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Selecting A Band Instrument
By Dan Jacobi
3/6/2013 1:03:00 AM

Congratulations on your decision to join the school band! By now you have undoubtedly given much thought as to which instrument you wish to play. This is an important decision that will be discussed in further detail with your parents and band director. Important considerations are taken into account when students join their school band. These are not only for your benefit as an individual but are some of the fist steps to a quality band that all students and members of the band community can take pride in.

Important Considerations

Physical Characteristics
Facial, lip and hand structure of the beginning student can lend to positive success or frustrating challenges on his or her instrument.

Past Music Experience
The challenge of various wind and percussion instruments may require that students have previous musical training on piano or guitar. Please consult with your band director for more details.

Access to Quality Instruments
Willingness to purchase or rent a director-recommended instrument is a must. Unfortunately, there are some instruments on the market whose poor design and craftsmanship make it next to impossible for a young instrumentalist to succeed. West Music can help you avoid this pitfall.

Balance of the Whole Program
Quality programs strive for balance in all instrumental areas. Not everyone will be able to play saxophone or the drums or the flute. The school band director has the training and knowledge to understand the instrumentation needs of the entire band. Just because you “want” to play a particular instrument, does not necessarily mean that you will be able to play that instrument in your school band.

FLUTE

The flute is the smallest of the beginner instruments. Flute tones are produced by being able to focus an extremely small air stream to an exact location on the tone hole.

Physical Characteristics
Flute players should have a slight “frown” to the upper lip with no tear drop shape in the middle. The tear-drop shaped lip will make it necessary to offset the embouchure slightly. Flute players should also have agile fingers for moving this multi-keyed instrument through fast musical passages.

Other Considerations
Students with double-jointed fingers can adversely affect the agility of flute players.

Accessories to Help You Succeed

  • Care Kit
  • Director-approved Method Book
  • Metronome
  • Folding Music Stand

OBOE

The oboe is similar in its appearance to a clarinet but is played using a double reed instead of a single reed and mouthpiece.

Physical Characteristics
Students with profound overbites or underbites would have extreme difficulties producing a proper sound on the oboe since the embouchure (mouth and lip position) require equal pressure on both sides of the reed at the same placement.

Other Considerations
Because the oboe is such an important voice in a balanced ensemble, students with high academic performance are often the first to be considered as prospective oboists. Oboe students are usually required to have 3 to 4 high quality reeds at all times.

Accessories to Help You Succeed

  • Care Kit
  • Reeds
  • Director-approved Method Book
  • Metronome
  • Folding Music Stand

CLARINET

Unlike the oboe, the clarinet uses a single reed and a mouthpiece to produce the sound. Some clarinet students may be chosen to play the larger bass clarinet after success on the clarinet.

Physical Characteristics
One necessity of clarinet tone production is the ability to make the chin flat. If a student has an extremely rounded bottom row of teeth, the mouthpiece will be more difficult to place in the proper position for tone production.

Other Considerations
Instruction in clarinet can be meticulous. Students who are able to focus on and perform a detailed series of instructions would do well on clarinet. Clarinet players are also responsible for maintaining a working stock of 4-6 quality reeds. Most reed brands can be purchased in boxes of 10.

Accessories to Help You Succeed

  • Reeds
  • Care Kit
  • Director-approved Method Book
  • Metronome
  • Folding Music Stand

BASSOON

The bassoon, like the oboe, is a double reed instrument. Students often begin on clarinet or bass clarinet before switching to bassoon.

Physical Characteristics
A slight overbite is acceptable for students wishing to play bassoon, however, a student with an underbite may be advised to play another instrument. Agile thumbs are a necessity for playing bassoon as well as a medium or greater hand span.

Other Considerations
The bassoon is a challenging instrument to master. Band directors will very often encourage their bassoonists to study with a private teacher and maintain a supply of 3-4 high quality reeds at all times.

Accessories to Help You Succeed

  • Reeds
  • Swab
  • Director-approved Method Book
  • Metronome
  • Folding Music Stand

SAXOPHONE

The alto saxophone looks like a brass instrument and woodwind instrument. The alto saxophone is played with a single reed like a clarinet, making it a member of the woodwind family. It is played in a variety of ensembles but is rarely played in the symphony orchestra.

Physical Characteristics
Since the balance of the saxophone is maintained by the use of a neck strap, it is extremely important that students be able to sit up straight with proper body posture.

Other Considerations
Saxophone players are responsible for maintaining a working stock of 4-6 quality reeds. Most reeds are sold in boxes of 10. Due to the popularity of the saxophone, many band instructors will limit the number of saxophonists in the band in order to maintain proper balance of instrumentation throughout the ensemble. This is an important lesson in team work and cooperation.

Accessories to Help You Succeed

  • Reeds
  • Care Kit
  • Director-approved Method Book
  • Metronome
  • Folding Music Stand

TRUMPET

The trumpet is the smallest member of the brass family. The trumpet sound is produced by buzzing your lips into a small mouthpiece. Most school instrumental ensembles include the trumpet.

Physical Characteristics
While orthodontia is somewhat troublesome to a trumpet player, it is not impossible to make a proper sound with braces. A slight overbite is acceptable, but an underbite can severely hinder progress on trumpet.

Other Considerations
Trumpet music parts often include the melody, therefore it is important that students who play trumpet exhibit confidence and a high level of self-motivation.

Accessories to Help You Succeed

  • Care Kit
  • Director-approved Method Book
  • Metronome
  • Folding Music Stand

FRENCH HORN

The French Horn is also a member of the brass family. Its sound is produced by buzzing into a small mouthpiece similar to a trumpet. Students with good musical ears should consider French Horn.

Physical Characteristics
While braces are somewhat troublesome to a French Horn player, it is not impossible to make a good sound. A slight overbite is acceptable, but an underbite can severely hinder progress on French Horn. Because the bell of the French Horn rests on the knee while in a seated playing position it is imperative that a student’s upper torso be long enough to accommodate the size of the French Horn to produce a good sound.

Other Considerations
Due to the extensive playing range on the French Horn, students should exhibit a remarkable ability to match pitch. This is a good choice for students with an accomplished background in piano or choir.

Accessories to Help You Succeed

  • Care Kit
  • Director-approved Method Book
  • Metronome
  • Folding Music Stand

TROMBONE

The trombone is played by buzzing into a cup-shaped mouthpiece, but uses a slide instead of valves. Players rely on their memory and hearing skills to recognize if they are in the correct slide position. Students with good musical ears should consider the trombone.

Physical Characteristics
While some might think that trombone players must have long arms, there are actually a number of accommodations that make it possible for students of all shapes and sizes to play. A slight overbite is acceptable, while an extreme underbite may hinder success.

Other Considerations
Great trombone playing takes exceptional concentration and study. Many scholars have excelled at trombone.

Accessories to Help You Succeed

  • Care Kit
  • Director-approved Method Book
  • Metronome
  • Folding Music Stand

EUPHONIUM

The euphonium (you-FOE-knee-yum) and its relative, the baritone, is a member of the brass family and looks like a small tuba. It is a valve instrument similar to a trumpet but sounds lower than a trombone.

Physical Characteristics
A slight overbite is acceptable, but an underbite may hinder good sound production. The euphonium requires a medium-sized hand span to reach the valves.

Other Considerations
Prospective euphonium players will greatly benefit from being able to match pitch.

Accessories to Help You Succeed

  • Valve Oil
  • Polish Cloth
  • Director-approved Method Book
  • Metronome
  • Folding Music Stand

TUBA

While many believe the tuba is the largest instrument in the band, making it hard to physically manage, some schools use ¾ size instruments for beginners. The smaller size makes them easier to handle. Students can then grow into full size instruments.

Physical Characteristics
Tuba players need to have a large lung capacity. While the size of the student does not matter, a long upper body can help a student reach the mouthpiece of the tuba while resting the bottom of the tuba on the edge of their chair or across their lap.

Other Considerations
The tuba provides the musical foundation of the band. Therefore, prospective players who are reliable and self-motivated are likely to be considered for this instrument.

Accessories to help you succeed

  • Valve Oil
  • Polish Cloth
  • Director-approved Method Book
  • Metronome
  • Folding Music Stand

PERCUSSION

Just because you are always tapping on things does not mean you are a natural percussionist. Students with background in piano and who exhibit high gross and fine motor skills may be considered for percussion.

Physical Characteristics
Students should exhibit a high level of coordination in gross and fine motor skills in the hands and feet.

Other Considerations
The study of percussion includes mallet percussion (bells, xylophone, marimba), snare drum, timpani, cymbals, triangle, tambourine, drum set, among many other instruments. Time management and organizational skills are very helpful to multi-faceted percussionists.

Accessories to Help You Succeed

  • Drum Sticks
  • Mallets
  • Stick Bag
  • Practice Pad
  • Director-approved Method Books
  • Metronome
  • Folding Music Stand

Adapted and used with permission from Holze Music Co., Lewisville, Texas.


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Tags: Instrument Guide, Selecting an Instrument, Selecting an Instrument Guide, Band Guide, Band Instruments, Beginning Band
Categories: Band & Orchestra
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