Junior High Band
Teaching Tips

Utilize MouthPiece Warm-Ups

A major part of playing a wind instrument is the proper formation of the embouchure and being able to produce the right sound with just the mouthpiece. Some directors spend the first two weeks of their beginning programs having students work only with their mouthpieces. The students aren't allowed to put their instruments together until directed. I don't agree with that because it's hard on the students and hard on the instruments.

Few things are as exciting to a young person as having his/her own musical instrument. Whether directed to put it together or not, they will do it. At least I did. I got my first clarinet a week or so before band started. It looked similar to the Thompson Flutophone (an inexpensive, plastic, recorder-type instrument) I had played in the sixth grade. I put it together as soon as we got home and was playing simple tunes before band started - even though I had the mouthpiece turned upside down.

Damage can be done to the instruments if assembled or handled incorrectly. I tried to minimize that damage by demonstrating the proper way to handle and assemble the instruments the first day of class. We did, however, spend the first part of each summer band class warming up with just the mouthpieces. What follows is an outline of those warm-ups:

  1. Review how to form the embouchure (More Info)
  2. Review how to start each note with the tongue. (The brass and flutes touch the alveolar ridge with the tip of the tongue. The reed instruments touch the tip of the reed with the tip of the tongue.)
  3. Review proper posture and breath support (More Info)
  4. Play whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes, and sixteenth notes with just the mouthpiece or flute head joint
  5. Play one-measure rhythm patterns and the students echo.
  6. Ask the students to stand up, watch the second hand on the wall clock, take a deep breath, and play one note as long as they can while keeping the pitch steady/constant. When they run out of air they sit down. Do this two or three times, trying to play longer each time. The goal is to help them to develop breath management.

In addition, the brass and flutes did the following:


  1. Review how to play high and low, paying attention to lip tension, aperture size, tongue position, and air speed.
  2. Play as low as possible and as high as possible.
  3. Make a siren sound by playing from low to high and back.
  4. Play simple tunes with the mouthpiece, ( e.g., Row, Row, Row Your Boat, Mary Had a Little Lamb, Happy Birthday, Star Wars, and so forth).


  1. Review how to play high, i.e., push the lower lip out, as if you were pouting, so that the lip covers part of the blowhole, and the aperture is made smaller by thinking of blowing cooler air.
  2. Cover the open end of the head joint with the right hand and think of blowing warm air (to create a larger aperture), and play a low note. Push the lower lip over the blowhole, think of blowing cooler air (to create a smaller aperture), and play a higher note.
  3. Do the same thing without covering the open end of the head joint.
  4. The goal was to be able to play all four head-joint overtones. Some students were able to play more notes by pushing the lower lip out further and making the aperture even smaller.
  5. Play simple tunes on the head joint by pushing a finger in and out of the open end.

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.