Band formations: There’s an app for that

Plotting each movement for each musician in a marching band takes time. It used to mean giant packets of paper for each band member, with a football field on each sheet and dots to represent the member’s moves. Twenty moves in a song? That’s 20 sheets for each member. And each song is a separate set. There are slightly more eco-friendly condensed diagram options, but any edit still requires reams of paper per redo.

But the newly reintroduced Marching Bishops have gone fully digital, thanks to an app called Pyware. Director Mary Kate McNally writes the drills using Pyware, and the band members use its 3D viewer to learn them on their mobile devices.

The app allows performers to view the overall formation or just one member’s movements. It provides directions and animates the set. Each set has its own list of instructions, allowing the band member to watch what they do when and how. “Students who come from different traditions in terms of drill reading can do what’s best for them,” she says.

Some like the view with the whole field, some just want to see their spots and steps. “And I don’t care how they do it. I just care that they do it,” McNally says.

Clarinet player Danielle Black ’22 appreciates the technology. “It’s very nice to not have the papers blowing away when you march.”

McNally says the software saves money and time. And the instructions are never left back in the students’ dorms rooms. “They’re not going to forget their drill, because they never forget their phones,” she notes.

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