Music ImageAt the 2008 MENC Conference I was able to attend a session given by Robert Duke of the University of Texas at Austin and James Byo of Louisiana State University regarding a new instrumental band method book that they have been working on over the last several years.  Since the conference the method has been getting some significant attention on the MENC message boards from teachers who are looking for something new and innovative to replace the old, traditional method books that have been used in our classes for decades.   What is making The Habits Of Musicianship generate such a buzz?  Maybe it is because many of the premises behind it make so much sense.  Maybe it is because the progression of activities in the book is completely different than almost any other method book out there.  Of course, it could also be that "The Habits of Musicianship- A Radical Approach To Beginning Band " is radical in that it is FREE for use by anyone that chooses to download it! 

{mosimage}At the 2008 MENC Conference I was able to attend a session given by Robert Duke of the University of Texas at Austin and James Byo of Louisiana State University regarding a new instrumental band method book that they have been working on over the last several years.  Since the conference the method has been getting some significant attention on the MENC message boards from teachers who are looking for something new and innovative to replace the old, traditional method books that have been used in our classes for decades.   What is making The Habits Of Musicianship generate such a buzz?  Maybe it is because many of the premises behind it make so much sense.  Maybe it is because the progression of activities in the book is completely different than almost any other method book out there.  Of course, it could also be that "The Habits of Musicianship- A Radical Approach To Beginning Band " is radical in that it is FREE for use by anyone that chooses to download it!

From the Habits of Musicianship Web Site:

The Habits of Musicianship is an introductory method book for the first year of instrumental class instruction. Appropriate for use in middle school beginning band classes and in college instrumental techniques classes, the book embodies an approach to music learning that is in many ways unique. We are distributing the method free of charge through this web site; and although we retain the copyrights to the materials, teachers have blanket permission to make unlimited copies for themselves and for their own students.

 

What Makes The Habits of Musicianship So Radical?

In most beginner method books students start with long tones, easy quarter note rhythms, and a very quick drive toward learning at least five to six note fingerings all within the first two to three pages of the book.  Half notes and whole notes are added several pages later, as are additional fingerings and eighth notes, etc.  The first difference a teacher will notice with the Habits method is that it starts immediately with eighth note and quarter note rhythms but only with two distinct notes, concert F and G.  Students learn from day one about rhythm, counting, tonguing, and other issues that we often glide over as we attempt to jam fingerings down a students throat.

In other words, the method forces a teacher to teach the most important habits of musicianship with every single line in the book instead of concentrating on one issue at a time!

Other things that make the method stand out in my mind is the idea of starting clarinets on low G and F instead of open G.  The idea here being that students will be forced to learn to cover the hole correctly with good finger and thumb position from day one and in turn dramatically easing their transition across the break in later days.  How many times has a teacher had to spend days or weeks breaking a clarinetist of bad habits that prevent them from getting high C or D to speak?  This and many other ideas in this method book make total sense to me and I hope to use it in whole or in part next fall.  Each book is over 60 pages long and as mentioned previously is free to download and copy for classroom use. 

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