September 15, 2019
Greetings and welcome to the Timberline MS Elementary Band Website!
Here you will find information relating to the program, as well as regular updates as to how we are progressing, program announcements, and what we are working on!
Level II: We begin tomorrow and I am looking forward to meeting you all! Plan on bringing your instruments and books, as I would like to begin playing as soon as logistics and procedures are communicated.
Level I: I look forward to seeing you all NEXT WEEK. If you haven't already, start getting the ball rolling on securing a book and an instrument for yourself, for the year.
PLEASE do not get an early start on your instrument (especially woodwinds. Improper assembly can lead to bent keys and expensive repair bills). We will show you how to correctly assemble your instrument and how to begin forming your beginning sound; we don't want you to create bad habits for yourself that you will then have to correct throughout the year. The exception to this is if you are studying private lessons (if you are interested in investing in private lessons, please let me know).
All Levels: If you haven't already, PLEASE REGISTER WITH THE ONLINE SIGN-UP so that I can have finalized numbers (I need to send them to Transportation, in the event they need to allocate another bus for us.) I would like to have this final roster complete by the end of Level I's first week (Friday, September 27).
Thank you all, and I look forward to our first week!
- Mr. Sloan
September 18, 2019
Thank you, Level II (working title) Band, for having a GREAT first week of rehearsals! It was awesome to meet you all and hear what we can do, and I can already hear what you will sound like in June, and that is exciting!
A quick note about transportation, as you might notice from the updated language on the website, district transportation policy regarding elementary band/orchestra in the mornings is still being defined, so I want to avoid any confusion or miscommunication. Please ensure that, for the moment, your student arrives at TMS in the morning with the intention of riding the bus to their home school. This way, we know that everyone is safely accounted for and can be efficiently tracked (in the event of a delay or any other event). If this changes or once I receive more concrete information that will allow me to further define/clarify our transportation policy, I will absolutely let you know!
This week, we talked about warming up before we play, how to approach your first notes, counting notes and rhythms on numbers, using our voice to sing our parts (to make the instrument playing easier! There's actually neuroscience behind this.), and working on some old favorites from last year.
For next week, please practice:
- Breathing exercises (with a metronome (tap your foot), practice breathing 4 counts in and 4 counts out. Practice switching up the counts for extra challenges.
- EE Book 1 #52 - Use this as a warm up (first notes of the day). Practice making GREAT sounds 100% of the time.
- EE Book 1 - anything up to #63 - have notes and rhythms ready, so that we can practice putting them together on Monday!
I will create a page more geared towards giving you more specific practice information (how to practice, when to practice, etc.), but plan on fitting in at least 30 minutes a day for practice time. As with anything and as you learned last year, it takes time and practice to do something well, and you need to put the time in to get the results that you are capable of.
I look forward to meeting my Level I beginners next week! Students going to camp: have a great time and I look forward to seeing you when you come back!
Until next time!
September 25, 2019
First, allow me to introduce my co-teacher: Ms. Hannah Fulton! She is excited to work with our fledgling program and help it grow! In addition to working with our Level II group, she will be supervising the flute and trombone classes of Level I and will be the main point of contact for specific questions regarding those particular classes. Her email address has been made available on the website.
Level I is in full swing and we look forward to seeing our first-year woodwind (flute and clarinet) players tomorrow morning! Remember that band is two days a week and the second day for Level I is Friday.
Also, thank you to those of you who remembered to let me know about 5th grade camp. It's okay that they miss a day this week, as we're going through some basic (but important) procedures that we'll keep coming back to.
Level I brass has learned about expectations in and around TMS and expected behavior during band. We have started some basic rhythm work AND singing work. As I mention before, we sing in band also, and it is an extremely good idea to invest in the development of your singing voice and in ear training, as well as your instrument; you'll find that the two go hand-in-hand very easily. The best players that can operate their instruments with ease are also good singers. To that end, you will find links for MusicRacer and tonedear.com, both of which will be shown in class and both of which are INVALUABLE tools to help with your musical development.
We also got into some basic embouchure formation and first sounds on the mouthpiece ("buzz"). It is a weird sound at first, but see if you can make it as gentle, as easy, and as MUSICAL as you can. Also, don't do it too much, too soon. Right now, about 5 minutes a day is fine, while your face muscles start getting stronger. Once you have your first "buzz" sounding the way you want it to sound, practice "buzzing" some of the rhythm exercises that we worked on (alternate between singing on "dah" and "buzz". Try and make them sound and feel the same.
Level I woodwinds can expect the same plan as the brass. We will talk about expectations, procedures, do some rhythm/melody work, and begin BASIC assembly. Flutes will be taught how to begin making their first sounds on the headjoint and clarinets will learn how to assemble the mouthpiece, ligature, barrel, and reed (DO NOT TRY AND PUT THE ENTIRE CLARINET TOGETHER YET!). Assembly is a skill that will need to be practiced. DO SO EXACTLY AS WE TEACH YOU, SO THAT YOU DON'T END UP WITH AN EXPENSIVE REPAIR BILL!
To practice, once you have your first sound, try and play some of the rhythm exercises in the back of the book. Practice counting/clapping/singing/and playing on your mouthpiece/headjoint.
Level II has been picking up where they left off last year with some pieces like Aura Lee, Frere Jacques, and Ode to Joy. In addition to practicing the band warmup routine (Breathing, long tones, #52 tone builder/rhythm etude (which should be your own practice warmup every day that you practice)), you should be practicing each of the above pieces (at least for another week) working on keeping a steady beat with your foot, and with a tuner/metronome. Once great sounds are on each note at exactly the right time, then we can move on.
If you are looking ahead, start looking at the next few songs (up to #63). Aim to practice once a day (every day if you can) for 30 min/day (but remember to REST. See the FAQ page for a sample practice session). If you need help scheduling a practice session, let me know and I will help you find time.
If you have any questions or concerns, let us know!
October 5, 2019
I hope everyone has had a great week and are having a great weekend!
Level II has started to work on some new content (the dotted half-note) and will keep working in the book starting on #61. Also, all players should have received supplemental technique studies that will make them better at their instrument (these documents will also be made available on the website, should you need them). It is a good idea to practice those, as we will come back to them when we have sectionals on Wednesday. Practice with a metronome (clap AND count, note names, sing on "dah", air and finger, and finally play).
Level I has begun making first sounds! It's super exciting and I'm thrilled with the enthusiasm that I am getting from our beginners, but we must remember that the very beginning is very slow and methodical (to avoid bad habits that must be fixed later). It is EXTREMELY important that you not work ahead of us (especially woodwinds, who have not yet been taught how to properly assemble their instrument. Bent keys due to shoddy assembly can lead to EXPENSIVE REPAIR BILLS!).
Flutes and clarinets should be working on their headjoint and mouthpiece/barrel/reed/ligature assembly EXCLUSIVELY. Aim for an easy, gently sound (even though that may be hard to hear at the beginning). You should not be working hard to blow into the instrument. I am also starting to see chipped reeds. Chipped reeds are a "no,no" and must be replaced immediately. You should always have AT LEAST one backup reed ready to go, in case something happens with your main reed.
Trumpets and trombones have been taught their basic embouchure formation (emm/poo) and how to roll their mouthpiece up to find what their embouchure feels like. Brass instruments have also been taught how to buzz on the mouthpiece (a soft, gentle, musical "buzz" should be encouraged. Anything loud or spread will be harmful for the embouchure and will build bad habits). Beware of puffed cheeks! Firm corners will force the air to leave the mouth and will not allow air to be stored in the cheeks.
Trumpets have also been taught about the "free buzz" (buzzing the lips without the mouthpiece). Free buzzing is an excellent tool designed to help strengthen corner muscles and encourage proper form, but should be done NO LONGER THAN 1 MINUTE. If done for too long, at this stage, it will tire your face muscles too much for you to be able to practice. Trombones would also do well to practice free buzzing (though for them it will be much looser; more like flapping their lips). Trombone players would also do well to start learning bass clef notes. We will cover it in class, but every other instrument uses the treble clef (which many of them were taught when they learned recorder in school). The bass clef is a different system entirely. Feel free to use MusicRacer, found on the website.
Some good work this week! Keep it up and I'll see you all next week!
October 11, 2019
I hope this email (if you did not receive this as an email, I don't have your email address or the one that I have is invalid) finds everyone well and that we have all settled into our autumn routines.
A couple of housekeeping reminders:
- We have begun taking regular attendance. If your student’s name is routinely not appearing on our roster, it means that we do not have registration information for them. If they come to you with that information, please send us (or resend us in some cases) the required information so we can then update our records and ensure that they are registered in the program.
- At the request of Timberline MS staff, we ask that drop-offs for band happen at 7:30a SHARP. We are having quite a few that miss the initial surge and, since neither one of us can really be there to continue monitoring the door, a lot of students are having to enter through the office door (which is the policy that is on the website). However, the number of students missing that initial surge is becoming a distraction to the office staff and so we would like to ask that we do what we can to be on time. Even though group rehearsal begins at 7:40a, it is vitally important that they arrive when they do (other than because it’s easier for the TMS office staff), but because that is their time to get ready for rehearsal (warm up, oil valves/keys, ask directors for assistance, etc.).
- I’m seeing a number of students carpooling to bypass the bus. That is totally fine (and also helps alleviate congestion/loading times which will help the buses run more smoothly). Many of the students are doing a great job of telling me ahead of time what their pick-up plan is and I would like for that to continue. At this point, the only ways that are sanctioned by the elementary schools is either taking the district-provided transportation OR arrange for parent transportation/carpool. Thank you all for your patience regarding the transportation situation, and thank you to those of you who are being an active participant in this situation. I will do what I can to keep you all abreast of any updates that I receive from the Transportation office.
- Remember to check the website (found at all three elementary schools’ and Timberline MS’s website) for any pertinent information regarding program policy and updates. I will do what I can to regularly update it with helpful information, as well as update you all with our progress and what each group is working on (and is expected to be practicing) found in the “Weekly Blog” section.
- Also on the website is information regarding private lessons. It is STRONGLY suggested that your student invest in private lessons to help supplement their band experience. It is very common for older students to begin taking private lessons as they start and there is a SIGNIFICANT difference in how they progress, compared to those who do not. Ms. Fulton and I do our best to work with as many individual students as we can (and we will continue to do so to the best of our ability), but to ensure that your student is getting the most out of their time with their instrument, I suggest seeking the advice of a qualified and proven teacher who will meet their individual needs, a list of which you will find on the website.
Level II has been working on dotted half notes, reading ties, and meeting 3/4 time. They would do well to practice their assigned lines (#60 - #70) using a metronome AND a tuner. M/T apps can be found at any app store and many are free (the one I use in my own practice is an app called TonalEnergy and costs $5, but it is well worth it; I use it everyday). Also, each instrument group has been given supplemental technique exercises that addresses technical issues specific to that instrument. It is highly suggested that you practice a few of those a day, as well (see the Band FAQs and Blog section for sample practice schedules). Aim for at least 30 min/day of practice, but feel free to practice more than that.
Level I has begun making first sounds! Ms. Fulton can make specific comments regarding flute and trombone work that needs to be done, but trumpets should spend at least 5 min of their practice session making sounds on the mouthpiece. Remember to take the time and find your embouchure first; make sure corners stay firm against the edges of the mouthpiece so that your cheeks don’t puff. As you assemble the entire trumpet, take the time to find your left and right hand positions and practice cycling through the “rest”, “ready”, and “playing” positions that we learned this past week. Now that you know how to oil your valves, do so every day (certainly every band day). Be careful to not unscrew the entire valve assembly; it can be a real pain to put back together. If you find that you have oiled your valve and it still sticks, take it to your rental place and they will fix it for you. Clarinets have been practicing their mpc/barrel/reed/ligature assembly and have begun adding their upper joint. With all of that, they are able to practice their left hand position and begin playing their first few notes. DO NOT PUT ANYTHING ELSE TOGETHER YET!! Wait until next week for us to get to the whole clarinet. If there is squeaking, it is because you are biting the mouthpiece or your lower lip is not over your bottom teeth. Only about half of the mpc needs to go in your mouth. And always check your reed. If it’s chipped, you need a new one. If you can see through it, you need a new one. Plan to have the same reed for about 3-4 weeks then toss it and get a new one, but always have a backup reed ready, in case something goes wrong with your primary reed (the best players I know often cycle through reeds e.g. Monday reed, Tuesday reed, etc.).
If I think of anything else, I’ll let you know via the website. Thank you all for a great start to the year! This looks to be a promising crop of elementary band students and I can’t wait to hear what they sound like in the next few months!
As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me about questions or concerns. Email is preferred.
Wilder Elementary/Timberline MS
October 11, 2019 PS
...as it turns out, I did have something else.
For Conference Week, there WILL BE BAND in the morning. For LEAP day (no students), there will NOT be band on Friday.