Guide for the Middle School Band Director

Mike Lawson • ChoralCommentary • October 12, 2012

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Part I of this article, which appeared in SBO’s September 2012 issue, contained a list of books and literature guides for the middle or junior high school band director. The second half of this guide contains musical resources for use in the band rehearsal, such as warm-ups, chorales, and other specific technique-building exercises. Most of the resources contained in this document have been written since the year 2000; however some published prior to that date were included if deemed significantly appropriate by the compiler. Musical resources are identified with publisher-assigned grades when available.



Part 2: Musical Resources




Five Progressive Chorales for Developing Bands 


Brian Balmages; FJH Music Company Inc., 2008.


Publisher Grade: 1-2.5


Appropriate for bands playing grade 1-2.5 music, these chorales offer band directors the opportunity to work on ensemble sound, intonation, and phrasing. The chorales include various dynamic and tempo markings, as well as other musical elements that are introduced throughout. There are two mallet parts, one easier and one more advanced, as well as an auxiliary percussion part. Also included is a piano part, which can be used in many different ways. The chorales are of varying difficulty levels and their intended use is with beginning through advanced middle school students; the first chorale only uses six notes.




Five Minutes a Day #1: A Warm-Up and Tuning Routine 


Andy Clark; C. L. Barnhouse Company, 1991.


Publisher Grade: 1.5


Taking up only five minutes of rehearsal time, this routine is divided into three movements intended to easily and quickly begin a rehearsal. The first movement is a short chorale in concert Eb major. The second movement is a key study and technique exercise, moving through six major keys. The third movement is to assist with tuning.  The percussion music contains parts for snare drum and bass drum, though they are tacit during the chorale and tuning portions.




Refining the March Style 


Larry Clark; Carl Fischer LLC, 2007


Publisher Grade: 2


These warm-up exercises are intended to help young bands learn the correct style of playing marches. Through 10 exercises, students have the opportunity to work on key changes (as often present in the trio), playing and understanding the differences between staccato and accented notes, playing syncopated rhythms, and playing chromatic figures that are often found in march melodies. Instructions on how to use the march warm ups are included in the conductor score. Mallet, timpani, snare drum, bass drum, and cymbal parts are included.




Connections: Chorales and Exercises to Emphasize the Art of Legato Playing for the Middle-Level Band 


Larry Clark and Sean O’Loughlin; Carl Fischer, 2006.


This series, by popular beginning band composers Larry Clark and Sean O’Loughlin, contains exercise sets in seven major and four minor keys specifically written for the middle level band. Each key set contains drills and chord progressions (moving through whole notes, half notes, and quarter notes) and leads up to a full chorale setting based on the studied chord progression. There are also instrument-specific daily exercises, working on strength and flexibility in the brass, technical facility in the woodwinds, and rudiments for the percussionists. Contains individual conductor and student books.




Rhythm Builders for Developing Bands 


James Curnow; Curnow Music Press, 1997.


Publisher Grade: 1-2.5


This set contains 14 mini-compositions designed to help bands develop basic rhythmic skills. The pieces are intended to be enjoyable for students to play, but the composer notes that while they should be studied on a daily basis, they are not to be performed. The composer suggests the necessity of teaching a specific counting procedure that will encourage consistent mental subdivision of the beat. The studies start with very simple time signatures and rhythms, and progress to more complex rhythms and meters. Percussion parts are included for snare drum, bass drum, mallets, timpani, and auxiliary.




Sight-Reading Builders for Developing Bands


James Curnow; Curnow Music Press, 2006.


Publisher Grade: 1-2.5


Sight-reading is an important skill for all musicians. Included in this set are 14 short pieces to help students develop this skill. The pieces explore a number of styles, tempos, and dynamics, as well as key and meter changes. The pieces are arranged in progressive order of difficulty. Percussion parts are included for snare drum, bass drum, auxiliary, mallets, and timpani.




Band Technique Step By Step 


Robert Elledge and Donald Haddad: Neil A. Kjos Music Company, 1992.


Publisher Grade: 1


Perfect for middle school and junior-high bands, this book offers a complete technique program ideal for the full band rehearsal setting. The book is broken into 16 units, eight in major keys and eight in their relative minor keys. Each unit contains studies in: intonation, scales, tonguing, rhythms (basic and advanced), chords, intervals, melodic rhythms (basic and advanced), thirds, and harmonics. In addition, each unit has instrument specific exercises intended to be used in private or like-instrument lesson settings. The book concludes with four chorales, advanced rhythm studies, and chromatic studies. The percussion book includes parts for snare drum, bass drum, and mallets. There is a separate book for timpani. The conductor score gives a detailed explanation about the book itself as well as rehearsal suggestions and percussion considerations for each lesson type. Contains individual conductor and student books.




Chorale Warm Ups for Young Band 


Sandy Feldstein and Larry Clark; C.L. Barnhouse Company, 2008.


Publisher Grade: 2


This collection of five chorales, arranged from popular hymns or songs, is intended to help young students improve their lyrical and legato playing. The chorales are in the major keys of Bb, Eb, Ab, and F and the highest note for trumpet 1 is a written F. There are mallet, snare drum, bass drum, and auxiliary percussion parts for each chorale, as well as a part for piano accompaniment.




Essential Musicianship for Band: Intermediate Ensemble Concepts


Eddie Green, John Benzer, David Bertman, and Evelio Villarreal; Hal Leonard Corporation, 2005


As part of the Essential Musicianship series, this book was written for intermediate ensembles to be used as a daily exercises. The concepts are presented in developmental order and are first introduced individually before combined into more challenging exercises. Each exercise includes both goals for the students and goals for the director. The book is divided into ten units including: Ensemble Sound, Rhythm and Tonguing Exercises, Intervals Moving Up and Down, Pick-Up Exercises, Learning a Major Scale, Major Scale Exercises, Learning a Chromatic Scale, Chromatic Scale Exercises in Fifths, Rhythm and Tonguing Exercises with Triplets, and Combining Eighth and Sixteenth Notes. There is also additional information in the back of the conductor’s score regarding posture, breathing, articulation, and various playing concepts. The percussion book includes parts for mallets, snare drum, bass drum, and auxiliary. There are alternate parts written for horn and clarinet to be used when range is an issue. Contains individual conductor and student books.




Directional Warm-Ups for Band


Brian Harris; Publications, 2009.


This warm-up book focuses on the development of three types of skills: Horizontal Playing Skills – intonation, tone quality, and melodic nuance; Vertical Playing Skills – precise ensemble playing; and Depth of Playing Skills – fundamentals using long tones, scales, and concept targets. Written for advanced middle school bands, the first part of the book contains 16 units, each dedicated to a major or minor key, with both scale studies and etudes to work on the horizontal skills.


The second part of the book contains 20 traditional four-part chorales to focus on the vertical skills. The book also includes rhythm patterns, a piano keyboard diagram, and a glossary. The percussion book includes parts for snare drum and bass drum; there are separate books for timpani and mallet percussion.  More information about this book can be found at Contains individual conductor and student books.




Twelve Chorales for Developing Bands


Quincy Hilliard; FJH Music Company, Inc., 2001.


Publisher Grade: 3


These 12 short chorales are intended to help students improve balance, intonation, and tone quality. Rated “medium-easy” by one source and Grade 3 by the publisher, the chorales are playable for middle school ensembles. The chorales feature four major (F, B?, E?, A?) and three minor keys (D, C, F) as well as one that has a C center. Percussion parts are included for mallets, timpani, snare drum, bass drum, and auxiliary, though not all parts are utilized on all chorales.




Syncopation Builders for Developing Bands. 


Timothy Johnson; Curnow Music Press, 2007.


Publisher Grade: 1-2


These exercises are a great way to introduce and reinforce syncopated rhythms to students. Within each exercise there is a unison syncopated sequence, a unison melodic sequence, and then a short composition to help reinforce those elements. Snare drum, bass drum, mallet, and auxiliary percussion parts are included. Assigned to grade 1-2, these exercises are appropriate for middle and junior high school bands.




Warm-Ups and Beyond


Timothy Loest and Kevin Lepper; FJH Music Company Inc., 2003.


Warm-Ups and Beyond is a comprehensive rehearsal book written specifically for developing bands. Part 1 contains basic warm-ups in ten keys (five major and their relative minors) that are ideal for younger players, as they use a very limited range. Part 2 contains advanced warm-ups, in the same major and minor keys that include scales and arpeggios, chord/balance exercises, chromatics, chorales, and more. Part 3 is intended to help students practice key changes. Scale exercises and familiar melodies are written with modulations a perfect fourth away from the original key. Part 4 begins with an explanation of articulations and has ten articulation etudes, using the same major and minor keys. Part 5 contains flexibility exercises to help students improve tone, range, and endurance. The book concludes with a glossary of terms, symbols, and techniques and then scales for individual study. The percussion section is integrated throughout with exercises focusing on sticking, rudiments, and accessory techniques. Contains individual conductor and student books.




Fourteen Weeks to a Better Band: Book 1.


Roger Maxwell; C. L. Barnhouse Co., 1974.


This book is a “unison approach for reading improvement.” Geared towards junior high students (grades 7-9), the book takes a methodical approach to reinforcing the understanding of 14 basic rhythmic figures. It is intended for the bands to study one rhythm per week, starting with eighth notes and progressing through cut time and compound meter rhythms. Within each week’s rhythmic figure there is an example of the rhythm, an exercise devoted to the rhythm, and then a related study that also utilizes the rhythm in a “fun” way. Week 14 includes major, minor, and chromatic scales, as well as a warm-up chorale. The percussion book contains parts for snare drum and bass drum; the snare drum typically plays rhythms in unison with the winds (with added flams and rolls) while the bass drum plays more traditional bass drum parts. Contains individual conductor and student books.




Great Warm-Ups for Young Band


Bruce Pearson; Neil A. Kjos Music Company, 2000.


Publisher Grade: 1-2


Called a “variety pack of warm-ups,” this set of exercises contains a number of different studies to improve a band’s musicianship. The exercises included are: Chop Builders, Technique Builders, Articulation Builders, Ear Trainers, Tuning Exercises, Concert Scales, Chorales, and more. Though they are rated “easy” by one source, and assigned grade 1-2 by the publisher, the authors claim the exercises are playable for bands playing “very easy,” through “medium easy” music. Snare drum, bass drum, auxiliary, mallet, and timpani parts are included, as well as a piano part for rehearsal use.




Technicises for Band: Putting the Pieces Together. 


Jim Probasco and Dan Meeks; Heritage Music Press, 2000.


Publisher Grade: 3


The introduction says it all: “an innovated, comprehensive ensemble-based tuning, warm-up and technique book.” The book is organized by key: eight major keys and their relative minors. There are 12 scale-based exercises written for each key, beginning with a half-note scale and progressing to more complex rhythms and intervals. Exercises are written in score-form and easily combinable to allow for many options. Several chorales are included, all based on Bach chorales, as well as chromatic scales and major key arpeggios. The percussion book includes parts for snare drum (tacet during most chorales) and there is a separate mallet percussion book. The conductor score gives brief suggestions on how to utilize the method. The publisher has assigned these exercises grade 3, but they are ideal for bands playing music rated “easy” through “medium-easy.” Contains individual conductor and student books.




First Band Clinic: A Warm-Up and Fundamental Sequence for Concert Band


Robert W. Smith; Belwin- Mills Publishing Corp., 2005


Publisher Grade: 1


Written by well-known band composer Robert W. Smith, the First Band Clinic consists of four warm-up exercise sets to be used during the concert band rehearsal. The exercises are divided into four categories, the first being Tone, which contains a long tone exercise. The second section is dedicated to Technique Development. It contains lip flexibility exercises for the brass, finger dexterity exercises for the woodwinds, and sticking exercises for percussion. The third section, Theory and Composition, contains pentascales, chord progressions, and compositions opportunities. The final section is a Chorale. The introduction to the conductor score has several notes and suggestions on utilizing the warm-ups, as well as a sample lesson plan. The warm-ups were assigned grade 1 by the publisher and are playable by young middle school bands. Percussion parts are included for mallets, timpani, snare drum, bass drum, and auxiliary.


Developing Band Clinic: A Warm-Up and Fundamental Sequence for Concert Band


Robert W. Smith; Belwin-Mills Publishing Corp., 2005.


Publisher Grade: 2


This set of warm-ups is a continuation of Robert W. Smith’s First Band Clinic. The exercises are broken into four sections: Tone, Technique, Theory and Composition, and Chorale. Intended to help students develop a solid fundamental base, the author suggests these warm-ups should be used regularly in the concert band rehearsal. The introduction to the conductor score has several notes and instructions on utilizing the warm-ups, as well as a sample lesson plan. The warm-ups were assigned grade 2 by the publisher and are playable by advanced middle school bands. Percussion parts are included for mallets, timpani, snare drum, bass drum, and auxiliary.




Three Chorales for Young Band


Keith Terrett; Jalen Publishing, 2008.


Publisher Grade: Easy


This collection of three chorales was written for young bands to work on phrasing, balance, and intonation. “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” “Morning Has Broken,” and “Nearer My God, to Thee” all have parts written for percussion, including mallets, snare drum, bass drum, and auxiliary.




Three Welsh Chorales for Young Band


Keith Terrett; Jalen Publishing, 2009.


Publisher Grade: Easy


“All Through the Night,” “Hyfrydole,” and “Cwm Rhondda” are the three chorales included in this set. The chorales were arranged for young to intermediate level band. Parts are included for mallets, snare drum, bass drum, and auxiliary percussion.




In its entirety, this guide equips middle and junior-high school band directors with resources for all aspects of their concert band programs. The warm-ups, chorales, rhythm exercises, tuning exercises, and various other technique-building drills listed here will help build and maintain successful middle school bands.


Theresa Hoover is an active conductor, performer, and educator. Currently Ms. Hoover is the band director at St. Joseph School and The Holy Child Academy, both in Southeastern PA. Ms. Hoover directs the Chester County Youth Wind Ensemble and in 2012 was the guest conductor for the Archdiocesan Elementary Honor Band. 


Ms. Hoover holds a B.S. in Music Education from the Pennsylvania State University and a M.M. in Instrumental Wind Conducting from West Chester University, studying with Dr. Andrew Yozviak and Dr. Gregory Martin.

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