School band can be great fun to teach, but maybe the most exhausting hour of your week as a music teacher. The amount of energy involved in keeping your band engaged is draining for even the most energetic music teacher. You are also working towards a high standard of ensemble performance and fulfilling requirements from your school.
Creating well-organised band lesson plans will make your weekly rehearsal run more smoothly. In this article we present five tips for beginning band lesson plans which you can apply straight away. Then we even give you an example lesson plan that you can adapt to your band’s standard and repertoire.
What You'll Learn?
5 Things to Keep in Mind when Creating a Band Lesson Plan
1. Always include tuning and warm-up in your plan
Maybe you think that tuning the instruments is so obvious that you don’t need to plan for it. Wrong! Tuning makes such a difference to the band’s overall sound that it is important not to overlook it. Beginner and intermediate players may not know how to tune their instruments correctly in a band setting. You might need to listen to them play their tuning note one by one, at least for the first few weeks of rehearsals.
Warming up is very important, particularly for wind instruments. We recommend doing a warm-up activity at the beginning of every band practice. Then after warming up, we suggest doing a quick check of the tuning and adjusting the now warmer instruments. Paying attention to tuning makes a big difference to the sound of the ensemble and teaches the students about the importance of tuning.
2. Don’t over- or underestimate your students
According to the conductor Eugene Corporon,
“many groups sound better than any of the people in them, and through great teaching, a conductor can produce a fantastic ensemble...even with players who have only medium skills.”
In your middle school band lesson plans it is easy to underestimate your students. Just because individually they aren’t very advanced, it is still possible to create a good overall sound as a group. There is an element of safety in numbers at work here, with students supporting each other musically. Select repertoire that is suitable for your students’ level. If you choose pieces that are too advanced, band will become a struggle for you and the students! If you have an end-of-term concert or a band competition to prepare for, choose a piece that you can rehearse to performance standard in the available time.
3. Choose repertoire that means something to your students
Of course you want your students to come happily to band practice every week, eager to play the pieces you have chosen. Choosing repertoire that means something to students can make a huge difference. Find out what kinds of music they enjoy listening to, and see if there is an arrangement available for your band. Sheet music for bands is available for many film soundtracks as well as popular songs and song from musicals. Learning a piece they already like means they know how it might sound before they even pick up their instruments.
Music education app Solfeg.io can help you here. With hundreds of pieces to choose from, you are sure to find the right repertoire for your school band. You can even break down the song into instrumental parts so your students can see how their part fits into the whole arrangement. Advanced students will enjoy the ability to decrease the speed and listen more closely to difficult passages.
4. Include time for sectional practice
Build some time into your band lesson plan for sectionals. This is when you split the band into smaller groups, usually according to instruments. Each small group practises its part separately, paying special attention to passages where their instrument has an important part.
These small group rehearsals are crucial for nailing tricky sections of the music. As a teacher you can go around the classroom, checking in with each group to see how they are getting on and offering advice. Sectional practices are also a great opportunity for your students to get to know each other. This brings a social element to band practice and helps with bonding.
5. Make use of new technology
Many new resources are now available for music teachers and band leaders. You no longer need to spend your lunch break searching through a dusty cupboard for old scores. With apps like Solfeg.io it is far easier to access new repertoire and the choice of band pieces is sure to beat the stock of sheet music at any school.
Even better, since Solfeg.io can be used at home as well as at school, your students don’t have to wait until the next band rehearsal to play with an ensemble. They can practise together with a band when they are at home. Then when they return to rehearsals they already understand how their part fits into the arrangement.
Your Very Own Band Lesson Plan, An Example
5-10 minutes / Tuning and warm-up activity.
Popular warm-ups with a wind band include building chords together, with each instrument playing a different note. Encourage students to watch you, the conductor, as you direct them to play loudly and softly. Then check their tuning again.
5 minutes max / Present new repertoire or remind students what they have been playing.
Ask them questions about the repertoire to fill in general musical knowledge. This could be about the composer or genre of music. If you are beginning a new piece, play them a recording first.
20 minutes / Practise as a whole ensemble.
Run through the whole piece and identify tricky passages to repeat. Identify parts for sectionals to focus on. If time permits, repeat those tricky passages. Remember to encourage good ensemble practice. Students should be watching the conductor and listening to each other.
20 minutes / Sectionals.
Split the students into sections and ask them to practise their parts. Don’t worry about the cacophony of all the groups practising separate parts at the same time! Go around and see each group once to give guidance. For high school band lesson plans we suggest making several sessions of the semester more focused on sectional practice.
5-10 minutes / Bring the whole band back together to finish.
Play through all or a section of the piece. Finishing by playing the final cadence of the piece always gives a good sense of closure to the rehearsal.
Adapt this lesson plan to your band’s needs. Choose your repertoire carefully. And make the most of new technology. Band practice will become less tiring for you and more fun for everyone!