A drum major salute is an important part of a marching band's performance and ceremonial ritual. Your salute will represent not only your band's or corps' polish and professionalism, but your particular artistic flair. For this reason, it's important to create a salute that's both snappy and well-planned.
Begin from the end with the essential elements of a drum major salute. Traditionally, your salute must end with a standard flat hand "chop" motion at an angle and away from the temple of the forehead. Usually, this is followed by a smooth, fluid motion of the arms back into "attention" position with balled fists at the hips.
Decide how long you want your salute to be. Think both in terms of the number of movements and the actual amount of real time your salute will take to complete. Avoid cramming too many motions into a short time, as this will tire out your drum majors if they have to do it repeatedly (which they probably will). Remember that you need to complete your salute in enough time to keep from holding up the awards ceremony, but don't make it so quick that you don't have room for flair and individuality. A good guide to start with is five to seven motions across three to eight seconds, but adjust this model according to what you want to do.
Create different complementary salute elements if you have multiple drum majors performing the salute. While all of your majors can perform the same choreography, the salute will look the most interesting if their movements play off one another. For example, the center guard might point arms up while two side guards flash arms out. Make sure to keep them in sync time-wise.
Incorporate thematic elements from your band or corps field show. This is not always appropriate and is most likely to work when you can do it subtly. Look for distinctive moves and salutes used by your band or color guard members during the show to make your salute evocative of your choreography.