By: Chris Meredith
Want to have blockbuster results in your brass classes? Then have a detailed plan on what, how, and when you are going to introduce and implement lessons. The first quarter of the year will set up the foundation for how far you will be able to go the last quarter of the year.
Warning: some of you may be really upset at how slow I move at the beginning of the year! Let’s be clear, the goal is to have really outstanding young musicians by the end of the year. So, the beginning of the year might look crazy slow to many!
What is More Important Than a Detailed Plan?
Being FLEXIBLE with your plan!
I got way too ambitious when planning out my “week 2” plan back at the beginning of “week 1” (see “How to Make the First Week Count”). We ended up doing a lot more reinforcing of how to place the mouthpiece: What does it FEEL like? What does it LOOK like?
Along with tons of reinforcement of creating the air stream with and without the mouthpiece. How does the air FEEL on your hand? What does the air SOUND like?
Week 1 & 2 Results:
Missed Items In Week 2
In a perfect world I would have introduced how to assemble the Trombone and how to hold the Euphonium and Tuba. These classes are going really well - I’ll get to it this coming week!
It would have been nice to finish the Note Naming Fun page early in the week and then do an additional note naming sheet toward the end of the week. Oh well. The next two weeks will offer many opportunities to reinforce note reading!
Warning: Short Week Ahead!
Week 3 with the Brass is going to be a big one after our three day Labor Day weekend!
Here are the BIG GOALS:
#1 Beginning of the End of Musical Alphabet Pass-offs
Passing off the musical alphabet at the very beginning of class each day allows us to establish a classroom culture. On a daily basis Students are setting and achieving short and long term goals, peer to peer instruction can happen, independent learning is taking place, students achieve daily progress and build confidence and self-esteem with each performance opportunity, and students building a sense of belonging to music and the group. Now it’s time to start Rhythm Rockers which will take nearly the rest of the year to complete but use the same principles we’ve just established.
#2 Reinforcing Air
The sound we create starts with how we approach the air we use. So, we will continue to review how to appropriately breathe everyday. We will continue to monitor mouthpiece placement and the appropriate airstream used on the mouthpiece BEFORE we allow vibration daily. We can hear EVERYTHING in just how they blow into the mouthpiece. You can hear the speed and shape of the air column, if there is anything obstructing the air in the mouth, and you can certainly feel (with a hand monitoring at the end of the shank) characteristics of a well defined airstream. Once these points are reviewed everyday I am trying to make it to the instrument as soon as possible to produce the sound on the instrument.
#3 Initial Sound
This next week my goal is to get the French Horns onto the horn and playing once their mouthpiece air is in place. The conical nature of the horn makes it incredibly easy to make a good sound if the leadpipe placement is correct and the class has consistently been creating the appropriate airstream on the mouthpiece.
Trumpets! We will be on our trumpets with the main tuning slide pulled out. On Friday, I secured all of their tuning slides in a locker so that when they take their trumpets home this coming week they will not be tempted to add it in too soon. The note they should get if they are using the correct air stream is an E (D concert). You can easily bend it to a F if you want to, but I like placing them on the E. Our goal will be able to get everyone solid on an E by the end of this coming week!
Trombones, Euphoniums and Tubas: We will be working on initial sounds by adding 6.5 inch tubing to our mouthpiece shanks to allow for a more natural resistance like the actual instrument would create. As soon as the Euphoniums and Tubas are comfortable holding their instrument we will quickly transition sound to the instrument. The trombones are naturally going to take a couple extra days to be comfortable holding their trombones in playing position, but once they look good consistently holding their trombones we will start producing sound!
#4 Note Names!
Our classes will not be reading and playing music at the same time for probably another two weeks. So, this is a great time to get them mentally way ahead so that when we do start reading the first five notes (Instrument First Notes, pg. 8) they will think it’s really easy! We will be doing various note naming games on the board like “Around the World” and some speed note naming sheets.
My goal is to give you an updated post on where we are in our classes at least every two weeks! This is a crazy time of year as we are making huge preparations for our big annual fundraiser (Music Miles 5K and Fun Run) and getting our Honor Winds band ready for their Midwest Clinic performance in less than four months. Be on the lookout for Alicia's Woodwind Update soon!