Today in my wind techniques class we played our instruments together for the first time. For those of you who don’t know, music education majors have to take techniques and pedagogy classes for all the instruments, so we know how to teach them. There are classes for percussion, strings, band, and chorus. In this particular wind tech class I am learning trumpet, which I picked because my brother also plays. My principle instrument is clarinet, but I have also taken lessons on oboe, and can find my way around most of the other woodwind instruments fairly well (bassoon, flute, recorder, sax…). Playing a brass instrument is not necessarily too difficult a switch, but it is definitely a new world for me.
This class has been very interesting so far (and I say interesting not necessarily in a positive way…) because it has been nothing like what we were expecting, or like what I’ve heard it was last semester. We were told to print out a piece and bring it to class today, but the piece we were assigned was very difficult. (It was a tocatta.) Instead of actually playing the piece, we simple went through all the basics of the instruments; hand positions, reed placement, embouchure (the shape of your mouth), and other useful information, which I hope to include here at some point, and we also played some songs by rote. Learning a song by rote means that the teacher instructs the class in what fingers or notes to play, and the students don’t have to look at any sheet music whatsoever.
A point of note: in many band classes the first day or so with instruments is spent looking at the sheet music and playing long notes simultaneously, while some classes teach a short song (like “Hot Cross Buns”) by rote and play it the first day. I think both methods are advantageous, but also have their negative signs. What do you think?