Also see Close-Order Drill or the main NROTC page

What Are Cadences?

"Calling cadence" began (and still is) as simple as a unit leader calling out "left right left right" so that his or her unit stays in step when in formation. However, it has also evolved into a soulful, musical "sing-song" version that is fun to sing and march to, as well as more elaborate "jodies" which are generally shouted or sung in a call-and-response fashion. Wikipedia's Military Cadence page has more information and history.

Cadences Make You Run Better?

Some think that cadences help you run, because you are forced to inhale/exhale. Of course this is not the case: singing makes it harder to run. However, this can be a good thing, since it makes running more challenging--if you can train yourself to run quickly while singing, you will run even better when you're not singing. Surely there are some added diaphragm control benefits to boot. Plus, if one is running in a formation that includes a couple of slightly slower people, those weaker runners can occasionally "drop out" of a line or two of the jody, allowing them to catch their breath without slowing down the rest of the group. The main motivation for cadences, however, is psychological: keeping people in step, motivated, and taking their minds off physical pain.

Style Points

Tips for the wannabe cadence-caller: The Navy and Marine Corps rarely use numbers to call cadence--especially marching cadence. The words you use may sound only vaguely like "left" and "right," but all that "1, 2, 3, 4" trash is for the Army. Second, it's imperative that the leader call loudly and clearly, preferably from near the rear. Why the rear? Because otherwise the back of the group won't hear anything! Finally, this is a fundamentally musical enterprise: you need to feel the rhythm and give a clear, crisp downbeat so that people know when to step. (For those of you playing along at home, the pitches for most cadences follow the Pentatonic scale.)

Useful Resources

Sample Cadences

Each line is yelled or sung by the leader and repeated by the detail. Note that some cadences work better for running, while others work better for marching...most of those below (with the exception of "I Heard That In the Navy") are running cadences. You can, of course, adapt each to suit your purposes: for example, at Dive School we changed the line "he wanted to be a SEAL, too" to "he wanted to do SCUBA, too"...

Basic Cadence (listen to it in midi)
Left, left, lefty right layo!
Left, left, lefty right-a left right!
Lefty right left right,
Left righty low right,
Lefty right-a low!

Mind Over Matter
[This is yelled, not sung--until one reaches "Mind over matter"]
Ten Miles...
No Sweat!
Twenty Miles...
Air Force!
Thirty Miles...
Now you're talkin!
In my gut
In my knees
In my shins
In my Achilles' tendon
Mind over matter
If you don't mind
It really doesn't matter

How to Switch Leaders
MIDN ______ won't you come on out?
We wanna hear you scream and shout!
Take it on the left foot,
Mighty, mighty left foot.
Take it!
[New Leader:] I've got it!
[Everyone else:] S/he's got it!

Mommy and Daddy Were Lyin' in Bed
Mommy and Daddy were a-lyin' in bed,
Mom rolled over and this is what she said:
"Give me some...
Every day!
Good for you!
Good for me!"

When My Grannie was 91
When my Grannie was 91
she did PT just for fun
When my Grannie was 92
she did PT better than you
When my Grannie was 93
she did PT better than me
When my Grannie was 94
she ran 2 miles, then ran 10 more
When my Grannie was 95
she did PT to stay alive
When my Grannie was 96
she did PT just for kicks
When my Grannie was 97
she up..and died...and went to heaven
She met St. Peter at the pearly gates
Said, "Hey, St. Peter I hope I ain't late"
St. Peter looked at her with a big ole grin
and said "Get down Granny and knock out 10."
She knocked them out and did 10 more
Dedicated them to the Marine Corps!

Well I Don't Know...
Well, I don't know but I've been told
Those Navy wings are made of gold.
I don't know but it's been said
That Air Force wings are made of lead!

Had a Dog Whose Name Was Blue
I had a dog whose name was Blue,
He wanted to be a SEAL, too!
So I bought him a mask and four tiny little fins
Took him to the ocean and threw him in
Blue came back to my surprise
With a shark in his teeth and a gleam in his eyes.

Chief and Superman
Now Superman was the man of steel,
But he aint no match for a Navy SEAL.
Now Chief and supe, they got in a fight:
Chief hit him in the head with some kryptonite.
Supe fell to his knees in pain--
Now chief's dating Lois Lane.

Well Chief and Batman had one too,
Chief hit him in the head with his shoe.
Hit him in the temple with his left heel,
Now Chief's driving the Batmobile.

Hey There, Army (based on the classic jodie "We are Marine Corps Infantry"/"We are the Sons of UDT")
Hey there, Army!
Gun toat'n Army
Get in your tanks and follow me
We are N.R.O.T.C.
Hey there, Air Force!
High flyin' Air Force
Get in your jets and follow me
We are N.R.O.T.C.
Hey there, Coast Guard!
Life savin' Coast Guard [or, "Pedal powered Coast Guard"]
Get in your boats and follow me
We are N.R.O.T.C.
Hey, Marine Corps!
Devil Dog Marine Corps
Go on patrol and follow me [or, "Hop on a ship..." or "Pick up your guns..."]
We are N.R.O.T.C.
Hey there, Navy!
World's Finest Navy
Get in your ships and follow me
We are N.R.O.T.C.

C-130 rolling down the strip
Airborne daddy on a one-way trip
Mission top secret, destination unknown
We don't even know if we're ever going home
Stand up, hook up, shuffle to the door
Jump right out and count to four [or, "and shout 'Marine Corps!'"]
It my main don't open wide
I've got a reserve by my side
If that one should fail me too
I'll hit the ground before you do
If I die on that old drop zone
Box me up and ship me home
Pin my metals upon my chest
Tell my momma I did my best

Birdie, Birdie
Birdie birdie in the sky
Dropped some whitewash in my eye.
I won't fuss and I won't cry--
I'm just glad that cows can't fly.

I Heard that in the Navy
I heard that in the Navy
the chow was mighty fine
Last night we had ten puppies
this morning only nine.
I heard that in the Navy
the coffee's mighty fine
it looks like muddy water,
it tastes like turpentine.
I heard that in the Navy,
the mail's so fast it's great
Today I got a letter dated 1948.
I heard that in the Navy
the toilets are mighty fine,
you flush them down at seven
they come back up again at nine.
I heard that in the Navy
the pay is mighty fine,
they give 100 dollars
and take back 99.

© 2001-2010 by Luke Swartz