Junior High Band
Teaching Tips

Teach the Basic Musicianship Skills

In order to develop an appreciation for music and some proficiency on an instrument the students need to be taught the basic musicianship skills of tone production, intonation, technique, rhythm, and interpretation. I hung posters on the band room walls that listed the important points of each skill (See Wall Posters). The quarterly written tests covered the skills as well. We had weekly playing tests to check technique and rhythm, twice-quarterly tuning tests to check intonation, quarterly tone scores were part of the seating process, and the quarterly concerts were the ultimate tests of interpretation skills.

Here is an outline of what I tried to teach the beginners. The 8th and 9th graders built on this foundation:

  1. Tone
    1. Embouchure
      1. Flutes
        1. Tight corners
        2. Flat chin
        3. Loose lips
        4. Small aperture
      2. Single reeds
        1. Tight corners
        2. Flat chin
        3. Lips tight against teeth
        4. Lower lip slightly over lower teeth
        5. Upper teeth on the mouthpiece
      3. Double reeds
        1. Tight corners
        2. Flat chin
        3. Both lips over teeth
      4. Brass
        1. Tight corners
        2. Flat chin
        3. Lips loose enough to vibrate
    2. Breath Support
      1. Posture
        1. Sit as if standing from the waist up
        2. Sit on the edge of the chair
        3. Both feet on the floor
      2. Abdominal breathing
        1. Tighten abdominal wall pushing out and down.
        2. Produce fast-moving, compressed air.
    3. Good Equipment (More Info)
    4. Concept (More Info)
  2. Intonation
    1. Three steps to good intonation:
      1. Hold a Steady Pitch
      2. Recognize the Beats
      3. Eliminate the Beats
    2. Slogan: "Sound Like One”
    3. Key: “Listen, Listen, Listen”
  3. Technique
    1. Precision: “Attack, Sustain, Release”
    2. Articulation
      1. Tonguing and Slurring
      2. Staccato, Legato, Marcato
    3. Correct notes
      1. Chromatic Scale
      2. Major and Minor Scales
  4. Rhythm
    1. Duple and Triple Meters
    2. Counting (More Info)
    3. Rhythm Games (More Info)
    4. Diagramming (More Info)
  5. Interpretation
    1. Tempo
      1. Common tempo words
        1. presto
        2. vivace or vivo
        3. allegro
        4. allegretto
        5. moderato
        6. andante
        7. adagio
        8. lento
        9. largo
        10. grave
      2. Changing tempo words
        1. accelerando
        2. stringendo
        3. ritardando
        4. rallentando
        5. allargando
    2. Style
      1. Common style words
        1. dolce
        2. expresivo
        3. legato
        4. leggiero
        5. maestoso
        6. marcato
        7. marziale
        8. meno mosso
        9. morendo
        10. pesante
        11. rubato
        12. sostenuto
        13. subito
        14. tacet
    3. Dynamics
      1. Common dynamics
        1. pianissimo (pp)
        2. piano (p)
        3. mezzo piano (mp)
        4. mezzo forte (mf)
        5. forte (f)
        6. fortissimo (ff)
      2. Changing dynamics
        1. crescendo
        2. decrescendo
        3. diminuendo
    4. Balance (More Info)
      1. The proper mixture of melody, harmony and rhythmic accompaniment
      2. The melody must always be heard.
      3. Playing the written dynamics does not guarantee good balance
      4. Key: “Listen, Listen, Listen”
    5. Phrasing
      1. A phrase is a musical idea or sentence.
      2. Bar lines are not breath marks.
    6. Nuance
      1. Subtle changes that add interest that are not written in the music
        1. a little softer or louder
        2. a little faster or slower

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.