First Week of a Beginning Instrumental Music Class (Part 2)

Instrumental Music Teachers First Week (Part 2)This is part 2 of an on-going series for new instrumental music teachers who are leading a class of beginning music students.

Last week, I shared the first two lessons I taught my classes this year. This week, we will look at the next two lessons that you can use to kick off your semester.

Trying Out Mouthpieces 

Before the students pick the instruments they will be playing for the semester, it is a good idea to give them a chance to try out different mouthpieces. This gives them the chance to see how the the brass and woodwind instruments create sounds differently.

Small Group Instruction

One of the best ways to get your students playing quickly is to coach them individually or in small groups. I worked with four students at a time for a few lessons so that each student could get a chance to play both the flute and trumpet mouthpieces.

Small Group Ensembles (Orff Instruments)

  • Divide the class into groups of four. They can choose their own groups if they wish.
  • Demonstrate how to make a four piece band using the instruments we have (shakers, rhythms sticks, triangles, hand drums, etc.)
  • Ask them to create a piece together. (The teacher will work with one group of students to learn the flute and trumpet individually at this time)
  • Once they are done, a group that is ready to present a routine will present and trade spots.

Instrument Demonstration

  • Show the students how to get an instrument ready to play.
  • Set the case on the floor in front of you. Stress that it’s important to make sure the correct side is up.
  • Show them all three parts of the flute but that today, we will all get a chance to make a sound using just the head joint. This practice will help to ensure that the muscles in their lips develop so they can obtain a good sound on the flute.
  • Repeat this with the trumpet, show the students how to properly insert the mouthpiece by gently pushing it in until it stops. Do not push, shove, twist, or force it. If you push it in too hard, it will get stuck and we wont be able to get it out without a special tool that we don’t have. This will cost you or your parent’s money.
  • Never make the popping sound on a trumpet. If the mouthpiece gets stuck, you will have to pay to have it removed. Demonstrate this noise by by holding the mouthpiece slightly out of the instrument. Stress that this is something that is strictly not allowed. Ever! If the mouthpiece gets stuck, the case won’t even close. This is an easy repair to avoid.

Sterisol Procedure

  • Spray the mouthpiece. Wait two minutes, wipe it with a paper towel.

Flute Instruction (Small Group)

  • The student should put his/her lips together. Tell him to close his mouth completely but not tightly. Blow the air out through the lips. Do not pucker the lips and do not smile. The opening of the lips is a result of blowing the air and not making any special shape.
  • The student should use the syllable “pu” to blow the air out. You are holding the flute for them at this point so you can adjust it as need be. Praise any sound produced at this point.
  • When the student gets a few good sounds in a row, remove the mouthpiece from his mouth and quickly replace it and have him play again. He should get a sound easily. If not, move it for him. Then have him place his hand at the end of the head joint but not covering the open end.
  • Once they make a sound, remove your hand and have him play again. Once he gets a few good sounds, ask him to place the headjoint on his lap, reposition the mouthpiece, and play it again. The student should remember the best place to place the flute now.
  • If time allows, have them place their hand against the opening to produce a tugboat sound. Then challenge the student to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” by using his index finger at different depths in the opening. Then ask them to play a high and a low sound simply by blowing.

Trumpet Instruction (Small Group)

  • First, wet your lips and try to buzz them. Now try it with a mouthpiece only. Make a siren sound. Gently, place the mouthpiece into the trumpet. Do not push, shove, twist, or force it. If you push it in too hard, it will get stuck and we won’t be able to get it out without a special tool that we don’t have. Never slap or tap the mouthpiece when it is inserted. Never pop the mouthpiece.
  • Left hand holds the trumpet. The thumb goes to the side of the cylinders. The ring finger may go into the third valve ring. The thumb of the right hand is placed under the tubing leading from the mouthpiece. The first three fingers go over each valve with an arch in and the ends of the fingers over each valve.
  • Try to make a sound. If they are having difficulties, ask them to make a sour lemon face and buzz with that shape of lips. Have them play an open note (either G or C, don’t worry which one they make) Praise the note and then ask them to play a lower / higher one. Have them practice with whole notes and quarter notes.

Listening Activity 

Introduce STILL time (Silent Time for Individual Listening Logs) and complete a listening log. Play Viennese Musical Clock by Zoltan Kodaly. Ask the students what instruments they hear in the piece – tubular bells, trumpets, celesta, piccolo, triangle and what it makes them think of.

Teaching Tip Tuesdays – Lessons and inspiration from my class to yours

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