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.

Since 2009, Roy Vogt's Teach Me Bass Guitar (TMBG) has been acknowledged as the world's best course of self-paced bass guitar instruction, and it's now available in two formats - download/streaming and the traditional, award-winning 10 DVD package.

Read more: Teach Me Bass Guitar Now Available For Download and Streaming

To get all students involved and to quickly assess their knowledge, I will pose a question and have students close their eyes when they have the answer. I will then ask them to raise their hand when they hear the correct answer, or I will have them show me fingers for beat counts, et cetera. Doing this allows me to quickly get feedback on their retention and cuts down on written tests.

Read more: “Use the Force” For Quick 
Knowledge Assessment

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When tuning a chord, have students sing the chord, then bring the instruments up to their face and play the chord after a breath. They will quickly see the difference in intonation and adjust accordingly, if they are listening.

Read more: Sing the Chord!

I have seen too many triangle clamps with incorrect ways of supporting the triangle. Sometimes there is only one hole on the clamp for the support to pass through. There needs to be two holes in the base of the clamp. That being said, try using a small zip tie to connect the triangle to the clamp. It’s durable and doesn’t muffle the triangle sound. Be sure not to make the zip tie too tight or it will rub against the clamp.

Read more: Paying Tips: Zip Tie that Triangle!

To ensure young percussionists are playing with their stick beads close together, take a quarter or a fifty-cent piece and place it directly in the center of the drum head. Then take a pencil and trace a circle around the coin so your students can see the circle when they start to play. Instruct them to play within the circle. This will train them to play with their stick beads close together. This produces a more consistent sound on the drum. You can also draw a circle toward the front edge of the drum head for softer playing zones.”

Read more: Playing Tips: Keep the Tips Close

“When tuning, lightly articulate your tuning pitch a few times. Not only will this allow you to hear if you are above or below the reference pitch more easily, but it also ensures that you are in tune at the attack and not relying on embouchure or air adjustments to stay in tune.”

 

Michael Knight

St. Norbert College

De Pere, Wis.

“To get beginners to understand quantitative playing skills like breath control, tonguing, and embouchure, I use the three bears analogy. This accelerates learning and makes it interesting. Specific phrases might include ‘You’re blowing like Papa Bear, use less air and keep it moving,’ or ‘Your tongue is like Baby Bear’s and is too light, you need to articulate more clearly.’”

Michel Nadeau

Burr Intermediate School

Commack, NY

"When they’re playing the snare, I tell the kids to imagine that their sticks are on railroad tracks. They go forward to tap the drumhead and return along the same path in a "V" formation with the drumstick tips one inch above the drumhead and one inch apart – it’s the one-inch rule. This helps to develop good playing habits from the start, so that in later years they can play quick passages and with economy of movement."

Chris McAvoy
Mann Middle School
Lakewood, Wash.

"One of the most common contributions to a non-characteristic brass sound from a young player is the approach to articulation. Many use a 'default' articulation, such as 'poo,' 'thaw,' between the lips 'pthoo,' or just a 'whoo' with no tongue at all. The easiest ways to identify the style of articulation that a student is using is to have the student 'air-valve' (or slide) the musical phrase. Ask the student to play the phrase with no buzz - just air, valve, and tongue. Listen carefully to the syllable sounds that the student produces. It should be a 'daah' sound for the normal articulation, or possibly 'taah' for an accented note. The other styles of articulation mentioned earlier are generally not successful for good sound quality or accuracy on a brass instrument."

Steven Holgate
Governor Mifflin Senior High School
Shillington, Penn.

"Make sure that your trombone players are moving their slides properly by using their elbow, not their wrist. Using the elbow will improve the accuracy of each position, especially in more technical passages, and will therefore help to improve intonation and note accuracy."

John Vukmanich
Virginia Secondary School
Virginia, Minn.

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