Drum and Bugle Corps

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A drum and bugle corps is a musical performing unit consisting of only bell-front brass, percussion, and color guard. The majority of drum corps are independently operated non-profit groups. Very few are run by high schools or universities. Competitions occur on football fields and are scored by circuit-approved judges based upon musical performance and effect as well as the performance and effect of the movement of the elements of the corps.

Previously known as "marching," the movement is largely influenced by dance and includes substantial input from the color guard which is predominately an expressive component whose equipment is traditionally flags, rifles, and sabres. Corps are colorfully and distinctively uniformed although guard members typically wear more theatrical costumes that are largely predicated on the theme of the corps' musical presentation.

During the competitive season, June through August, corps from all across the US and Canada perform to crowds of up to 35,000.


There are three sections of a Drum Corps: Brass, Percussion and Color Guard. The brass and percussion provide the music, while the color guard is the group of performers who handle the flags and other props that visually enhance the performance. They typically do quite a bit of dancing and equipment work.


The repertoires of modern drum corps consist of classical, jazz, contemporary, and symphonic literature. Broadway musicals are also popular. Some organizations tend to play a single kind of music. For example, the Concord Blue Devils tend to play jazz each year, while the Phantom Regiment plays classical music each year.

The brass and percussion instructors are among the best in the country. There are many college music professors involved in the activity.


A corps' drill is the pattern of marching maneuvers during the show. Drills are designed by professional artists and choreographers. Smooth curves during delicate passages and sharp angles during aggressive passages accent the presentation of the music. Color and dance also add to the interpretation of the music. The drill and the music are integrated into a whole in a constantly moving show.

The Evening of the Contest

The evening of the contest is usually run in the following order, with some variations:

  • National Anthems of the US and Canada, if needed, are played.
  • Introduction of the judges. This is sometimes done at the end.
  • A slight description of what a drum corps is and what to look for.
  • The performance order of the corps.
  • The performance of each of the corps.
  • A played-on, Olympic style retreat. The play-on is usually done by the percussion battery of the host corps, selected corps or ensemble from the local marching band.
  • The announcement of scores and caption awards.
  • The playing of the America/O'Canada by the enmassed corps.
  • The corps are dismissed.
  • The winning corps (or home corps) performs an encorps show. This is a standstill of the show with other pieces thrown in the mix. This does vary from corps to corps.

The Word

Here is everything you need to know about the correct definition, spelling and pronunciation of the word "corps".


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