Marching Music

Marching Styles Part 3: The Straight Leg!
May 30, 2008, 4:11 pm
Filed under: Drum & Bugle Corps, marching band

I know that you’ve all been waiting for this one, so here is the final installment of my marching styles series: the straight leg!

Though I have marched in all different styles, this is the one with which I have the most experience. 

The advantage of the straight leg technique is in its sleek, polished look.  The spectator or judge does not see the jerky, distracting movements of other styles.  The legs move smoothly from point A to point B.  This smooth movement also eliminates the proverbial “ground in the sound.” 

The disadvantage of the straight leg technique is its difficulty.  Most drum corps do a technique that is some variation on the straight leg.  They also have the time and resources to get their members into shape.  This technique is more physically taxing on the legs.  The bottom line: it takes more effort.

Do not be discouraged.  I have successfully taught and used this technique with high school bands.  It works if you have a sense of pride within your band which drives the students to work hard.

How does one execute/teach the straight leg technique? 
Before we get too far, you’re going to need some vocabulary:

edge: the back part of the platform/ball of your foot
platform: the part of your foot which you would stand on if you were standing on your toes
tripod: synonym for platform: you will basically equalize weight between your big toe, big toe “knuckle” and little toe “knuckle

As with any technique, you’ll want to start with the very first step. 
Starting with and keeping your legs straight, push with the edge of your right foot until you must put your left out to catch yourself.  Catch yourself with the left heel, left toe up.  Notice that you are doing all of the work with your back leg.  This technique does not lead, but instead it pushes. 
Do this until you feel comfortable.  If you are bouncing or changing height when you catch yourself, then you are probably pushing too far past your edge.  Back off just a bit and your technique should be just perfect. 

Step 2: Train your hip flexors.  Swing your leg from front to back like a pendulum.  This is one of only two movements which your front leg will do.  The other is the dorsal flexion (toe up) of your front foot. 
Now, the trickiest part of this technique to explain is the transition from step 1 to step 2.  At the end of step one, shift your weight to the front foot, rolling down.  At the same time, bring your back foot in and begin to flex your foot for the next step.  On the “and,” which is where we are at this point, you should almost look as though you are standing still.  All of your weight should be on your left platform, your ankles should be in line and your right foot should be just barely off of the ground.  When you actually do this in context, your knee will bend SLIGHTLY.  You may want to choose not to tell this for your students for awhile so that they get used to the technique and are careful not to put too much bend in the knee.
The second half of step two is just like step one, but with half of the effort.  Push with your left edge and catch yourself with the right foot, toe up. 

At first, this is going to look extremely jerky.  With practice, it will smooth itself out.  Just remember that everything in this technique is SMOOTH.  If you are moving up and down, then you are probably doing one of three things:

1. you are pushing too far, past your edge
2. you are pointing and/or flexing your foot at the wrong time
3. you are moving your hips too much rather than using your hip flexors (remember the pendulum)

This technique takes a long time to master, but it is completely worth the effort.  Straight leg technique, if done correctly, is guaranteed to make your band look and sound much more graceful than you ever thought possible.


7 Comments so far
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I have done straight leg style with all my bands (as I am a Cadets alum) and found that everything is very teachable for the average kid except for the slow tempo backwards roll step.

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Comment by Thomas J. West

I am in Cascade Sounds Marching Band, and we do straight leg marching. You are right when you say it is hard work, but I love the way I feel when I’m marching straight legged. I think it gives a rather clean look to the Band.

Comment by H.R.Fritz

I have been to many high schools that have say they use straight leg technique…but I have never seen anyone actually use the correct technique with the exception of one or two, and come to find out, they marched in drum corps that used that technique.

Comment by Fallon Whaley

hi, nice blog…

Comment by fajar

may i ask you more of straight leg via email? thank you

Comment by Brian

Wanted to say hello
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Comment by Interlock Industries

How do you do slides when doing the straight leg?

Comment by Help

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