Teaching Brass Instuments at a School

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by HaleStorm, Jan 22, 2009.

  1. HaleStorm

    HaleStorm Member

    Hi everyone,

    as the title suggests this is a thread about teaching brass playing, not sure if im putting the post in the right place, but im sure one of the boards admin team will put me right if its not.

    Ok a bit of background (this post could be long), i work in a high school, as an IT Technician, which is part of sheffields LEA, recently sheffield music services (a program run by the council) have given the school a set of brass instruments, not a proper band set but there are approximatly 30ish instruments including a Eb Bass, some trombones, a stack of cornets and trumpets, some baritones and a handful of tenor horns.

    The schools music teacher knew i was a brass player myself and asked me to come and help teach during lessons, as 32 giddy year 7's are alot to handle for one person. So we sat them all down explained to them how to handle instruments correctly, how to care for them, and then got them to start to blow a little.

    Now getting to the point, has anyone else that works in schools ever done anything like this, and even if not, do people have any ideas, hints or tips that will help me, as i have very limited teaching experiance, to a) keep the kids engaged enough to get past the initial stages of learning so they get to the part that they will enjoy(making music) and b) gauging which instruments the kids will be suited to over a period of time allowing for growth spurts and such like

    Thanks Guys i know i will get some good responces :)

    p.s. apparently we are the first high school in sheffield to do anything like this, but im not sure if its been tried anywhere else
  2. bassmittens

    bassmittens Member

    Hi there.

    I am experiencing a similar challenge with Stannington training band at present. We have a range of players from people who played years ago and want to get back into it, and people (mainly young kids) who have never picked an instrument before.

    I am not a teacher or anything, so i am trying to remember what/how i was taught when i was younger, also trial and error to see what gets results.

    The main thing i try to do is to make them feel like they achieve something. Set them simple targets. The 2 boys (both about 8/9 yrs) i have, that have never done it before - we got them some tune a day books and after some explanations of the basics they were set the target 2 weeks ago of the G and the F+G melodies on pg 1 and 2. I also asked them to take their mouthpiece out at home and try to play a song or a tune they recognised (they chose the Eastenders music????!!!???).

    They came back this week and were able to do what i'd asked them and they were much more motivated and tried to join in with the band playing with more enthusiasm and commitment. Previously they'd just sit and make stupid noises because they did not understand what they were trying to do.

    I suppose this situation is different because they can sit next to pople who can play, and we do have sopme of the main band help out too by sitting next to the beginners.

    If there is anyway they could go and hear a band play to hear what they are trying to achieve i think that helps them understand things also. I think Tapton school have a school band. Perhaps they might be willing to let your school band come along and join in or listen at least?

    Hope this helps or give you some ideas?? come down to one of our training band practices if you want to see what we try - Sunday nights 6pm at the Gas club bottom of Stannington Road, and see what we try with the beginners - you're only down the road aren't you. Drop me a PM if you want.

    Good luck
  3. HaleStorm

    HaleStorm Member

    Thanks for that, the only problem with the practicing is that they have 1hour a week in the classroom, and the SMC say that we cant let the kids take instruments home at all, which means they literally only have 1 hour. I have already decided, if any of the kids really take to playing that i would point them either in the direction of stannington training band, or obviously my own bands learner band at deepcar depending on where they live. I have also talked to the music teacher about ordewring a set of tune-a-day books or team-brass books for the classroom.
    Thanks for the suggestions
  4. bassmittens

    bassmittens Member

    Would be glad to welcome any new players. We should be able to provide most instruments (except tenor horn - we have run out of horns!!) but as i said - if any of them want to even come and listen to the training band practice on a Sunday they would be more than welcome (just give me some warning please!)
  5. Dick Bone

    Dick Bone New Member

    It sounds like a possible wider opportunities project here. There is a national initiative at the moment mainly in primary schools to give every child the opportunity to play an instrument. This is being taught in many different ways but the class band (not always just brass) is a popular approach that is being undertaken by many local music services. There are many different schemes that are being used for the brass examples of these bands but generally they all progress in a similar way. If you want to access materials that are available for the teaching of wider opps (or to give it the correct title whole class instrumental and vocal tuition!) then I would suggest you speak to Sheffield Music Service and ask if they can recommend materials that they may already be using. There are many web sites that have examples of these materials some that provide interactive resources, again I would ask your local music service about these, many are working with a company called Charanga to provide such a resource for their schools.

    more details about wider opps (WCIVT) can be found on the new Federation of Music Services (FMS) Website www.thefms.org
  6. Ali.Syme

    Ali.Syme Member

    I've had the same "problem" up in Glasgow - even at an early age my students were only in it because of exams and grades which isn't how anyone should start an instrument!

    Key is to make it fun - there are some fun solo pieces on the internet for all kinds of instruments. Tunes they'll recognise are important! Get a brass band tune, get them to learn it (maybe 8 bars) from memory and get them to practise marching!

    Kids don't want to feel that there's anything "expected" of them especially in the early days of playing music so just show that it's a fun thing to do and even share some of your experiences with them (within reason of course!)

    Best of luck
  7. Hornator

    Hornator New Member

  8. HaleStorm

    HaleStorm Member

    They have all started from scratch, some already play instruments,but not brass, mainly string or piano. The have have 5 weeks of lessons which is roughly 5hours, and they can all now just about play Bottom C do Middle G, and they can read the music reletivly well.
    They have also learned quite a bit of the theory behind the music as well and how to control the sound they are putting through the instruments, me and the music teacher are now hoping for them to give a little performance infront of the rest of their school year and the teachers, and even the head teacher.
  9. flugelgal

    flugelgal Active Member

    That's brilliant progress, well done!
  10. HaleStorm

    HaleStorm Member

    they also all know how to do basic maintenance and stuff with the instruments, oiling valves, cleaning mouthpieces and stuff like that to, and they can all now pretty much look at some music and figure out how the tune written down is supposed to go.
    Im really impressed with them, and how well they have taken to playing, there are one or two that couldnt care one way or the other, we sent them to learn to play drums haha

    I convinced the music teacher to get a set of tune-a-day books for the class also, so we will have something to work through with them now instead of making up a scheme of work as we go along and winging it most of the time.


    We have used the Jock Mackenzie books with our junior band then 'The Crotchet Factory' stuff when they got a little better, then Baernarts and now they are merged with the senior band playing all sorts of band music. Using the Jock Mackenzie books mean that they can play together and learn how different parts fit together but with very simple 4 part harmonies and tunes that the kids seem to like.
  12. marksmith

    marksmith Active Member

    The keeping instruments in school dictat will undoubtedly cause you problems.
    Assessing the progress of individuals is important, the natural learners, as well as those that find music a 'foreign language' to them.
    You will find that there will be a natural progression which highlights where differentiation will be required, allowing the slower learners to experience the joys of success, as well as those that prove to be 'Gifted and Talented'.
    The trick is in being able to keep the mixed ability group motivated.
    Maybe an extra-curricular group for both extremes, at lunch-time or after school? This will allow the learning to be achieved within the comfort zones of the students.
    Also, what about getting those more able students to sit their Grade 1 exam at the earliest opportunity?
    Accommodating them for individual practise time at break and lunch times (an empty room), would also help them to progress quicker, in light of the instrument situation.
    All power to you in your unusual approach. Most schools use the Recorder to deliver the level of teaching that you are attempting!
    I hope that these suggestions help.

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