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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.

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.

"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
Grand Island , NE

Masterfoods 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 School
Quincy, Ill.

School music educators who submit their Playing Tips to School Band and Orchestra online will be eligible to win an embroidered SBO polo shirt as well as a special prize from Masterfoods USA. To enter, music educators can register their playing tips on the SBO Web site. One playing tip will be selected as the winner each month and, in addition to being awarded the prize, the winner's performance tip will be published in a subsequent issue of School Band and Orchestra magazine. Register your playing tip today!

The editorial staff at School Band and Orchestra would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the directors who submitted their playing tips online. Please continue to visit our Web site for important information for school band and orchestra directors. For more information about this contest, please visit If you would like to e-mail your Playing Tip, please send it to Editor Christian Wissmuller at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Here'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 be dramatic, or may be so subtle as to be almost imperceptible. The result of this performance technique is a phrase that comes alive and leads into subsequent phrases."


Directors who make a Difference

For over 20 years, School Band & Orchestra Magazine has been honoring amazing music educators from all 50 states. That's more than 1000 educators recognized for their outstanding contributions to music education programs!

Do you know a fantastic K-12 instrumental music educator who is deserving of recognition in SBO? Tell us why he or she should be featured in SBO’s annual "Directors Who Make a Difference" report.

Click here to nominate a director 

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