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.

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

To get beginners to understand quantitative playing skills like air, tonguing, and embouchure, I use the 3 bears analogy and tell students to “find baby bear.” This accelerates learning and makes it interesting. Phrases like “You’re blowing like Papa Bear, use less air and keep it moving” or “Your tongue is like Mama Bear and is too light, you need to articulate more clearly.”

Michel Nadeau

Burr Intermediate School

Commack, New York

If you’re having a problem playing a certain passage, set out an empty glass with 10 pencils on the side.

Read more: Pencil Pushing

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.

Read more: Don’t Start Playing Until You Are Ready, Mentally and Physically

My long-time sax repair man showed me a trick that has saved me a lot of money on pad replacements.

Read more: Passing the Buck

Having worked with elementary band students for the past 26 years, I have found that having my Woodwind and Brasswind students think of the acronym AIM (Air in Motion) works a lot better than asking them to “support their air,” which can mean several things and become confusing.

Read more: Playing Tip of the Month: Taking AIM

Saxophone and clarinet players: look in the mirror, place the mouthpiece in your mouth with your normal embouchure and don’t play. Look at the lips and chin surrounding the mouthpiece, start to blow air into the mouthpiece until the reed vibrates. There should be no change in your lip, chin or face muscles from not playing to playing. If there is a clenching, or tightening of the area of the face surrounding the mouthpiece, you are choking off the reed and not allowing it to vibrate properly. The reed must be free to vibrate across the tip and both side rails. This will produce a more focused, rich, resonant sound full of overtones.

Mike Iappica
Parsippany Hills High School
Morris Palins, NJ

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