The excitement of learning to play an instrument can quickly dissolve into frustration. Young players have to deal with the physical aspects of tone production and the intellectual aspects of reading music at the same time. It’s too much.
They get so busy with figuring out note names that they forget about air and embouchure. The results are weak sounds and bad habits.
What if we could separate the two? What if we could focus on tone production and postpone music reading?
That last sentence captures the essence of my approach to starting beginners. It served me well during a dozen years of teaching junior high and middle school bands.
I started beginners in homogenous summer classes. My goals for the students in those early lessons were as follows:
• Solid embouchures
• Good quality tones
• Correct tonguing
• Enough technique to play some recognizable tunes
• Do all this before ever opening a method book
The material for those early lessons consisted of rote exercises. We started with a single, sustained note. Before long, students were up and down a scale. In fact, the rote exercises were far more challenging than what they would find in the first pages of the method book.
That was the whole idea… When we did get to the method book, it was easy! They already knew the notes. The method book simply showed where those notes lived on the staff.
Each instrument begins with a page for the director containing brief commentary on the exercises. Duplicate the exercises that follow and distribute to the students.