Flute Player Playing InstrumentAnyone that has taught band, orchestra, or any instrument based music class has doubtless had students that can only be described as challenged when it comes to playing their instrument. I’m firmly in the camp that almost every student can learn to play an instrument if they have positive experiences and if they are dedicated to practicing, but we all know that there are other issues that come into play that can wreck even the most brilliant teacher’s plans. Regardless of what those outside stresses might be there are a few things that any teacher should consider before they allow themselves to discount a student’s potential. These are tricks that I have used that I have had success with.

Try A New Method Book

As a student falls farther and farther behind the rest of the class they not only become discouraged because they are not progressing but they also get the double whammy of a blow to their self esteem when a fellow student inevitably asks them why they are only on page eight when the rest of the class is on page twenty. One way to counteract this is to put the student in a different method book completely. One of these alternatives that I have had great success with is the Habits Of Musicianship method written by Robert Duke and James Byo of the University of Texas. The Habits method is exactly what it’s subtitle says, “A Radical Approach To Beginning Band.” It takes the way most method books teach music and turns it completely around. Instead of learning well known melodies the book starts with fairly simple two and three note exercises that allow a student to develop and master their fingerings in a highly focused manner. Plus it goes into other time signatures almost from the beginning of the book, allowing you to tell the student that he or she is learning something that no other kid in the band has learned yet. The best part of all is that the Habits method book is FREE! You can download a copy for most common band instruments over at the Habits of Musicianship web site.

Go Back To The Basics

It is often very hard to force yourself and the student to return to focusing on the basic fundamentals of an instrument, especially when all of their fellow classmates are moving ahead, but it is undeniable that until a student grasps the fundamentals such as mouthpiece buzzing, tone generation, breathing, blowing, hand position, etc. that they will always have a hard time advancing through the lesson material. Split the student off into a private lesson for fifteen or twenty minutes each week and develop some fun ways to practice fundamentals without making it seem like boring work. Buzzing contests, long note contests, blowing a balloon around the room, marching to the beat with good posture and horn position, all of these and several others have worked miracles for certain challenging students.

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