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Palen Music Center Quick Note

Monday, December 3, 2012


Palen Music Center is dedicated to helping children experience excellence, personal growth, and joy through involvement in music. We carry out this mission by supporting area band directors through weekly service, support, educational programs, and quality products. This weekly Quick Note newsletter strives to highlight topics that are immediately helpful in the classroom. Comments, suggestions, ideas, and articles are always welcome.


Looking for help on a particular topic? Be sure to check out our Quick Note Catalog of back issues!

The Care and Feeding of Woodwind Beginners
By Mary Ann French

Getting off to a good start with woodwind beginners can be somewhat overwhelming for even the best teachers. There are multiple instrument parts, reeds and mouthpiece set-ups, embouchures, and hand position, just to name a few of the things involved in getting started. In order to have a successful beginning year you need to have a plan. Here are a few ideas that may help.

  • Make sure your students have working instruments. If an instrument does not come from a recognized band instrument source, be sure to play it to make sure it is in good operating condition. Look for missing pads, springs, torn or missing corks, and uneven key action.

  • Each student should have a band binder in which they organize all their band music, theory papers, and band book. Clear plastic sheet protectors can keep sheet music organized although music must be removed while playing. A pencil bag should also be included stocked with pencils, a grading pen and highlighters. Have regular binder checks for grades if possible.

  • Carefully and thoroughly teach reed and ligature placement and check each student every day until you are sure that each student gets it right every time. Throughout the year, have surprise reed checks to stress the importance of having good reeds every day.

  • Stress good posture and hand position every day. It takes consistent and diligent attention to details to ensure these will become the norm. Great modeling from the teacher always helps get these points across!

  • Perform a quick articulation “call and echo” each day at the beginning of class. Tonguing is of utmost importance on woodwind instruments!

  • Have a counting and note-naming system and use it every day. Try to keep it fresh by using student demonstrations and making competitions out of counting and note-naming. Make sure you note-name with fingers and on pitch.

  • Move around the room constantly. Beginners don’t need a conductor – they need correction and encouragement. Many behavior issues can be dealt with quietly by moving to students that are off task or need some help without having to take class time.

  • Always end class in time for students to swab out their instruments and put all of their music and accessories away. This will help eliminate broken reeds, lost music and poor instrument care.

It is much easier to get it right the first time than to have to go back and correct bad habits! Make each day fun and interesting by changing pacing and activities and don’t be afraid to “punt” if something is not working. Try to teach each day with energy and enthusiasm .it will pay off!

Mary Ann French graduated from Arkansas Tech with a music education degree and has been active in music education for many years. She has taught in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Maryland, and Texas. Fifteen of her years were spent with the Pride of Owasso in Owasso Oklahoma. Mary Ann is an active clinician with bands as well as flute students.

She is currently serving as a road representative for Palen Music Center and can be reached by email at

Contact Your Local Palen Music Center Representative


Can we assist you with anything?  Please contact your local Palen Music Center school road representative for all of your music education needs.


Springfield Bob Hopkins, Wayne Blades, Jason Moore, Mike Steffen, AAron Bryan (417) 882-7000
Columbia Chuck Appleton and Rob Goade (573) 256-5555
Liberty Ken Crisp, John Bell, and Victoria Clymore (816) 792-8301
Joplin AAron Bryan (417) 781-3100
Broken Arrow Jeff Lawless and Mary Ann French (918) 286-1555


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