Beginning Band lessons at the North and West Intermediate Schools have started and there are strange and wondrous new sounds happening in the instrumental music rooms and homes all over Wilmington!!
New band students had their very first lesson last week! After walking through the school to discover where the instrumental music room is located, their first instruction with their new instruments was how to open the case. Cases should always be opened with the bottom half of the case on a flat surface (floor, table, etc). Beginning band students then learned about their individual instruments (footnote to parents: for your reference, each lesson book comes with a DVD that includes a brief movie of how to correctly assemble, hold/handle, and produce a tone on the instruments) :
Beginning Flutes: We named all three parts of the instrument (head joint, body, foot joint) and learned that the head joint also has additional parts called the crown and the embouchure plate (where we put our mouth). We worked to produce 3 distinct sounds on the head joint (low sound, high sound, and “alien” invasion). We assembled the instrument and learned where to correctly place our hands. The practice assignment for the week included practicing making the three sounds on the head joint (it’s harder than it looks!!) and assembling the flute and producing a sound.
Beginning Clarinets: The clarinet has more parts than any other instrument, and while being one of the easier instruments to make a sound on, the initial challenge for beginners is learning how to assemble it. The students identified all of the pieces of the instrument: bell, lower joint, upper joint, barrel, mouthpiece, ligature, reed, and mouthpiece cap. All of the parts with cork required us to use our cork grease (keep this away from younger children and pets as they may think it is chapstick and try to eat it. Cork grease will make you sick if you eat it!). We assembled all of the pieces of the body and then assemble the mouthpiece next. At the very end of the lesson we were able to try to make a sound. The practice assignment for the week included practicing assembling the instrument, and naming all of the parts, correctly placing the mouth (embouchure) on the mouthpiece and making a good clarinet sound (as opposed to a shrill, spine jangling squeak).
Beginning Saxophones: There are MANY beginning sax students!! We started by identifying the parts of the instrument, which are more than a flute, but less than a clarinet! Students named the body (including the bell where the sound comes out), the neck, the mouthpiece, ligature, and reed. We learned the important step of how to adjust the neck strap so that the saxophone mouthpiece can naturally rest at mouth level. After connecting the body and neck together, we applied cork grease to the cork part of the neck (Cork Grease: keep this away from younger children and pets as they may think it is chapstick and try to eat it. Cork grease will make you sick if you eat it!). Next we made a sound on the mouthpiece by correctly forming our embouchure on the mouthpiece (it was a VERY LOUD squeak!!!). Once we made a sound on the mouthpiece we were able to attach it to the neck and try to make the sound again, EXCEPT this time it sounded more like a sax (hopefully!). The practice assignment for the week included practicing assembling the instrument, and naming all of the parts, correctly placing the mouth (embouchure) on the mouthpiece and making a good sax sound (as opposed to a shrill, spine jangling squeak).
Beginning Trumpets: The simplest instrument to assemble with just two parts! Students first learned how to make a “buzzing” sound on their mouthpieces and to use their air stream to make the buzzing sound like a car on a race track. Next, we studied the body of the instrument and identified the parts: bell, keys, valves, lead pipe, water key. We assembled the instrument by inserting the mouthpiece into the lead pipe. We learned that it is OK if the mouthpiece gets stuck sometimes as the trumpet is still playable and Ms. D. has a specially designed tool that can pull it at the next lesson. Students then learned the proper way to place their left and right hands on the instrument. The left hand holds the instrument with the thumb curling around the 1st valve casing and the first and second fingers curling around the 3rd valve casing, with the third finger going inside the ring of the third valve slide. and the pinky staying close by. The right hand thumb nestles between the 1st and 2nd valve casings and the first, second and third fingers rest on the corresponding keys, while the pinky rests ON TOP of the hook (not under it). We experimented with producing a tone on the trumpet while pressing down on the keys. We also learned that the bottle of valve oil in the case is toxic and should be kept safely away from younger siblings and pets who may mistake it for water. We will use valve oil at lessons within the coming weeks, but until then, it should remain tightly capped in the case. The practice assignment for the week included practicing buzzing on the mouthpiece and making “race track” sounds, then assembling the instrument and correctly placing the hands in the right places. Students were encouraged to try to produce two different tones (high and low) on the trumpet this week .
Beginning Trombones: While this instrument is certainly the tallest/longest beginning band instrument, it is also SURPRISINGLY light, weighing less than a saxophone! Like the trumpets, we first practiced learning how to make a buzzing sound on the mouthpiece along with race car sounds. Next we identified the parts of the instrument (bell, slide, slide lock, water key). We learned how to correctly assemble the bell to the slide and added the mouthpiece. Students were then shown how to correctly hold their instrument by placing their left hand on the brace on the bell and their right hand on the brace on the slide. We unlocked our slides and experimented with making high and low sounds that imitate “sirens”. We also learned that the bottle of valve oil in the case is toxic and should be kept safely away from younger siblings and pets who may mistake it for water. We will use valve oil at lessons within the coming weeks, but until then, it should remain tightly capped in the case. The practice assignment for the week included practicing buzzing on the mouthpiece and making “race track” sounds, then assembling the instrument and correctly placing the hands in the right places. Students were encouraged to try to produce two different tones on the trombone this week (high and low) in addition to siren sounds.
Beginning Percussion: Not only do these students play the LOUDEST instrument, but they also learn that they play the heaviest one to bring to school! The good news is that after this lesson, the students were instructed to set up their drums at home and only bring their books, sticks, and drum pads to lesson each week where they will use the percussion instruments in the band room. These students unpacked their drum cases and we identified the parts of the drum stand (tripod base and drum support bars) and assembled those, learning how to correctly use the adjustment screws to change the height of the drum. We identified the parts of the drum (batter head, snares, snare strainer lever, rim) and attached it to the drum stand, making sure that the top of the drum was slightly below waist level. Next, we learned the proper hand position for holding a drum stick and placement of the sticks on the drum surface (in a wedge or pizza slice) and how to properly strike the drum head. We experimented with the different sounds created by turning the snare strainer lever off and then on and applying the drum pad in both scenarios also (for the ultimate in QUIET practicing, we learned that the drum pad ON the drum with the strainer lever in the OFF position creates a barely detectable tapping sound when practicing….the students were not impressed but parents may love this….). The practice assignment for the week included assembling the drum stand and attaching the drum in the space at home where practicing can take place on a regular basis (sorry….not the garage, shed, back yard, unfinished attic or basement, it needs to be a climate controlled space). Students were asked to practice making tapping sounds on the drum OR drum pad carefully observing proper hand position and striving for right and left hand equality when playing.