The Pyramid in Practice – Attention to Detail and Plussing in Drum Corps

This post looks at another example of Imagineering Pyramid principles in practice “beyond the berm”. This time I want to look at Attention to Detail and Plussing in Drum Corps.

Let’s start with a refresher on Attention to Detail and Plussing.

Attention to Detail is described on page 37 in The Imagineering Pyramid:

The principle underlying this tool is straightforward enough. This is all about paying attention to every detail.

Plussing is described on page 104 in The Imagineering Pyramid:

Plussing is consistently asking, “How do I make this better?” and constantly
evaluating and revising your work based on feedback.

Attention to Detail and Plussing are a natural combination (0r “Pyramid Pairing”); details are a great place to look for opportunities for constant and consistent improvement.

Drum corps provides an excellent example of these two principles at work. What’s drum corps, you ask? Put simply, it’s like an amped up version of high school marching band, or as a friend of mine describes it, “professional marching band for college kids”.

Drum corps include brass players, percussionists, and color guard members who march in intricate patterns and precise forms choreographed to complex and challenging music. It’s an activity that calls for extreme precision, and the top corps focus on detail to a level that’s difficult to believe if you’re not familiar with the activity (you can learn more about drum corps on the Drum Corps International website here).

[To be fair, drum corps also make use of other principles as well, but my focus for today is Attention to Detail and Plussing]


My family and I recently had the opportunity to watch rehearsals of a pair world-class drum corps, specifically the Bluecoats and the Crossmen, and both corps practiced Attention to Detail and Plussing during both rehearsals.



Some examples include:

Each major section (brass, marching percussion, front ensemble percussion, and color guard) rehearse separately before the entire ensemble comes together to rehearse. This allows each section to focus on the details of their own performance before joining the other sections on the field.

Every instrumental and color guard section has at least 1 staff member (and usually 2 or more) who works solely with that section. This allows those staff members to focus their attention on only a small section within the corps and help that section consistently and constantly improve what they do.

As the corps is warming up, staff members make minor/tiny adjustments in the posture and stance of individual members (in some cases, adjusting a member’s posture by as little as an inch) to make sure each member is able to perform at their absolute best.

During rehearsal, the corps practices small and “simple” things over and over and over until they get them right. No detail is too small or unimportant.

The corps rehearse short portions of the show (known as sets) multiple times to make sure everyone is performing in sync. During the rehearsals we watched, we watched one corps repeatedly rehearse sets as short as 8 counts (and one even as short as 1 count) until they got it right.

Every member of the ensemble has to be in a specific spot on the field by a specific time in the music. As the corps rehearse the sets of their show, they stop between sets so that members make any adjustments necessary to make sure they are in the correct spot, and also make any changes needed to their stride and pace to ensure they can arrive at that spot consistently.

All corps focus on plussing their show throughout the entire summer season. Corps perform and compete at dozens of shows through the summer, and it’s extremely rare that a corps’ show will remain unchanged. At each show each corps receive comments and feedback from judges, which the staff use to make small (and sometimes not so small) changes to various parts of the show, all with a focus on constant improvement. This continuous focus on plussing makes being a drum corps fan exciting and interesting, because you never know how your favorite corps’ shows will change during the season. One thing, however, is sure to be true: each time you see your favorite corps, they’ll be better than they were the last time.

Thoughts? Let me know what you think in the comments!



2 thoughts on “The Pyramid in Practice – Attention to Detail and Plussing in Drum Corps

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