grid.

A. The band’s 2013 show featured a T. rex. Its foot was a rectangle with students marking the corners at the points E(-6, -4), F(-3, -4), G(-3, -2), and H(-6, -2). Draw it on the grid.

B. To make the dinosaur walk, they move 4 units to the right.What are the new coordinates of the student at point G?

B. To make the dinosaur walk, they move 4 units to the right.What are the new coordinates of the student at point G?

A. Three students are the vertices of a triangle at J(-7, 3), K(-6, 1), and L(-3, 2). Draw this on the grid.

A. Three students are the vertices of a triangle at J(-7, 3), K(-6, 1), and L(-3, 2). Draw this on the grid.

B. They move up 2 units and to the right 6 units. Where is the student at point K now?

B. They move up 2 units and to the right 6 units. Where is the student at point K now?

A. The band’s 2016 show featured superheroes. Draw Thor’s hammer on the grid with the following coordinates: M(0, 2), N(0, 3), O(2, 3), P(2, 4), Q(4, 4), R(4, 1), S(2, 1), and T(2, 2).

A. The band’s 2016 show featured superheroes. Draw Thor’s hammer on the grid with the following coordinates: M(0, 2), N(0, 3), O(2, 3), P(2, 4), Q(4, 4), R(4, 1), S(2, 1), and T(2, 2).

B. The corners of the flag of their rivals University of Michigan are at W(6, -2), X(8, -2), Y(8, -4), and Z(6, -4). How many units would the student at point Q have to move to crush the flag completely and replace point Y?

B. The corners of the flag of their rivals University of Michigan are at W(6, -2), X(8, -2), Y(8, -4), and Z(6, -4). How many units would the student at point Q have to move to crush the flag completely and replace point Y?

C. Each line on the grid is 10 steps. How many steps did the student at point Q move?

C. Each line on the grid is 10 steps. How many steps did the student at point Q move?

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