Junior High Band
Organizational Tips


Solve Tuba Emergencies

Two of our practice instruments were three-quarter, Eb tubas. I had them in case we ever had a tuba emergency - a band without a tuba. A trumpet player playing an Eb tuba, looking at Bb tuba music, thinking in treble clef, and changing natural signs to sharps can get you by in an emergency. The tuning challenges were more than I wanted to deal with, so I preferred to teach the bass clef and tuba fingerings to a willing and good trumpet player and solve the problem more permanently.

One of the directors I observed solved the problem by having a student play the tuba part on an electronic keyboard. Most keyboards come with relatively authentic sounding tuba settings. It really helped the intonation of the band. I tried it, but after being railed on at a festival I vowed never to go to a festival without tubas (or horns.)

Put Tubas on Wheels

Most of my junior high tuba players were too small to handle a full-sized tuba. Yet the smaller instruments didn’t produce as good a sound. I purchased two full-sized tubas and Tuba Tamers (stands that held the tuba while it was being played.) The tubas were heavy and the stands added more weight. I was surprised the stands didn’t come with castors. I bought castors at a local hardware store and installed them myself. Even my smallest 7th graders were able to make big sounds and push the instruments around the room.

Provide Practice Tubas

Carrying a tuba home for daily practice is dangerous for the student and for the tuba. To avoid the danger, every class used the full-sized tubas on Tuba Tamers. Each tuba player had his own personal or school-issued mouthpiece. I had six older tubas and sousaphones and several old baritones that we used as practice instruments. The students took a practice instrument home when school started and brought it back at the end of the year. They could also practice on the new tubas before or after school.

Recruit Tubas

Recruiting tuba players can be a challenge. One of the directors I observed always had tubas when neighboring schools did not. I asked him his secret. The first week of school he told the students to think of their friends who weren’t in band. He asked them to pick someone who played the piano and got good grades. He told them if they talked a friend into playing tuba he would take them both out for pizza. He taught band for 34 years. He not only always had tubas, he always had good tubas.

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.