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Playing Tips

  • Playing Tips: Keep the Tips Close

    Mike Lawson | November 23, 2014

    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.”

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  • Articulate Your Tuning Pitch

    Mike Lawson | October 18, 2014“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 […] Read More...
  • Three Bears Analogy

    Mike Lawson | July 21, 2014“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 […] Read More...
  • Get on Track

    Mike Lawson | September 17, 2013“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 […] Read More...
  • To ‘daah’ or not to ‘daah’

    Mike Lawson | October 22, 2006“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 […] Read More...
  • Use Your Elbows

    Mike Lawson | October 22, 2006“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. Read More...
  • Tape Your Flute

    Mike Lawson | October 22, 2006“To avoid some confusion for beginning flute players’ finger position, I put a small piece of masking tape on the first and third button of the left hand portion of the flute. The tape is removed after a week or so when the players can find the natural finger position.” Terry Speed Westridge Middle School […] Read More...
  • Flute Fun

    Mike Lawson | November 1, 2003Masterfoods USA proudly presents: “We play a game with our flute section to help them be aware of their instrument positioning and maintain proper angle. Students put a pencil in their flute, at the end opposite the mouthpiece. They must keep the pencil from falling out when playing during rehearsal.” Harold Walt Quincy Junior High […] Read More...
  • Long Tones and Dynamic Phrasing

    Mike Lawson | January 1, 2002Here’s the tip from this month’s winner, David Hale, Centennial High School, Franklin, Tenn.: “Approach long tones with a specific goal in dynamic phrasing. Most long tones should actively keep the phrase alive by getting louder or softer. For younger students, this attention to phrase endings improves breath support. This type of dynamic shading may […] Read More...
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