Assistance required for a beginner

Di B

Have recently started teaching a small group from scratch. This is the first time I have tried to do this and it is proving more difficult than I imagined! :oops:

There is a young girl (just under 7) on cornet. She can blow it, and now knows to use her tongue to produce the notes one after the other rather than a gap through but she still has one fundamental problem I don't know how to go about rectifying.

She can play bottom C and hold it, so I have tried her with a D.... this moves between D and bottom G and anywhere inbetween! (I think she may be good at lip trills in the future! :wink: )

I have tried her standing up and blowing forte as this way she is marginally better and that is the way I am going to carry on with unless someone has any better ideas???

I know a lot of it will be practice, and she does 10 minutes 3 times a week but I am wondering if this is a problem associated with younger beginners or if she is unique?

I haven't had this problem with an 8 year old and an adult who are the other beginners!

Any advice on this problem and any general snippets of advice would be much appreciated.


The Cornet King

Active Member
From the way you describe it, it sounds like it has to be an embouchoure problem...
Im certainly not a teacher myself (some would question if i was a player!!) but it definately sounds as if their is a weakness in the embouchoure.
Are there any visible chin movements (e.g in the way you produce vibrato) that could cause the collapse of the D to a bottom G?
Make sure their is plenty of air support there.

I'm not sure what else to suggest. is that in any way helpful????


Active Member
if she can play well standing up, maybe you should work on her posture sitting down. Make sure she keeps he lower back straight to get as much air support as possible... best to get into good habits early!


Staff member
I'll just say that kids of that age tend to move at their own pace - some slow, some faster. To one extent, you sort of have to avoid making comparisons between Joan and Mary, because just because one of them is doing something one way, doesn't mean that it will work for the other in the same way.

Despot and I have had success with the "throw enough mud at the wall and some of it will stick* method. Kids are different from adults - you can't just say something once.

Also, give the kid a chance to develop before making technical changes. Unless the kid is a prodigy, at that age most of the time, they'll forget technique and just blow - so it will take time and exposure for that mud to stick.

Try a different sized instrument for a while, don't be afraid to chop and change. Kids are resiliant, and the most important thing is to promote interest. Most kids require instant success, or at least knowledge and evidence that they're getting better. A different (bigger/smaller) instrument can help to relax and get those first notes out. It doesn't have to be forever - just people take to different instruments.

Regarding your warbling D-G issue - try and get the student to sing the D. Awareness of "where to aim" can help. Finally - most problems at that age (and most others) can be fundamentally traced back to not pushing enough air through. But that's related to confidence, and so we're back to the importance of getting those first vital noites.

Hope my inane ramblings have helped somewhat.. Maybe I should read them myself - have a class of 32 beginners on Saturday!


Di B

*grins* she is so tiny she keeps half falling off the adult chairs! :lol:

She is also a fidget and a bit of a slouch (her mum says so!) so I am thinking of keeping her standing for a few weeks yet, plus it makes her at the same height as the adult too (bonus!!!)

I was doing the sit up thing, and will do in the future, but I might buy her a cushion first so she isn't slipping around the chair!

Also, her chin seems fine...... from what I can see..... any other ideas anyone?

The Cornet King

Active Member
Perhaps if she is so tiny the instrument might just be too big for her to fill with air?
It may be a case that she just doesn't have the lung capacity and force yet to get the notes?

Let us all know how you get on wont you?

Di B

Thanks Keppler - most of what you said seems to be my own thought theory!

Unfortunatly she will be reluctant to move from cornet as she is 'following in fathers footsteps' and she is too small to manage anything else!

She is too shy to sing, but a family member can play piano, so I have got them to play the appropriate notes for her to pitch and copy.

I'll keep getting her to blow through but may simply move on with the lessons and as you say, some of the mud will stick and as long as she enjoys herself thats the most important thing.

Di B


Some of you wanted to know how I got on with this little girl.... so here it is for those interested!

I took quite a few of Kepplers suggestions along with what I had been doing already.

She always stands up for beginner class.
I encouraged her to 'really blow' as I felt not enough air was going through the instrument to maintain one note for any period of time.
I got her to always hold her cornet up (and apart from taking it literally once in a while she does! :roll: )

Apart from these ideas, I ignored what she couldn't do and carried on letting her blow thorugh the instrument. I complimented her on her stance, sound and ability to play some excellent quavers fast without even being told to! :)

Around a month ago she got C's and D's.... a small result but progression nontheless. Again, praise came into it even though I think she was frustrated by not progressing as quick as the other two.

Last night...... well..... C, D, E, F, and just about a G! The sound is strong and you can tell it will be a full sound as she develops. Can't believe how much she has progressed in the last two rehearsals!

I am one very proud and happy teacher!!!

Thankyou to you all for your suggestions. I think at that age it is best to throw mud and see what sticks along with lots of encouragement and also making them feel a part of things. (She has sat with the training band for the last 3 weeks even though she cannot play the music - but she enjoys it as she feels involved)

Sometimes, I remember why I like teaching! :D :D :D

Okiedokie of Oz

Active Member
I had a similar problem this year with my first beginner brass class. One of the best ways around the problem is singing. If she can play a D, but slides, it's basically a case of blowing without thinking. Singing produces a sustained, unchanging (in comparison :wink: ) note. Next step after that is slurring. Does the note go up? How do we make a note go up now, class??????

It takes time, but once they get a basic idea, they propel themselves along. Easy songs using simplistic notes that they know (mary had a little lamb, hot cross buns etc) will give them something fun to play and practice those notes.

Moral of the story - sometimes it's more than an embouchure or air problem (although that can often have sooo much to do with it too). It's an aural problem.

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