The Importance of Teaching Good Habits in Instrumental Music Class

HAPPY NEW YEAR! While this is a wish in general for the year 2018, we find ourselves in the middle of the 2017-18 school year. The holidays are over, your novice band students made it through the elementary Christmas concert in late December, and almost 50% are now prepared to drop out of the band program in January when rental fees are due. Many students found practicing way too arduous and time consuming while others have too much on their plates like sports or other interests, all of which are battling for their attention.

There is a silver lining in all this. You have a chance to start over with students that already know basic fingerings and have enough interest to stick to it and just might pay attention to you as well. SO DON’T SHORT CHANGE THEM.

First suggestion is start teaching your students proper finger techniques for efficiency. If you start now it will sink in. If you are persistent for a few seconds each week even in group lessons, your students will avoid future problems. As I personally entered my 30’s and 40’s, my biggest fear was developing arthritis in my hands as I grew older. Well low and behold I’m 70 years old and my fear is now a reality. However, something I did early on in my playing career has payed off in fingering speed by keeping the tips of my fingers on the pearls. Imagine my surprise when I realized that my purist attitude would benefit me 50+ years later. Also the range of motion in my hands when I play is minimal thus avoiding pain in my knuckles.

My second suggestion is to teach your pupils good embouchures. Though there are many physical mouth formations you will encounter, development of facial and lip muscles are imperative for producing a pleasing sound. This brings us to a fear we all have: looking older as we age. Yes this is inevitable. If students learn to firm up the muscles in their faces while practicing at a young age, they will stave off the onset of wrinkles as long as they continue the good habits taught and nurtured by you at the beginning of their careers. Again, I am 70, but I do not have smile lines, you know those parentheses on either side of the corners of your mouth. This good habit not only had an impact on my playing, it also had an impact on my physical appearance.

Now is the time to start teaching beginner students good habits instead of waiting to break bad habits down the road, unless you are creating job security for your self as in: why teach it right the first time when you can fix it later.

I hope you all have the knowledge to teach proper techniques. Teaching elementary band is more than note values and honking out buzzsaw sounds in the hopes that listeners will recognize what they are playing. Remember, there are those that do and those that teach. But there are also those that do and teach. Which one are you?