Band - fifth grade

Beginning Band Introduction and Guide to playing an Instrument

Dear Band Parent,

You and your child have made the decision to begin the study of a musical instrument. I applaud your desire to allow your child the chance to discover music through performance. Please understand however, that while there are numerous benefits that accompany band participation, your child's potential success will only be achieved through regular practice and hard work. The following information is designed to help you help your child succeed. Please read the following information carefully. It should give you a better understanding of what exactly it is your child is trying to do when those "bizarre sounds" emanate from his/her room. I encourage you to follow their lesson assignments with them and even learn how to play the instrument yourself. You may even choose to let your child teach you how to play, which will not only motivate them, but allow them to review the fine points of playing as they teach you.

The main goal of this process is two-fold. First, you have made a sizable investment in a musical instrument. This process will help ensure that you receive the benefits of your investment, which would be your child's success. Secondly, this process will allow your child to expand their musical education through high school, college and beyond. Best wishes as you and your child venture into the world of musical instrument performance!

Mr. E. Michaels

  

The Who, What, When, Where, Why How Much of Practicing

Who?
When beginning to play an instrument, your child will be excited to produce any sound that they can. Unfortunately, this enthusiasm typically diminishes once the child realizes that learning an instrument takes time and hard work. Be encouraging and take a moment or two and listen to your child practice. Be sure to compliment you child for any improvements that you may (or may not) notice. Have your child perform monthly “living room concerts” for members of the family. Our encouragement and active interest in their efforts will yield significantly better performance results.

What?
Each week your child will receive a lesson assignment. These lesson assignments are designed to teach or improve upon the skills necessary to be a successful musician. It is important that the child devote at least 3/5 of practice time to his/her lesson assignment. However, playing an instrument should also be fun, so the final 1/5 should be devoted to playing whatever the child wishes. (The first 1/5 should be devoted to warm-up, which will be discussed under the How Much section.)


Where?
For your child’s practice time to be as beneficial as possible, it is critical that the proper practice environment be established. Practicing is simply “studying an instrument.” Therefore, an environment conductive to studying is most desirable. A room with good light, a comfortable upright chair, a music stand, plenty of room for the child to properly play the instrument, and distraction free area without interference from telephone, television, or radio for an optimum practicing environment.


When?
It is a good idea for you and your child to agree upon a daily practice time. This should be a time before other members of the family go to bed, yet early enough so that the child is still alert enough to concentrate. It will also be easier for you to get your child to practice if he/she knows that a particular time is her/her practice time.


Why?
Regular practice, aside from quality instructions, is the single most important element in ensuring your child’s success on an instrument. There are many skills occurring simultaneously that need to work together for your child to be able to succeed. Reading music, proper mouth and hand formations, correct posture, finger dexterity, and eye/hand coordination must all work together to achieve success. Practicing will enable your child to coordinate these elements of playing an instrument. My experience has been that children who do not regularly practice quickly fall behind the other students, get frustrated, lose interest, and quit. Regular practice will give your child the necessary skills to be successful.


How?
Not only is regular practice important, but also how the child uses their practice time will determine their degree of success. It is important to understand that the human brain operates much like that of a computer; information needs to be entered in a logical and correct manner. For example, if you tell a computer that cat is spelled “cot”, then all the computer understands is “cot”. It is very similar to learning music. If a particular melody consists of the notes B-A-G-A and your child learns B-A-F-A, then the child will not only need to learn the correct notes, but must also un-learn the incorrect notes. Adding to the difficulty is that not only is the brain fed the wrong information, but so are the muscles, which produce the necessary movements to play the melody. It is this combination of mental and physical skills that create the true challenge of playing a musical instrument. The following practice philosophy will allow your child to practice intelligently, and enable them to maximize their practice time. These methods can also be modified and transferred to studying for other subjects as well.

1. Set a reasonable goal to achieve for each practice session. Do not attempt to learn the entire lesson in one practice session. You cannot “cram” for band.

2. Practice what need to be worked on. Most children will try to practice either what they already can do, or their favorite songs. Do not let them avoid what is giving them trouble, which is what they will try to do.

3. Begin with small amounts, a note at a time if necessary. A good techniques when encountering a new musical passage is to SAY IT (say the note name in time), FAKE IT (say and finger the notes in time), and PLAY IT (play the passage in time) (Lee, 1995). This will help your child mentally organize the information.

4. Be patient. Your child should being each passage slowly, then gradually speed up. Many students practice too fast at first, which will only lead to learned errors.

5. Repetition breeds success. A good rule to follow is a passage is learned if a child can play a particular passage correctly three times at the desired speed. Once this is achieved, the child may move on to the next section, and repeat the process with the new section.

6. When several sections are learned, put the sections together.

7. Review the learned material. Each day, the previously learned material will need to be reviewed to ensure that the child has truly learned.

I am certain that if your child follows these seven steps, they will greatly improve their practice efficiency, thus becoming a more successful musician.


How Much?

With today’s hectic schedules, it is certainly a challenge in incorporate additional work into a day. Therefore, I feel that the following practice expectations are realistic and will allow your child the time needed to learn the material. You will notice hat the amount of time increases as the year goes on. This is to allow the muscles used to play an instrument a chance to develop.

First 9-Week Grading Period15 minutes per practice session
Second 9-Week Grading Period20 minutes per practice session
Third 9-Week Grading Period25 minutes per practice session
Fourth 9-Week Grading Period30 minutes per practice session

These time limits are the minimum necessary for your child to be successful. The practice time should be distributed in the following manner:

First 1/5 of practice sessionWarm-up
Next 3/5 of practice sessionLesson Assignment
Final 1/5 of practice sessionReview, work on other music


The warm-up portion of the practice session is very important in getting the finger and mouth muscles ready to work. For a warm-up each section should do the following:

Woodwinds

1. Long tone – playing a single note for an extended period of time. The goal is for the child to produce a steady tone.

2. Technique – studies which are designed to help student improve their finger and/or tongue dexterity.

Brass

1. Long tone – playing a single note for an extended period of time. The goal is for the child to produce a steady tone.

2. Lip Slurs/Sirens – the students sliding form one note to another without changing fingering or position. This is very useful in improving flexibility and range (Lee, 1995).

Percussion

1. Playing a steady rhythm in time with a metronome, this will help to improve the child’s ability to play in time.
2. Review rudiments (short, rhythmic an sticking patterns). These are the building blocks for more advanced percussion literature.

Documents
Willoughby-Eastlake City Schools 32500 Chardon Rd. Willoughby Hills, Ohio 44094  |  Phone: (440) 946-5000 Fax: (440) 946-4671

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