Introducing Students to Instruments: The First Day

I have included below some common questions and things to keep in mind when starting your first day as a beginning band director, most likely in middle school. These are taken from my own personal experiences, observations, and notes I have taken in my wind techniques class. Please let me know if I have omitted any important information, or have posting anything that is incorrect.

  • When should you start students on band instruments”
    • For brass: suggest waiting until they’ve gotten their adult front teeth.
      • Note: some kids may not be able to hold the tuba, or reach the all the trombone positions.
    • Woodwinds: when they can reach the keys and hold the instrument properly.
    • If a student has a lot of difficulty making a sound or can’t reach properly, and doesn’t want to play anything else, do you still let them play the instrument?
      • Many teachers say no, and encourage the student to play another instrument.
      • Most teachers say yes; if the student wants to play that instrument badly enough, they will make it work.
      • You can also start the student on a similar instrument and let them try their preferred instrument when they have grown.
        • Make sure the student is aware of the difficulties and why playing may be tough for a while; they will have to work hard. Also tell why you may recommend another instrument temporarily.
    • Physical considerations:
      • If a student has poorly formed lips or mouth, or has a severe overbite, you may wish to encourage the student to try a different instrument.
      • Braces shouldn’t hinder terribly much, though it may be uncomfortable.
    • Big fingers or hands may make playing some instruments difficult.
    • Arms should be long enough for trombone.
    • Student needs to be strong enough to support the instrument.
  • Students will view an instrument as a toy until you tell them that it is not.
  • On the first day with instruments, do not simply say “Take out your instruments.” Students will most likely open cases upside down, and will not know how to assemble their instruments.
    • Mass chaos will ensue if you do not take things slowly and instruct them.
    • You must instruct the students, tell them :“Take out your cases and set them in front of your feet.” NOT “Take out your instruments.”
    • Students will not know how to put them together, and the few who do know will want to do it anyway; do not let them.
    • Instruct each section step-by-step how to put their instrument together. (If you have a teaching assistant or an older student, enlisting their aid may be beneficial.)
  • Method Books: ask students “Who does not have a method book?” Rather than “Does everyone have a method book?”

About Lady Fair

Lady is a musician with a bachelor's degree in music education. She plays multiple instruments and has participated in numerous musical ensembles, giving her a wide variety of experiences and knowledge to use in her teaching career. Of her ensemble participation, she has fifteen years of band experience, nine years choral, and four years in orchestra. Éowyn's primary instrument is clarinet, with voice and piano being close secondary instruments. Throughout her musical education career she studied voice and clarinet simultaneously. In addition to clarinet, piano, and voice, she has also studied violin and oboe at the college level, and also plays recorder, tin whistle, and other instruments in the woodwind family. If you ask her, she will say, "I chose to major in music education because I have a desire to use my knowledge and experience in music to share its beauty and foster a love of music in the hearts of my students. I hope to encourage my students to try their hardest, feel like they have accomplished something, and give them a life long passion for music." Lady currently teaches private lessons on clarinet, sax, flute, oboe, piano, and voice, and recently gained a position teaching orchestra and chorus at a local middle school. She is also a member of the Once Upon a Dream woodwind ensembles.
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