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Tips, Tricks, and Helpful Accessories for Beginning brass students!

Tips, Tricks, and Helpful Accessories for Beginning brass students!

A lesson for Brass Students, by Carrie Blosser, guest columnist

The first few years of any new activity are filled with ups and downs, but with the addition of some strategically placed aids, students will be more successful!

Today’s article will be helpful for trumpet, trombone, baritone, tuba, or any brass player. But, these tips can be useful for all of your music lessons.  Here are a few items to start off successfully:

Instrument in good working condition!

For trumpets I recommend getting an instrument that has a 1st and 3rd valve slide. Also making sure that the valves and slides all work easily! If they don’t, take it back to the rental location and ask for it to be fixed or replaced with a different instrument.

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For French Horn, I prefer students start with a Double Horn rather than a single horn. Band music starts in a pretty high range for horn and would prefer to teach using the trigger.

The rotary valves should all work easily without sticking. Trombones, the slide should move very easily and the slide lock (holds the slide in place) should also work!

For Baritone and Tuba the valves should work easily. With all of the Brass instruments, check all the slides; if they do not work easily right away take it back to the store. Sticky slides and frozen valves will not get better over time, they require cleaning or repair make sure you start with good instrument.

Use a music stand!

Using a dresser or bed or floor as a music stand causes all sorts of issues in brass playing where we need free flowing air. Try breathing with your chin all the way down, not very comfortable. Stress and tension in your body will transfer to your sound. The fold up wire stands are great to start with, but they are not made to last. Purchasing a sturdy, built to last stand like the Manhasset M48 should be added to your budget as soon as possible.

Use a Tuner!

I love the Tonal Energy Tuner App on my phone and all of my students have used it in our lessons. It is so easy to play a little below or above the center of the pitch with all the brass instruments so having a tuner gives visual feedback.

With Tonal Energy, when you play in the center of the pitch you get a green smiley face! Students of all ages seem to really love it! I am a fan of anything that helps students practice more.

TE is available for iphones/ipod/ipad and android phones/tablets. My personal focus is always for students to get a great sound on their instrument along with solid intonation. Here is the website http://tonalenergy.com


Keep valves oiled and slides grease, if the valves feel a little slow don’t be afraid to use your oil, same does for your slides. Every instrument and climate is different; I personally oil my valves every week or so, mostly whenever they start to feel a bit slow.

Cleaning: Blowing warm, spitty air into a dark tube is just asking for gross things to start growing. I recommend cleaning your instrument every 3-6 months depending on how much you use it. Your music store will have the necessary items for cleaning. The short story is your instrument needs a bath, in the bathtub with dish soap. Your cleaning kit should come with instructions, if not Google how to clean your instrument.

Private Lessons!

Your band teacher is a saint. There are only so many minutes in a class to create a cohesive band sound. It is so easy for bad habits of too much tension, not using slides, and bad hand positions to form without individual attention to students.

Private teachers can help stave off those bad habits. Also private teachers can recommend and write out other music that might help engage students more.

Classic rock, pop, jazz, can always be worked on in private lessons. Also, Beginner band books have a very limited range for the first 6 months or more, then all of a sudden go higher. The initial range that students start is the easiest part for all brass, switching gears to the higher, harder range causes a lot of students to get discouraged and sometimes quit. Lots of great exercises can be started in lessons to expand range and make the transition in band super smooth.

I hope these tips help increase the effectiveness of your musical studies: Happy Practicing!