Improve Beginner Trumpet Embouchure With The P.E.T.E

The P.E.T.E. Embouchure Trainer

Do you have a trumpet or trombone player that can’t play high notes?  Maybe they can’t get a good solid tone because of lack of strength in their facial muscles?  Are they frustrated?  Read on to find out how I solved this problem for many of my beginning band students using a cool little practice device called a P.E.T.E.

More Effective Rehearsal Techniques

A Concert Band Rehearsal

The length of the average concert band rehearsal can vary greatly from school to school. While some schools may be blessed with ninety minutes of rehearsal each day, many others must make due with as little as an hour a week (or less). When your ensemble is on the short end of that range it is very important that you make good use of each and every minute of your rehearsal. We spoke with Randall Coleman, Associate Director of Bands at the University of Alabama to get his advice on how to structure and manage rehearsal time to make it more productive for the entire ensemble.

Recommended Trombone Solos and Recordings

Jazz Trombone Player

One of the best ways to help yourself improve on the trombone is to listen to trombone music recorded by the greatest trombone performers available.   By listening to professional recordings of trombone music you can begin to understand what your ideal tone should sound like.  This list of free trombone music recordings has been developed through research of the most popular pieces from dozens of trombone music listening lists.  The music list below also includes recordings of many highly recommended performances as well as links to the various trombone artist's homepages and biographies.

Audio Software For The Classroom Or Home Recording Studio

Audio Editing Software Screenshot

Setting up and using a digital recording studio in the classroom requires some very specialized software.  While it is true that you can do it on the cheap with a very basic audio recording program like Audacity to really produce high quality recordings, work with multiple instruments, or simply to teach your students the skills necessary to prepare them for a job in the audio industry after graduation you have to use something a little more advanced.  Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) programs are the next step up for many users and there are many of these programs on the market.  But there is more to setting up a DAW system in your classroom than simply grabbing the first piece of software that comes to mind.  To have the best experience you have to balance the needs of the software with the capabilities of the hardware you intend to run it on.

Music Room Sound Systems Buying Guide

Sound System Mixing Board

The sound systems used in most music rooms have changed greatly over the years.  The cassettes of the 80’s and 90’s gave way to CD players and now are transitioning to solid state and streaming media in the form of MP3 players and computer based audio applications.  The next ten years will be even more digital as we continue the trend away from the CD and onto other media like SD cards, hard drives, and online cloud storage services.  Making informed and intelligent purchasing decisions now can help make sure that whatever audio system you invest in today will still work well with the technology of tomorrow.  Consider these tips and suggestions when planning any new audio technology purchase for your room.

Wireless Microphone Tips and Buyers Guide For Musicians

Wireless Microphone Closeup

The use of wireless microphones are now more the norm the the exception, but buying the wrong one or not understanding what you are buying can make an expensive purchase into a disasterous one.  This article explains the differences between various kinds of wireless microphones, gives recommendations for specific uses, and offers a number of tips to help with frequently encountered wireless microphone problems.

Using Electronic Instruments In The Marching Band

Is the use of electronic instruments in a marching band brilliant or blasphemy?  It really depends on who you speak to.  The honest truth though is that as our schools and society change, so too is what our audience enjoys watching during halftime.  While every piece of music heard on the radio uses electronic instruments of some sort the marching band has remained almost exclusively acoustic except for several brave, innovative programs across the country.  In each of these cases the inclusion of electronic instruments has not been a hindrance but a blessing.  Why?  And what can other teachers learn from their experiences?

Fixing Clarinet Sound Problems- Fundamentals, Techniques, and Tips

A Band Rehearsing Featuring a Clarinet Section

The ability of the clarinet section to play together with proper intonation can make or break an ensemble. Teaching the clarinet section to play together as a team is a concept that all band and orchestra director strive toward but few can claim success with. We spoke to Dr. Raphael Sanders, Professor of Clarinet at the Crane School of Music SUNY at Potsdam to get his ideas and insight on how to build a solid clarinet section.

Staff Wars 2 Returns! And It Works On Windows!

Staff Wars 2 Screenshot

I've been a big fan of a program called Staff Wars 2 for many years.  It's basically a video game that helps beginning band kids with drill and practice on their notes and fingerings.  Sadly it wouldn't work with Windows 7 or 8 for several years but now TheMusicInteractive has released an updated, Windows 8 compatible version!  Read on to find out more!

For many years I have been a huge fan of a program called Staff Wars 2 by a group called TheMusicInteractive. It even made it into my High-Tech Low Budget Music Technology Special last year.  This free program for Windows and Mac is awesome for young instrumentalists to help them learn fingerings and practice playing notes on the staff. Basically, a note floats across the screen toward your "shield" and you have to play the correct note on your instrument before it hits it and you lose a life. It uses the microphone attached to your laptop or plugged into your desktop to do it.

For the last two years I have been a sad band director because the old version would not work with Windows 7. Although I could get it to occasionally work in Windows XP Mode it was a royal pain and worked only once in a while it seemed. Just today I decided I would take a look on their site to see if, by some miracle, TheMusicInteractive had updated it and low and behold IT IS DONE!

The new version of Staff Wars 2 runs on computers running up to Windows 8.1 at this time. I tried it on my school Windows 7 machines and it worked right off the bat! Plus, I see that they have expanded their Staff Wars 1 version onto the iPad for $0.99. That version does not have the audio recognition and instead just allows kids to touch the name of the note as it floats by but one can only hope they are planning Staff Wars 2 for the iPad at some point in the future. I'd pay $5 to have that app available anytime to use during lessons without having to crank up the desktop. Think about it guys!

Staff Wars 2 is a FREE download from Be sure also to check out their other excellent paid music education applications available both for Windows and for Mac.

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Tonara's Wolfie for Piano Joins The Practice App Lineup

Wolfie For Piano

Over the last year a number of intriguing online and iPad based music practice apps have come on the market.  I first became aware of Tonara back in 2011 and at the time it was useful but not overly impressive.  Fast forward three years and in walks Tonara Wolfie for all of you pianists out there.  What exactly is Tonara Wolfie and why is it important?  Read on to find out!


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