Junior High Band
Teaching Tips

Require Good Equipment

One unusual year at the high school we had 21 flutes in our top band. We put them through a variety of tests to determine their seating arrangement. Once we determined the seating assignments, I decided to check their instruments. It turned out we hadn’t seated them in order of their playing ability, we had seated them according to the condition of their flutes. The best instrument in the best condition was first chair and the worst instrument in the worst condition was last chair.

Another year we had the weakest clarinet section we had ever had. Since my instrument is clarinet, I spent most of my time trying to bring the section up to speed. At the end of the first quarter there had been little or no improvement. We invested in 12 professional-model clarinets. Overnight the section turned into the best section we ever had.

A similar thing happened at the junior high. The Jazz Band saxophone section was struggling to hold its own with the other sections. I bought a set of jazz mouthpieces and that solved the problem.

By far the best-sounding band I observed that first year was in a small town in rural Utah. They were so far away from any major city that when it was time to purchase instruments the band director had one store bring all the same model and brand of clarinets, cornets (not trumpets), flutes, and so forth, all with professional mouthpieces and his favorite reeds. They sounded better the first day than my students sounded at mid-year.

Bottom line here, the quality and condition of the instruments are crucial to the sound of the band.

One of the directors I observed held random “reed checks.” I tried that with little success. It was hard for me to be random and consistent. I ended up having “good equipment” as a quarterly assignment. To get full credit it had to be signed off before the end of the 3rd week of the quarter - - buying new reeds after the concert didn’t help us much. The requirements were as follows:

  • Brass
    1. All slides and valves working properly
    2. Proper lubricants, i.e., valve oil, slide cream, slide grease, etc.
    3. At least one lukewarm bath per quarter
  • Woods
    1. Four good reeds. (Oboes and bassoons at least two)
    2. Proper cleaning equipment, i.e., swab, soft cloth, etc.
    3. All pads and springs working properly
  • Percussion
    1. At least one pair of drum sticks permanently marked with your name
    2. A practice pad or drum to practice on at home.

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.