Trombone Recital in Launceston - Featuring the music of Georg Telemann, Edvard Grieg, Astor Piazzolla, Elizabeth Raum and Arthur Frackenpohl
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there” … John Lennon
“Professionals rehearse because they perform. Amateurs/students perform because they rehearse. The rehearsal is the main event” … Craig Kirchhoff
“My rehearsal is my most important performance” ... Monte Mumford
As much as we might agree that planning for every rehearsal is important, both the writing, and using of comprehensive rehearsal plans can be daunting. And, what about all those pesky considerations, such as;
“Where do I start? I have such limited time… I must prepare for the next concert… I must teach the pieces… My students never practice their parts at home… How will we ever be ready in time?” etc…
At this point it is essential to remember that rehearsal plans generally reflect our ‘core’ music philosophy and overall purpose for inspiring students through rewarding participation in mastering skill, knowledge and artistic expression through our rehearsal routine. Is the ‘next concert’ our true destination, or is it our ensemble’s overall musical development and advancement?
To this end it is imperative that we frequently revisit, re-examine and continually adjust our educational philosophy to ensure that it consistently supports and informs our purpose and direction for each and every rehearsal. After all, we should remember that as conductors, we are educators first. What do we wish for our ensemble members to gain through our rehearsals? Without meticulous planning it will not be possible to effectively lead and instruct our ensembles in the short rehearsal time allotted. If the lack of rehearsal time is a real concern, it is imperative that we work with a detailed plan of specific targets, strategies and goals with realistic timings to ensure steady progress.
Like many challenges, once you have the ‘learning curve’ down for creating and delivering a balanced rehearsal plan, it becomes much easier. After the first plan is written and delivered, it then serves as a template for the rest of our plans for the term.
Here are some guidelines I find helpful in my initial rehearsal planning routine.
1. I carefully consider the priorities of what my ensemble will need to know to meet generic performance requirements, such as:
3. I find it incredibly useful and most effective when I can share my plan via email with my ensemble three or more days before the next rehearsal. This provides the ensemble sufficient time to respond and employ the suggestions I have shared towards our next rehearsal.
The use of meticulous, systematic rehearsal plans leads to measurable, rewarding outcomes, and also ensures positive engagement and continued growth. However, it is important to also understand that these intensive, broad-based rehearsals are to be planned so that their content and activities are tailored to fit into whatever time frame you are working. "There is always to to do what you want to do." ,,, Benton Minor
Be both persistent and consistent, for the rewards of a well-trained ensemble are truly worth the effort. As an added benefit, well prepared plans can also establish our credibility to both colleagues and students alike.
My rehearsal plans generally consist of the following three major sections
1. Warm-up: physical preparation and mental focus, employing;
“Circle of 4ths” studies and related exercises as needed;
developing independence and aural awareness
2. Training: technical and interpretative exercises/studies **
rhythmic and pitch vocabulary materials – rhythms, scales, arpeggios, the use of relatively short, unison etudes phrase and harmonic development through the use of chorale material
3. Performance repertoire: sight-reading and performance works
all of repertoire choices are consistently matched to the level of the warm-up, training and chorale materials and overall abilities required by the repertoire.
This three-point rehearsal format is based upon the use of a series of annually adjusted ‘Student/member Learning Objectives’ (SLOs). These are broken down into term goals and addressed through weekly rehearsal plans. These SLOs can be further broken down into the introduction and use of ‘long term, mid-term and short-term’ practice strategies (more on these later). The end point of our use of ‘rehearsal plans’ is to ultimately demonstrate to our ensemble members how to successfully invest in planning their home practice routine for successful progression and measurable, positive returns on their ‘investment’!
1. Circle of 4ths – Alternative Rehearsal Techniques* - The purpose of the various exercises introduced through the Ed Lisk Circle of 4th routine is to “redirect” thought and attention away from written notation (visual skills) to the art of listening (auditory skills). It is also useful in building individual and group concentration skills and individual engagement with independence. The mental processes and visualisation techniques promote ensemble member participation and focusing attention. It also provides for activating and improving individual listening skills through internal pulse development and aural awareness in scale, arpeggio and interval work.
2. Technical development (I generally split this section into two parts)
b. Chorale studies provide opportunities for developing perceptions of balance, blend and
vertical intonation, as well as for exposure to the all-important harmonic movement (departure and arrival), and harmonic context as the driving force in phrase sensitive expression/interpretation.
There are several method/etude/chorale ensemble texts# (see list below) that can be systematically employed for every level of ensemble expertise; the choices are many. However, ultimately, it is not the material you choose, but how you choose to use it that really matters. (A topic for another post, but they are designed to be used sequentially!)
The important point here is that we employ the training material systematically every rehearsal with special attention to applying the learning strategies to home practice routine. In fact, every amateur and professional sporting club both appreciates and practices the importance of daily training discipline in every turn-out. Every rehearsal provides a valuable lesson in how to practice at home: make an opportunity to introduce a learning strategy and then demonstrate its effectiveness, in every rehearsal! We, in fact become trusted investment counsellors.
3. Repertoire and the Rehearsal Proper:
It is at this point that we need to see that a major function of our repertoire choice should provide for opportunities to reinforce the technical and musical development of our ensemble. Our plan therefore will need to effectively connect the training material introduced in the first two sections of the rehearsal towards addressing the technical and musical challenges found in our repertoire choices. We must not lose sight of the fact that we are trying to build generic skills and musical knowledge to meet the musical and technical demands of our repertoire. That is why it is vitally important that the mastery of technique and musical interpretation are separately introduced and learned prior to exposure to the current repertoire in the folder. Be careful to choose repertoire that does not exceed the capacity of your ensemble to meet its technical and musical demands.
Therefore, when moving on to planning and preparing the performance repertoire section of your rehearsal, it is important to list the specific issues for consideration, such as how will your repertoire best serve achieving your music education philosophy. You will need consider what sections will need attention and how they should be approached and prepared with references and examples drawn specifically from the training materials.
The ability to balance your training and performance activities requires both vision and dogged commitment to meticulous planning, timing and above all, patience. We must remain committed to the ‘long game’.
Point to ponder… Good rehearsals always include connective analogies, metaphors and narrative (stories) to assist our ensemble in understanding musical concepts difficult to understand and promote the intrinsic value of excellence in music performance over short-term extrinsic rewards.
Additional notes and resource lists:
*Circle of 4ths Rational and use: Why I both promote and employ the Circle of 4ths strategies as a foundation of warm-up procedure across every rehearsal.
Through the use of the “Circle of 4ths” exercises and stratagems, I focus on developing rhythmic internal and external pulse awareness through the use of subdivision, and vertical pitch alignment through beat-less tuning, harmonic alignment and balance:
accurate rhythm and duration,
pitch, tone quality and intonation
harmonic and melodic ensemble balance and blend
key centre cognation
Employing the Circle of 4ths programme and related applications enables ensembles to increase their automised skills base through its application throughout the rehearsal. It is important to understand that all of the ‘Circle of 4th’ exercises are to be ’un-conducted’ and are solely dependent on each individual’s internal pulse. They are expected to listen to the ensemble for developing and matching tone quality, intonation, balance, blend and corporate time and internal pulse.
**On-line resources for ‘Rhythm Reading”
I believe that it is important to share online resources with our ensembles, which will assist in priming curiosity and individual engagement with technical and musical growth, as this promotes individual responsibility and ownership.
Here are three rhythm sites that can be of great assistance. All three appear to be free and interactive. The 3rd site includes a print option, so I share them with in hopes that they will assist in improving rhythm vocabulary. Mastering rhythm notation is key to ultimate success in sight-reading, so, happy rhythm reading! http://www.daniellaberge.com/music/rhythm/rhythm1.htm
#Texts and training materials
The Creative Director Alternative Rehearsal Techniques (Edward Lisk)
Rhythm Spectrum for Effective Rhythmic Development (Ed Sueta)
“Sound Innovations” books 1-2 (Robert Sheldon)
“Sound Innovations Ensemble Method” books 1-3 (Robert Sheldon)
“Accent on Achievement” - books 1-3 (John O’Reilly)
“Traditions of Excellence” – books 1-3 (Bruce Pearson)
“Essential Elements” - books 1-3 (Tom Rhodes)
“Symphonic Band Warm -ups“ (Claude Smith)
Exploring the rationale behind the use of rehearsal warm-up and training activities in a music education environment.
During the opening weeks of my first semester at the University of Northwestern as Director of Bands (2005-2010), I spent a great deal of my time, both watching and listening to my new colleagues and students as I settled into the business of teaching music through performance ensembles. As I watched and listened, I began to notice a certain ‘disconnect’ with regards to my student’s understanding of my educative direction and purpose in our Symphonic Band Rehearsals. I became curious as to the nature of their personal and corporate engagement, both inside and outside of our rehearsals. I ultimately concluded that many of my students held very different views from mine as to the purpose of ensemble rehearsals in general. In fact, we were poles apart as I was soon to discover.
Following one particularly frustrating rehearsal, I asked my senior members as to why they believed that there was a symphonic band on our campus. The only answer that they could offer was “well, every school has a band”. Apparently in their minds, participation in the school ‘band’ had not been considered to be of any particular educational value outside of a ‘fun’ activity, meant in someway to provide a relief from the grind of the daily diet of academia and ‘homework’, or to encourage communal team spirit and the sundry benefits of ‘social participation’ in such ‘co-curricular activities’. To be sure, there was a certain degree of commitment to preparing for festivals, contests and the twice-yearly school concert. However, these events were seen as destinations that somehow became the ultimate justification for the existence of their school performance ensembles. And, it was also tacitly understood by most ensemble members that the actual preparation for these ‘important events’ was to be achieved solely within the actual rehearsal period, and certainly not through the process of personal home practice.
I wonder how often we engage in exploring, questioning and considering what it is our ensemble members understand, or believe as to the importance of their participation in school performance ensembles? I suspect that there are many and varied beliefs, and that we might be surprised by hearing their thoughts…
Upon reflection of my students' answers, I was struck with the urgent need and importance for school ensemble rehearsals to clearly reflect and promote academic rigour with systematic and sequential purpose in the pursuit of performance music participation. Indeed, if we are to secure the ongoing support and respect of our administrators, colleagues, students and parents alike as to the valuable educative assets and outcomes of music ensemble participation in the school community, our ensemble rehearsals will need to clearly demonstrate the acquisition, purpose and effective use of learning processes, which in turn lead to measurable, transferable skills, a useful knowledge base and identifiable outcomes.
Over the years I have often observed ensemble directors playing down the importance of the warm-up/training portion of their rehearsal, relegating it to something that one has to ‘get through’ so that they can get on to the ‘more important’ task of teaching our repertoire. Generally, these routine activities consist of a few minutes of playing through a couple of scales, (often the same ones each rehearsal) and a tuning exercise, maybe employing an electric tuner, a tuba, oboe or vibraphone: then, it’s quickly on to the ‘all-important’ repertoire. When the warm-up portion of rehearsal is seen in this light I believe, we are missing a great opportunity for sharing effective and imaginative learning strategies, and applications in acquiring the skills necessary for musically rewarding rehearsal and performance outcomes.
To be both worthy, and effective of the time allocated, the warm-up/training portion of the rehearsal has to have direct relevance and connection to what will follow on in the repertoire to be rehearsed. Ensemble warm-ups should be used for the process of introducing, preparing and shaping our ensemble’s knowledge and skill level necessary for meeting both the present musical demands, as well as for identifying and preparing for future learning goals.
In fact, our rehearsals should actually reflect our personal philosophy of music education, providing models and practical instruction on how ensemble members are to develop, organise and utilise their own personal practice routine. The main function of the warm-up/training portion is to provide basic strategies on mental focus and concentration, tone production, breath control/bowing/sticking, embouchure development, internal pulse, meter cognition, automatic responses relating to rhythmic and melodic notation, learning and practice strategies, phrasing, harmonic sensitivity and most importantly, independence. In fact, there should be specific reasons and attendant goals for everything contained in our warm-ups as they generally comprise the most precious time of our rehearsal structure: the first 15 – 20 minutes.
Therefore, everything that happens in those first few minutes should be systematically planned to address not only the repertoire which is to follow, but to also prepare our ensembles how to acquire and use technical and interpretive skills and knowledge. It logically follows then that both the materials and strategies used in warm-ups should be assisting in providing our ensemble with the tools/techniques/skills required to meet both the technical and musical demands of our present repertoire choices as well as for our student’s future learning strategies. Planning warm-up/training sessions then requires careful preparation and systematic planning, as to how one selects their material and arranges the various activities which will aid in achieving our educative goals by the end of the day’s rehearsal, the semester and the year before us.
The Edward Lisk “Alternative Rehearsal Technique” warm-up system is perfectly suited to forming the basis of developing creative and imaginative warm-ups as it provides endless exercise opportunities, based around the use of the Circle of Fourths. I personally have successfully used his concepts and exercises to great effect over the last 28 years with ensembles of all ages and experience levels. I also employ a wide variety of chorales, such as Frank Erickson’s “66 Festive and Famous Chorales”, Richard Thurston’s “Bach Chorales for Band”, and Leonard Smith’s “Treasury of Scales for Band and Orchestra”. Depending on the level of ensemble, I include the use of assorted standard method books such as the “Traditions of Excellence”, “Essential Elements” and “Sound Innovations”, etc. With more advanced ensembles I employ technical studies, such as Claude T. Smith’s “Symphonic Warm-ups for Band”, Raymond Fussell’s “Exercises for Ensemble Drill”, Ed Sueta’s “Rhythm Spectrum” exercise book containing 67 progressing rhythm charts and “Sound Innovations Ensemble Training Series”. (This is just a small offering as there are many more for consideration.) The most important issue, however, is to make use of a variety of exercises and texts so that the only routine is the actual time, and not the specific exercises.
An important factor in designing and delivering imaginative and effective warm-ups is found making sure that the material you use is related to addressing and developing both long term generic skills and also addressing specific skills directly contained in the specific performance repertoire you are presently engaged in preparing. It is also important to remember to avoid consistently using the same material and/or employing predictable training routines. This practice dulls the mind, often resulting in a ‘disconnect’, or mental withdrawal from the activity. The main thrust should always be to remind our ensembles that using the ‘learning process’ is their responsibility, not ours, and that they themselves own what they learn. It is our responsibility to model and introduce how to effectively use the time and material, while proving its value by demonstrating the success experienced when the strategies and material are used. The rest is up to them. We might be surprised if we asked an Olympian athlete to describe their outlook and philosophy on their warm-up/training routine.
The actual content found in method books, chorale books, rhythmic studies and technical etudes listed above is not as crucial as the learning process applied to the specific material, leading to successful outcomes. Instead, it is the actual learning process that is most significant and how it is applied to other musical (or non-musical) challenges. Why is the exercise there in the first place, how does it fit into the overall learning sequence, and how can we assist students in identifying the embedded targets: how will the students know when they have met and achieved the implied targets found in in each exercise? Who ultimately is responsible for setting the outcome criteria? How does the exercise sound when it is right?
If we do not share the effectiveness of ‘process learning’ during our rehearsal warm-up/training portion, we then miss a great opportunity to demonstrate the power of personal ownership found in independent learning. Why do we learn to master specific exercises if not to apply the process used in learning them to the technical and musical challenges? Do our students understand this principle? Mathematicians do not learn equations, save for their application and usefulness in the process of problem-solving.
The warm-up portion/training of our rehearsal should provide opportunities where invaluable performance skills are introduced, developed and perfected. If we agree that 70 % of our rehearsal time should be spent on music-making and 30 % to be spent on technique acquisition and mastery then it stands to reason that a majority of the technical skills needed to allow our ensemble to focus on music-making ought to be addressed separately from the repertoire. Composers of significant repertoire generally assume an ensemble’s command of a prior knowledge and skill base to be necessary for a rewarding, significant musical performance to take place.
If we also agree that educational ensembles give concerts because they rehearse, then at least part of the entertainment value should be derived from the communal joy of a successful progression from one level of performance to the next. School concerts, besides entertaining our audiences of friends and families, should also provide reality checks on the ensemble’s overall musical development and progress. Therefore concerts, festivals and contests should never constitute ultimate destinations, as we will be generally disappointed with ours and our ensemble’s overall results. Instead, we should endeavour to view these activities as vital stops on our ensemble member’s way to their final destination of assisting in producing independent, life-long learners and lovers of music.
Thank you for taking the to read my thoughts...
Percussion section: The basics
For this, my next instalment on basic ensemble training knowledge I would like to share some thoughts and resources regarding the development of our percussionists. And yes, posture and hand position play an important role in percussion performance, so once you have the templates clearly established, be prepared to remind your percussionists 70 X 7!
So often in our rehearsals our percussion sections get left out, either through ours, or our percussionist’s mis-understanding, lack of confidence, lack of specific knowledge/role models, or the fact that they are simply isolated by too great a distance from our podium. Sometimes we fail to understand how to employ the sequential and systematic learning approaches found in our method books, or lack proper materials, or instruments, to prepare our students to meet the challenges in our performance repertoire.
What other section in our ensemble is presented with so many performance challenges? Physical distance between unlike instruments, the need to develop individual/group organisation skills, the ability to master performance technique for so many different kinds of instruments, and the list goes on.
And do we actually know the different percussive sounds our individual scores demand? Can we describe them? Do we actually know what kind of sound the composer wishes to hear at a particular point in the score for each instrument? Can we articulate it? Can we demonstrate the sound for which we desire?
Sometimes we have to admit that we just don’t know enough…yet. Once again, 'we don’t know what we don’t know’! But, we need to know! Do we know where to find the answers, and is this important? However, it is a plain fact that the success of our bands and orchestras lie in the effectiveness of our percussionists to possess the techniques, reading skills and passion to cover and musically meet the challenges of modern ensemble repertoire. If we are fortunately endowed with a fine percussionist tutor/staff, we still need to reinforce their teaching and direction. And we still need to be able to articulate that special sound we wish our percussionists to produce.
Another important point for consideration is the need for we musical directors to be able to build and encourage our percussion sections to become vibrant communities of shared challenges, learning journeys and ultimate joy of being a part of an important group of musicians within our ensemble.
For the developing of an effective and engaged percussion section, it is essential that we hold in our repertoire of teaching strategies, the accurate physical and aural templates for percussion. To this end I have chosen several video demonstrations and written articles covering what I consider to be the most important fundamentals of percussion performance.
This next portion of my presentation for beginning and training knowledge acquisition, and development provides you with both written and video resources for percussion instruments technique. These resources specifically explain and demonstrate posture, hand position, stick/mallet angles, and proper sound production. Also provided within this section are several approaches and specific exercises for introducing developing basic technique.
Percussion Basics Websites:
Vic Firth Percussion 101 – This is an absolutely fabulous video site covering almost every aspect of percussive techniques and individual instrument description, including: selecting mallets, sticks and beaters and suitable instruments as well as practical maintenance tips, such as replacing heads, snares and simple repairs.
The site also presents descriptive techniques and demonstrations that cover the major points of snare drum, bass drum, timpani, tom tom, cymbals - both suspended and crash, and triangle performance. Also included is an excellent series of videos demonstrating most of the basic Latin and auxiliary percussion performance techniques. This is an incredibly comprehensive resource and I highly recommend it for broadening your knowledge of this absolutely essential and often little appreciated or understood section. https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=vic+firth+percussion+101
Here are further resources:
Snare drum technique:
Mallet performance sites:
In my next post I am hoping to share some thoughts on the importance of getting the breathing concepts we share with our wind students unified and maybe less contradictory. After all it is a topic fraught with difficulty, and there are many diverse philosophies swirling around this important issue...
By the way, just as a reminder, I have added several new articles for your consideration in my "Publications and Articles" section. However, you will need to obtain a password to access the section. Please contact me.
I hope that you may find all of my resources useful!
Thank you once again for reading!
Goal/target identification: Becoming visually and aurally aware: The Brass Family
Continuing on from last week’s post, here is the 3rd instalment addressing the importance of introducing, reinforcing and maintaining acceptable performance habits. Please find below the set of visual rehearsal ‘templates’ we should employ to introduce and reinforce proper brass posture, hand position and embouchure. Once again, it is essential that we remain committed to consistently using them to remind students to demonstrate correct responses throughout every private lesson and training/rehearsal session.
The word ‘template’ may be unfamiliar to my readers, however it is the term I commonly use to describe and reinforce the set of aural and visual skills, such as characteristic tone production, or a specific hand position for any particular instrument. In my mind I hold a picture of the acceptable tone quality, articulation, accurate rhythmic response, correct posture, hand position, properly formed embouchure, mouthpiece placement, etc, which has been systematically and sequentially introduced to the student in the early stages of their private lesson/ensemble participation. In subsequent rehearsals/lessons I then superimpose these over the student’s physical demonstration/performance. My use of both visual and aural templates assists me in determining whether their present performance habits are being formed and successfully developing. The constant use of these templates allows for me to either reinforce acceptable habits, or correct and re-establish the proper performance response.
Your visual and aural ‘templates’ should always be derived from your music education philosophy and your student learning objectives’ (SLOs) such as:
Once again, the various templates I have listed below require a consistent ‘attention to the specific details’ representing a basic catalogue of the sorts of things for which we should be both looking and listening. However, it is only after we have effectively transferred these essential templates on to our students that we will begin to see student ownership and personal assessment opinions progress into significant rewarding and lasting success.
For the next topic in this series on “Basic Ensemble Training Knowledge”, let me introduce you to some helpful brass teaching aids and specific details that you can actively share and reinforce in each rehearsal.
Brass: the basics - Brass instruments come in two basic shapes: Conical and Cylindrical. Simply put, cone shaped and cylinder shaped bores. Cone shaped instruments gradually get larger from the time the tubing leaves the mouthpiece receiver and are as follows:
The conical bore tone characteristic is generally warm and round, voice-like and less direct. The conical instruments respond best when the sound is not forced.
Cylindrical Instruments relatively retain their bore diameter until they arrive at the beginning of the bell flare, and are as follows:
The cylindrical tone characteristic is generally bright, directional and penetrating. Both the conical and cylindrical shapes are capable of singing. However, the cylindrical needs more attention. It is a little less easy to distort the cylindrical shape, but one still needs to be careful.
The best way to develop a beautiful characteristic tone for both shapes is to find and listen to fine brass artists. Besides, no one instrument has the corner on beautiful sound production, so don’t limit yourself to your own instrument! The human voice actually offers the best options!
Trumpet: getting started:The size of the instrument does matter – The trumpet is relatively heavy, and as most wind instruments, basically designed for adult body shapes and hands. Check student hand sizes to ensure that their fingers can comfortably depress the corresponding valves and that the left hand can comfortably support the weight of the instrument.
French Horn: The basics:
Trombone: the basics-
Euphonium: the basics-
Tuba: the basics-
The Size of the Tuba matters: The tuba is a heavy instrument: Holding the instrument is problematic, depending on the size of the student. There are tuba- stand options such as tripod posts, cradles and such: See:
The best option is to use either a single Bb tuba or a single Eb tuba. These provide easier handling options allowing for younger students to get started.
As in all wind instrument hand positions, it is always best to bring the instrument to your lips and not the other way around!
Understanding the development of air support is crucial for all wind instruments. However, the topic of air support needs a separate discussion as there are many approaches to this important topic and equally many points of view and equal number of strategies.
Many have merit and some are really contradictory and confusing.
Some people talk about the diaphragm in incorrect terms and function. Proper air intake, delivery and control are essential for a rewarding engagement with the wind family. I hope to address this subject in a future post.
In my next instalment I hope to continue our discussion of acquiring and using the visual templates for the Percussion families. I also hope to discuss some basic ideas for addressing 'breathing for winds: a can of worms for sure!
By the way, In my website I have added several new articles for your consideration in my "Publications and Articles" section. However, you will need to obtain a password to access the section. Please contact me.
I hope that you may find them useful!
Thank you once again for reading!
When working with beginning/training band ensembles, how do we avoid falling into the trap of “Not knowing what we don’t know?” I believe that it is essential that we consistently maintain our quest for knowledge and improved delivery/teaching strategies through regular exposure to professional development opportunities and further learning opportunities, for being mildly ambivalent to new/different teaching approaches is really not a professional development option.
This philosophy especially holds true for maintaining our commitment to introducing and reinforcing the essential performance fundamentals, such as:
However, before we can start addressing the technical and musical issues of the above points, we need to begin by consistently demonstrating the basic foundational playing habits of posture, hand position and embouchure and ensure that they are firmly in place. It is good to remember that simply practicing without using the correct templates won’t improve the improper posture, hand position and embouchure: “Practice doesn’t make perfect; however, it does make permanent”!
In my role as a visiting clinician, before I ever begin to address an ensemble’s repertoire, I often find myself confronted with an array of confusing and physically inhibiting postures, hand positions and embouchures. Before I can begin to proceed towards exploring and addressing their ‘musical’ issues, I will need to start by first adjusting posture & hand position. (Embouchure adjustment in this context is generally not an option; for many, it’s too late…) Only then can I begin to effectively move on to address the musical challenges!
In fact, it is common knowledge when these fundamental points are firmly established, they will facilitate superior performance practice, as they positively enable a more naturally intuitive physical manipulation of the students’ instruments.
Goal/target identification: Becoming, and remaining visually aware…
To effectively introduce, reinforce and maintain acceptable performance habits of posture, hand position and embouchure we need to be sure of our set of visual instrument performance ‘templates, so that we can be assured of our effectiveness in introducing, assessing and reinforcing them. Of course, we will also need to remain committed to consistently using them throughout every private lesson and/or training/rehearsal session until they become the natural response.
‘Templates’ – A correct model of a skill, technique, response, knowledge base or objective which is superimposed over that which is observed of a student’s performance as incorrect, faulty or insufficient in order to identify, adjust and reinforce the proper response.
These ‘visual templates’ should be derived from our overall definitive, measurable ‘student learning objectives’ (SLOs) such as
Employing the various visual templates requires:
And, what are the details anyway? For what specific sorts of things should we be looking and listening? Only after we have effectively transferred our passion for these essential templates to our students will we begin see the transformation.
For starters, let me introduce you to some helpful woodwind teaching points you should be aware of, and be actively engaged in introducing and reinforcing in each rehearsal.
For your consideration: a wonderful device known as “The Blocki Pneumo Pro® breath direction embouchure trainer – check it out!
Another few extra viewpoints:
In my next instalment we will continue our discussion of acquiring and using the visual templates for the Brass and Percussion families.
By the way, I have added several new articles for your consideration in my "Publications and Articles" section.
I hope that you may find them useful! To access them you will need to obtain a Password from me.
Thank you once again for reading!
Warm regards and best wishes,
Basic Ensemble Training Knowledge; developing and using a set of definitive visual & aural templates for brass, woodwinds and percussion instruments in instrumental ensemble instruction – Part 1
In these following four instalments I will be sharing some basic ensemble training strategies for developing specific instrument knowledge, teaching pedagogy principles and applications for the three instrument families common to the concert band ensemble.
We will be looking at the importance of using visual and aural templates for these families with regards to the essential visual, and often less conspicuous aural cues. These cues/templates in turn, will assist you in knowing what to look for and listen to, hopefully fostering a passion for the details in our task of ensemble training while also providing some useful strategies.
Remember: In the critical first 5 weeks of instrumental class/ensemble practice, it is important to commit to the consistent reinforcing of correct posture, hand position and embouchure. If not, we will be tacitly reinforcing that whatever is incorrect is OK. And, of course, we all recognise that this process is an on-going task!
We simply cannot assume that the itinerate/studio teachers will take care of everything for us. In fact, in order to competently reinforce good habits, we will need to understand and use the essential information on each instrument in aiding us towards fostering successful habits, leading to both lasting and rewarding learning! Our rehearsals should always include lessons on how to practice at home, which aides students in building healthy practice habits, critical listening and self-observational skills, along with the ability to apply proven learning strategies demonstrated in our class lessons/rehearsals. We will need to be committed to consistently and patiently reminding our students until the correct responses become automatic, internal and organic.
Great supporting article on beginning band training rationale! http://www.dansr.com/wick/resources/the-beginner-band-student
It is equally important that we understand that one cannot simply stand up and conduct our ensemble without being fully engaged with how the learning, sharing and demonstration and assessment process actually works. In fact, I do very little conducting with a learner band. I don’t want to focus on my conducting. My ensemble needs both my eyes and ears to be totally focused on the ensemble. Instead of thinking about my conducting, I need to be looking and listening, focused on using and employing the visual/aural templates I plan to share in my three future instalments. It is my hope that they will assist you in reinforcing correct performance habits, while also identifying those needing to be adjusted or corrected.
If we are to be effective ensemble trainers we cannot afford to have our heads stuck in our scores. Most method book exercises, including young band ensemble repertoire are straight forward enough for basic score study and preparation. Both generally contain clear, identifiable goals and targets necessary for even, consistent technical and musical development and growth.
At this point of our discussion it is important to understand that the proper use of a method book as an essential part of your rehearsal is not optional, and that you will need to regularly employ one as it was designed, sequentially moving from page to page, beginning to end, including its extra resources.
The method book purpose is to introduce and use the often self-directed learning strategies shared through a series of short, purpose written and self-explanatory exercises. These sequential exercises provide opportunities to learn, develop and acquire both technical and musical mastery through the use of ‘scope and sequence’ learning. These skills include; developing pitch and rhythm vocabulary notation, the use of counting & sub-division, articulations, phrasing, general musical knowledge and terminology through a systematic and sequential approach. It is easy to point out to the students the goals/targets contained in each exercise and assist them in recognising when the targets have been achieved. What is more, use of the method book provides for a daily discipline with clear ‘investment’ in practice strategies for experiencing rewarding advancement returns, which is comforting and encouraging for young students.
In fact, the ‘method book’ training materials provide our students with one of the most important educational motivation factors in our tool box; that of a student achieving daily achievement with the ‘five-minute’ goal process! Arriving at a successful outcome with a method book exercise that can be generally achieved within a relatively short time can be intrinsically rewarding and encouraging. I have found that students generally find more satisfaction receiving success from a shorter and more realistically achievable goal with clear, identifiable objectives, than waiting for weeks to experience a moment of success in, say a concert, contest or festival experience. If effective and informed home practice, leading to motivation, personal engagement, recognisable progress and, ultimately, retention is to be cultivated and achieved, we will need to share with students how their little successes gained through the use of a systematic approach to learning basic fundamentals will lead to greater rewarding achievements! It goes without saying that the method book also provides one with an excellent framework lesson/rehearsal planning!
I know that many will say that due to a lack the time it is not practical to use a method book, or for that matter, any training materials. However, with careful time management and the appropriate repertoire choice, you can do it. In a sense, you don’t have time not to include these essential study materials in your rehearsals. Besides, learning your repertoire will be that much easier when your ensemble possesses the skills necessary for meeting the musical demands of your repertoire choices. More on this in a later post!
Come prepared with your lesson plan, and know your scores and method book lesson material, including the array of targets for each exercise you wish to use and share with your students. Teach them to identify the targets for effective and rewarding home practice. It will also encourage developing their own personal ownership of their learning experience!
"If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there" John Lennon
Please stay tuned for the next three instalments which will include helpful points on gaining a workable understanding of the fundamental pedagogies
Thank you for reading! Warm regards, Monte
A Saturday Afternoon Recital
Organ, Piano and Sackbut
Lynda Nicholls and Monte Mumford
With guests, Andrew Polden and Stephen King
Music of the 17th and 18th Centuries in works by
Marcello, Handel, Corelli, Cesare and Bach
Pilgrim Uniting Church
Saturday, March 24th –3:00 PM
Five points to keep in mind when choosing repertoire for both community and educationally based ensembles.
The choosing of educationally and artistically appropriate repertoire for our ensembles can, at times seem a difficult and daunting task. I offer for your consideration the following points when selecting your repertoire. Work toward choosing works that will:
And for further thought:
All of our repertoire choices generally pass through the following filters:
Therefore, it is important to regularly examine our own understanding of what constitutes quality, significant music, and to commit ourselves to maintaining our listening through consistent exposure to significant musical performances.
Is your Ensemble watching you? Why should they bother…? One of the most frustrating, challenging and rewarding aspects of conducting young ensembles is the realisation that our students actually do not need for us to be their time keepers. So what are they looking for?
As conductors we often feel that our students need us to conduct strict time patterns, believing that they will become lost and disoriented without them. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that they are, or should be the time keepers; we are, or should be the time givers. As the conductor, we are responsible for both the choosing and delivering of tempi. It is the ensemble’s responsibility to keep the time until we wish to adjust it for interpretative reasons. If you are finding yourself endlessly asking your ensemble to watch you, it may be that simply keeping time for them is insufficient to engage their curiosity and interest. If they are capable of keeping time without our help then we need to offer a more creative approach to conducting which will attract, engage and hold their attention.
If you want to go beyond conducting time patterns and communicate a more expressive interpretation, here are five tips to consider:
Mr. Mumford holds an international reputation as a conductor, adjudicator and clinician, contributing regularly to the field of music education and performance studies through conference presentations, publications, professional development offerings, and master classes. He is highly regarded for his musical experience, expertise, passion and effective teaching style. He is in demand as a guest conductor, music education consultant, and adjudicator, providing performance strategies and professional development for music educators, administrators and students alike. From 2015 -2017 Mr. Mumford was engaged as Advisor and Lead Educator for the Melbourne Youth Orchestra Teacher Professional Development Programme.