Visual 101

Essential Tips and Suggestions for Indoor Percussion

Visual Considerations

Costume Design
Tasteful attire to support the character, role, personality, and body of the performer; consider function, color, design, fabric, style, and taste


Function of the Costume

  • Depict a role or character
  • Adapt to stage (color and distance)
  • Accommodate mobility (freedom of equipment/movement)


In Selecting Colors Consider

  • Your stage is a “tan” gym floor or a colored floor covering which you purchase.
  • Visibility to the audience
  • Have a color wheel and know the hues, gradation and color families
  • A vivid costume color will draw focus to the body and dominate over the musicality



  • Consider the body shapes you have to deal with. Always design with the extremes of body shapes in mind.
  • Consider the character or role you will portray.
  • Consider whether or not you wish to use any removable costume parts as props.
  • How long will you want to use this costume?
  • Will they be homemade or custom made? What level sewing skill do you have?
  • Consider your budget.



  • Be sure you can move. Avoid binding in the body or restricting the function of the arms or legs.
  • Consider how excessive fabric will impact on drill lines as to clarity. Flowing fabric won’t give a clear line. Decide if that is a problem.
  • Know your options—Lycra, spandex, lame, polyester, silk
  • How many sessions do you want to use these costumes? Consider durability, laundering, wear and tear.



  • Is there a particular look that accommodates your style either musically or visually?
  • Know what is appropriate for classical, jazz, modern, and theatrical styles.
  • Knowing all of that, make intelligent sensitive choices in a unique and original approach. Be one of a kind.



  • Taste is what you like.
  • Having taste implies an educated and discriminating awareness.
  • Showing taste implies sensitivity to your audience and their taste.
  • Being tasteful implies application of all of the above.


The Reality Is…

  • Be sensitive to changing young bodies.
  • Remember the age group you teach.
  • Remember if you represent a school.
  • Avoid sleaze.
  • Never dress your students in ugly attire (if you wouldn’t wear it…)
  • Class is often equated to taste.
  • It is better to be understated than overstated.
  • If your students feel uncomfortable performing in front of their peers, then the program choice is a poor one


An attractive and tasteful costume will make the students feel special and will cost no more to create. There is no substitute for taste and detail.



  • Know how you will use them within the show or on the stage.
  • Know what musical and thematic ideas you will be interpreting and how they will augment these ideas.
  • Be creative…design new props!


The word design implies a uniqueness and originality. Anyone can copy; it takes genius and daring to be original. Make each design choice uniquely your own.


Planning your Basic Movement Training
Based on the show concepts, style and personality, design the proper training for the following components of movement. Include warm-up and technique instruction. Little will be as important to you as the correct training time you will invest in your students. Don’t short change this investment.

  • Movement fundamentals—preparing the body for heightened responsibilities
  • Basics of step-time-space-line
  • Method of traveling
  • Postural and gestural qualities
  • Expressive qualities of movement dynamics (weight/time/space/flow)


Movement rehearsal should be done in appropriate attire—clothing that will allow the instructor to watch for posture, alignment, starts of moves, etc. Bulky attire will conceal this development of body skills relative both to movement and the manipulation of equipment. Wear the kind of shoe you will wear in the show.

Basics/technique classes should follow a pattern. Consistency will encourage focus and achievement. Set the example for your students. Discipline should be understood and self-imposed. Yelling at the students will only put tension into the body and impair productivity.


Make Corrections
Don’t let students practice errors. Your observation skills must be sharp and you must know how to make corrections. Be able to do what you ask of your students; much of what they learn will be through observation.


Staging/Drill Design
The three basic approaches from which to choose in designing your show are:
Geometric Drill—use of basic forms, circle, square, cone, cylinder, linear, curvilinear This is what most have known over the years.
Freeform, Textured, Segmented—this approach to form design provides contrast from the starkness of line geometric drill and opens up the stage to more dimensional equipment moves.
Theatrical—here we deal with staging, entrances, exits and interaction between sections or characters.

Consider the following design points as you plan your show:

  • Balance is an important factor in successful design. Design may be either symmetric (formally balanced) or asymmetric (informally balanced). Freeform does require balance.
  • Visual ideas should flow or evolve logically from one to another.
  • Where you stage a picture or set is important to control the focus of your design.
  • Always write your form show knowing in advance what kind of musical/visual concepts you want to present because this will tell you how much space to plan for.
  • Staging of sections will make a difference in how your visual effects/presentations will work.
  • Know in advance what kind of drum presentation is suitable for the drill form or set you have designed.
  • The closer the space in any form, the stronger the intensity/ dynamics of the move will be. The more open the space, the lesser the intensity/dynamics will be.
  • Single bounding line forms, using all the performers in one big picture, are an important opportunity to create a major impact or resolution to a musical/visual idea. This often is successful at the start or resolution of a big idea.
  • Contrast is an important feature to successful design. If you have done line-geometric drill, give thought to creating contrast through texture or segmentation. If you have been doing segmentation, texture or theatre, give some relief or contrast to the eye through geometric-line drill.
  • Be sure your design is clear, readable, and pleasing to the eye.
  • Be sure your concept exists on the floor as well as in your mind.


The design team must work together to plan and create a good design. Your staging person must know in advance when to open up space, or where to segment for feature ideas, or when you create a big
picture for a full ensemble statement.