Top of the show! We’re nearing the end of the WGI season. And whether you’re into drum corps, marching band, color guard, or drumline, a full run of the show at the end of rehearsal is the capstone of the day. It’s where the members and staff get to see the work they put in, reflected back in a complete run of the program.

Is there something you can do at home, to keep things fresh in-between rehearsals? Practicing your parts is mandatory, but a lot of what we do is simply mental. Remembering counts, where you’re going, relationships to others on the field or floor, movements and how they line up with the music.

There’s a different type of homework you can do using your mind. You don’t need to get your horn out of the case or find room to spin. It’s called a mental run-through and it can be useful for days off or even as prep as you’re riding the bus to a contest.

I haven’t found much written about the mental run-throughs, so I’ll give two examples of how I like to do them:

Real-Time Run-Through

This one is easy and only takes 5-10 minutes, depending on how long your show is. Find a recording of your show, hopefully the most recent one. If you’re doing winter guard, use your copy of the soundtrack. If the recording is a video, that’s fine, but don’t watch the video. Instead, close your eyes, listen to the audio, and use your minds eye to put yourself on the field or floor in your spot.

Follow through your entire show in realtime. Imagine yourself moving through your drill, playing the notes, and doing the work. Picture the relationships to others around you as the drill changes.

Bookmark anything that is unclear so you can review it later with your equipment. If there’s anything that felt too-fast, you might want to try a different approach…

Mind-Time Run-Through

Mind-time run-throughs don’t require anything but yourself. You don’t need a recording, just the memory of it. Work through your show from top to bottom. You don’t have to go at show tempo! You can slow things down and work through the count structures and checkpoints.

If you know where your dots are, say them to yourself as you pass those sets in your mind. But also make sure you are imagining those around you and your relationships to them. Know your dot… but also know if you’re covered down, have good intervals, are part of a smooth arc, are in the diagonal, etc.

Using mind-time you can slow or even pause and rewind if needed, but don’t overdo it! The point is to make it all the way through the show in one go. Again, mentally bookmark the things that are unclear so you can check with your dot book, your equipment, your captain, or your instructor at the next opportunity.


The goal of a mental run-through is to keep things fresh in your mind, even if you won’t rehearse again for a week or two. We all need time off for rest and relaxation, but we should keep our current season programs at top-of-mind until the final show. Everyone has put in so much time, taking a step backwards is not an option.

Is there any other mental run-through advice that I didn’t mention? Let everyone know in the comments!

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