Junior High Band
Chromatic Tests

Chromatic Tests Preface

I feel strongly about the importance of learning the chromatic scale. Therefore, the chromatic was part of our daily warm up, and there was a chromatic test every quarter. Teaching all the fingerings of all the notes on all the instruments can be overwhelming. It’s similar to trying to eat an elephant – you have to do it one bite at a time.

I introduced the new chromatic test at the first of each quarter. Most of the time there were only a few new notes that were added to the previous test. Additionally, I had sectionals before school on the days we didn’t have Jazz Band. That’s when I was able to make sure everyone knew how to play all the notes.

The following tests progress gradually from the first 7th-grade test of only nine notes to the last three 9th-grade tests which cover the full range of each instrument.

Rehearsing these tests as a band sounds like progressive parallel fifths at first and ends up with progressive clusters. The fact that the full range of each instrument is a different number of notes compounds the rehearsal challenge. Here are some suggestions to meet that challenge:

  1. Have all the sections start on their first note and play up and down the scale in quarter notes, then 8ths, triplets, then 16ths. Again, it sounds like progressive clusters but it’s not too painful. Tell them to stop when they run out of notes. The saxophones and oboes will finish first because they have the fewest notes. The clarinets will end last because they have the most notes.
  2. Take time occasionally to have the sections play their scales by themselves. It takes a little time, but it’s worth it.
  3. You can save time by having the instruments with the same number of notes play together. All the brass (except the horns) can play together. The horns and flutes have three octaves and can play together. The oboes can play with the saxophones.
  4. Have them all play their full range chromatic at their best speed (the fastest speed they can play it without making any mistakes.) The sound is chaotic but it only lasts 15 or 20 seconds.

Video Disclaimer

The attached videos are not perfect examples of how each tune should be played. They are recordings of junior high students, some of whom have had their instruments for only a few months. Also, they are not professional recordings. They were taken by band parents using home equipment and naturally focusing on their own children.

I include them for two reasons: (1) To give you an idea of what the arrangements are like, and (2) To illustrate the kind of performance you can expect from your junior high students.