Steger Sixth Grade Students
Good day. I am writing to explain my band class homework policy. I believe that it is imperative that each student practice a minimum of 5 days a week. Historically, band teachers would state that 30 minutes of practice per day was the minimum to reflect what is needed for success. I know that there are growing demands on your time and your child’s time. Playing an instrument requires muscle development, thought development and experience working independently towards self-discovery with the guidance of a teacher. This skill set cannot be developed by ‘cramming’ 2 hours of practice on Saturday morning. I am asking for your support in having your child practice each day. I do not want you to tell your child how long they should practice but rather help them to focus on the quality of practice. On a day that affords more time their practice might to 20 or 30 minutes or longer. On a day that is busy the practice may consist of a 5 to 7 minute warm-up and practice on one item. At this point we want to develop a habit of daily practice focused on quality practice over time spent holding the instrument.
To help facilitate the best use of time please set up an area that is always ready with a chair, music stand, metronome and pencil. The toughest part of practicing for most children is getting started. By being organized and setting a scheduled time to practice each day you can help remove roadblocks to your child’s success. The first part of class each day is designed to help students know what and how to practice at home. Listening to good music is also considered part of homework. Many great recordings and performances are available at no cost through YouTube.
Take time to recognize your son or daughters effort and let them know you are listening and proud of them. Ask for your son or daughter to give you a mini concert on a regular basis. I believe that consistent, focused and thoughtful home practice with the support and guidance of parents and siblings will provide your son or daughter with the best opportunity to be successful in band. Parents that show an interest in their child’s life validate the effort and give the child the support to try, fail and try again knowing that they have the support of their family. DO NOT TEASE OR COMPLAIN.
Reading notes: Students should read and play what they see in real time. If your child is struggling to perform a song break the song into smaller chunks.
- Name each note in time.
- Practice the fingering or slide position while naming the notes.
- Play the song.
Practice Rule: If the student is not able to play the song error free…slow down the tempo.
Rational: More time to think about each note, process what to do and react in time. Speed will come.
Flutes, Oboes Trombone, Baritones and Percussion should be comfortable playing: Bb, C, D, Eb and F
Clarinets and Trumpets should be comfortable playing: C, D, E, F and G
Alto Saxophones should be comfortable playing: G, A, B, C and D
Warm up should include buzzing on mouthpieces for brass, low and middle tones on the head joint for flutes and crowing on the reed for oboes.
On the instrument students should begin with long tones. Each pitch that they know should be played several times for 4 to 8 counts focusing on good breath support, good tone, starting the sound by setting the air behind the tongue and releasing the air in a controlled manner to start the tone. The air should not escape into the cheeks causing the cheeks to puff out.
After long tones students should work on basic quarter note exercises. We have numbered the first five notes as scale degrees. 1 through 5 (Lowest to highest) eg. Alto Saxophone: G is 1, A is 2, B is 3, C is 4 and D is 5
Examples of Exercises to help with dexterity and control:
1 2 3 4 5 5 5 Repeated 5 4 3 2 1 1 1 Repeated 1 2 3 4 5 5 5 breath 5 4 3 2 1 1 1 Repeated
1 2 1 2 1 2 1 Repeated 1 3 1 3 1 3 1 Repeated 1 4 1 4 1 4 1 Repeated 1 5 1 5 1 5 1 Repeated
Any combination of notes will help students build and develop a vocabulary needed to play the songs.
The students are bright enough to memorize the exercise, but don’t. Reading music is the goal. Looking at each note and reading at this beginning stage will help students gain the skill to read when things get more complicated. To get the most from this portion of practice students should be looking at each note while playing it.