EPN Travel Services proudly presents: The Playing Tip of the Month!

Enter your warm-up, rehearsal, performance, or teaching tip for a chance to win a special prize from EPN Travel Services!

Winning Playing Tips will be published in School Band & Orchestra magazine.

Use a stopwatch to time transition events. For concert band rehearsals, use a site like online-stopwatch.com to show the students they have X-number of seconds to be ready after the bell, or you have X-number of time to practice this scale.

Read more: Time on Your Side

When you have that student who just can’t understand how to tongue on the clarinet or sax, take a drinking straw and have them stop and start the air with their tongue on the straw.

Read more: Drawing Straws

Descending lip slurs are a piece of cake, and almost no young brass student struggles with that skill.

Read more: Scaling the Slur

Take at least one or two minutes to warm up the percussion section when beginning class. Having them do sixteenth notes without accents in stick patterns RLRL, RRLL, RLRRLRLL on drums or pads.

Read more: Drummers: Ready and Engaged

During the warm-up chorale, I point to my ear periodically to remind students that it is THEIR job to play in tune.

Read more: That’s So Random

Still fighting the time battle? Nearly every student in your band program has their own smart phone or a tablet.

Read more: Time for Timers

Assign a method book exercise that gets the fingers/slides moving.

Read more: Have a Time Trial

Set your metronome to 60 bpm (beats per minute), one note each second.

Read more: Improving Your Speed Using a Metronome

When learning and rehearsing a new piece with your ensemble, allow them to have access to a recording AND a score in rehearsal, and online. They can study their parts and realize how they fit within the entire aural texture. During rehearsal, I use my computer and a school projector. Outside of rehearsal, students can visit the course website to see the same link to the audio as well as a PDF version of the score. Students can also be given score-study assignments for homework!

Ceylon Mitchell, Flutist

Communications Specialist

Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County

Silver Spring, Maryland

Don’t start playing until you are ready; mentally and physically prepare to commence. Too often, younger players try to begin playing before they are actually “set” to begin, resulting in poor entrances, missed rhythms and notes, and an array of other inaccuracies that otherwise might not occur if they simply take a moment to prepare. Think of a MLB pitcher going into his windup before actually throwing the ball, or the batter preparing before stepping into the box to receive a 98mph fastball, or the Olympic gymnast before the final segment of their floor routine. Musicians are no different in this respect. If students develop a habit of preparation before execution, the musicianship should improve.

Todd L. Hunter

Marywood University

Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania

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