Monday, November 2, 2015
IN THIS ISSUE:
Starting young students off on low brass instruments is sometimes a very daunting task. Often they are in that awkward stage in growing up and now we are putting an instrument in their hands that is as big as they are. You need to expect coordination issues and plan for extra time in your setup to accommodate for that. They will be a little slower at first then their high brass counterparts.
I find that it is a really good idea to use about 5-8 class periods before the students get their instruments to teach breathing, posture, and basic theory. (The staff, identifying notes, different types of notes, and we start with rhythm. (Half notes, quarter notes, and whole notes.) This is an excellent time to start teaching the air needed to play these rhythms as well as how to start the beginning of each note with the tongue. An excellent website to use for note identification is www.musictheory.net. This website will let you customize exercises into the clef sign that you want as well as let you take out accidentals and key signatures so that you can just concentrate on the lines and spaces of the staff. Don't forget to help the tuba players as well and make your range go down to their low Bb.
Once you get their instruments set up correctly, make sure that they are holding it correctly. It is very uncomfortable for trombone players at first. Just remember that you can adjust their setup by bringing the slide in closer to the bell so that their fingers can reach all the way to the mouthpiece when they are holding the trombone in their left hand. Watch the trombone players carefully as their left hand will often change to a fist to be more comfortable. They will get use to the correct hand position very quickly if you are adamant. Make sure that the tuba players are comfortable and that they have enough space around them. Many young tuba players will need a stand because they can not sit the tuba on the chair and then be able to reach the mouthpiece. There is not enough room on the chair. If a tuba stand is not available, you might consider turning a piano bench sideways and then having the student sit on a phone book. When teaching the right hand for the valve instruments, I have the students pretend that I am handing them a can of soda so that they get the "C". Then I have them pretend that they are pouring it into a glass and place their fingers on the valves. For trombone players, make sure they are holding the slide in their right hand with their thumb, first, and middle finger. When the students begin using a music stand, try to let each student have their own stand. This is important for low brass because of the size of the instruments that they are holding and to have good posture. Trombone stands should all be set up on the right side of the student and their slides should go beside the stand, not under it! A good trick is to put another chair sideways in front of the students who are having trouble with this. Their slide would need to go over the seat of the chair. Trombone players that have their music stand on the left side will end up dropping their instrument down because they cannot see through the bell of their instrument and their slide will be underneath the music stand.
The final thing that I will leave you with is this. I think that the fingering and slide charts in the back of the technique books are a huge disservice to our brass students. They need to see a visual representation of partials. This helps them understand that THEY determine if their note is going to be a high or low one. A chart like this also helps with understanding enharmonics, half steps, and sharps and flats. (It also helps the trombone players understand alternate positions and it lets all of the brass see that as you go higher, you use less of your instrument.) A part of the "chalk board" in my class room was always dedicated to the brass bookshelf. As we learned new notes in the book, we would write them in on the correct shelf. (Most of the notes have already been played while doing the position warm ups, I just don't go into the note names then.)