The Ocarina vs. The Recorder in the Music Education Classroom

A Blue Pottery Ocarina

In my neck of the woods most elementary schools teach the recorder starting in or around the 4th grade.  As a band director I understand the reasoning for teaching recorder to kids as it helps build many of the skills needed to get them into the band once they get to fifth or sixth but I’ll be honest, I hate the sound of the recorder.  The ocarina on the other hand seems to be the unwanted step child in the music classroom even though (in my opinion) the more earthy resonant tone of an ocarina is almost always superior to the sound of a cheap $3 soprano recorder.  So why don’t more people use it in their classrooms?

Trumpet Hand Position Problems and The Horn Grip Solution

The Warburton Horn Grip Tool

Bad hand position is the bane of most beginning band teacher’s trumpet sections.  We may start each student with the admonition that an open, C-shaped right hand is necessary for proper trumpet technique but despite those reminders many of our students will allow their hands to collapse down against the valves leading to lazy finger technique and minor valve problems.  So what is the best way to fix this problem?  For many kids it’s not enough to repeatedly admonish them to hold the trumpet correctly.  Instead for some kids we need to offer a more tactile reinforcement until the good hand position habits are firmly rooted.  Read on to find out how to do this with this cool new tool.

A New Look At Teaching Beginner Clarinetists

Clarinet Pieces On A Table

Unless you have been playing it your entire life teaching a beginner to play the clarinet can be a challenge. Lesson books can help, but the vast majority of lesson books used these days in a public school band setting are ensemble books that by nature have to progress in a certain way. In a new article over on the Vandoren reeds website clarinet pedagog Paula Corley she goes through a step by step progression of concepts that she uses with her beginners.

Review of the A.P.E. Anti-Pressure Brass Embouchure Exerciser Tool

The APE Anti-Pressure Exerciser

I’ve had the chance over the last few weeks to play around with a variety of tools from Warburton USA, a manufacturer of cool brass instrument related gadgets and practice tools.  This week I’m looking at the Anti-Pressure Exerciser (The A.P.E.) and how it can be used as a teaching tool or for general practice on the trumpet, French horn, or tenor trombone.  What exactly is the A.P.E. and why should you consider getting one to use with your students?  Read on to find out.

Why Buying Digital Sheet Music Is A Bad Idea

Digitally Printed Sheet Music

Digital sheet music as is currently being sold by several sheet music publishers and vendors is at its core a great idea.  Unfortunately, the biggest publishers are all missing the boat and implementing it in a way that provides absolutely no added value for the added costs to the consumer.  While the digital versions of books and such add value to the title by offering easy portability and flexibility for the reader this is not the case with most commercially available digital sheet music.  But this is only the start of why music publishers are missing the boat and doing both themselves and their customers a disservice.  Read on to find out more.

Trumpet, Trombone, and Tuba Buzzing With The Buzzard

Buzzing on your brass mouthpiece is an essential part of improving as a musician leading to stronger, clearer tone quality and better intonation.  Yet buzzing on a mouthpiece alone is at best only a fair representation of how it feels to actually play on the instrument.  Without the instrument there is no real air resistance.  For experienced players this isn’t a big issue but for beginners trying to learn to buzz properly that little bit of resistance helps immensely in letting them get the buzz going and focused.  Enter the Buzzard, a simple yet incredibly useful little device that can help you get your students buzzing and sounding better and with less frustration.


Improve Brass Buzzing With The BERP

BERP Brass Embouchure Resistance Piece

Every music teacher knows that the prerequisite of becoming a good sounding brass player is being able to buzz your lips accurately and with a good tone.  Buzzing on a mouthpiece alone is the easiest and most straightforward method, but more goes into playing a trumpet, trombone, or tuba than just buzzing alone.  There are these annoying things called fingerings that require almost as much attention as the buzzing. That’s where the Buzz Extension and Resistance Piece (BERP) comes in.  The BERP lets a brass student practice buzzing at the same time as they work their fingerings.

Avid Releases Free Version of Pro Tools Digital Audio Workstation

Pro Tools First Screen Shot

The use of digital audio workstation software (DAWS) such as Pro Tools has been becoming more and more popular over the last few years.  New alternative music education classrooms are embracing the ease with which it can foster the creativity of our students in new ways.  The big problem for most schools wanting to incorporate a DAW product into their curriculum or classroom activities has been cost.  Now Avid has done away with that limitation by releasing a free version of Pro Tools, known as Pro Tools First.

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.

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