DO Sweat the Small Stuff (Part 2) Beginning Brass & Percussion


Have the students BUZZ

  • Just have them buzz. Buzz sirens, buzz their method book songs, buzz their band songs, buzz their solo music, have them buzz alone and with recordings –  just have them buzz!
  • We could discuss whether it is right for the students’ success to buzz right from the first day. I know there are different philosophies on whether the students first “sound” should be on the mouthpiece or on the horn, but after they start – whichever way you start them – have them buzz.
  • Have students purchase a BERP to help them buzz and finger at the same time.

Hand position MATTERS

Trumpet players

  • Start their right hand curved onto the valves with pads of fingers on pearls and their pinky on top of the hook. (When students hook their pinky into side this we joke it becomes on “octave” key because the student uses pressure to push the trumpet into their face for high notes.) Have them rest their pink on top!

  • If the trumpet does not have a thumb holder for their left hand, place a piece of painters’ tape where the left thumb goes, in an effort to get students finger down on the trumpet

All valve instruments

  • All fingers are curved around the valves!


  • Left-hand makes an L, and points across to towards the mouthpiece
  • Right hand only utilizes 2 fingers and a thumb and is at the BOTTOM of the brace of the trombone
  • Place a sticker or piece of tape on the bottom of the brace so students know where to hold it. This will help them to pull their hand down on the slide. Utilizing painters tape helps and it does not damage the instrument.

Starting French horn players:

  • Sit sideways on the chair. Have students pull their right leg to the side of the chair and hold their bell on their knee that way. Utilize the right-left placement to change the placement of the mouthpiece to the student’s mouth.
  • Put tape in the bell of the French horn for hand placement.

Starting Tuba Players? Check out this article…


Start your percussionists on mallets!

  • In an ideal world, they would start on small practice xylophones at home. I realize that our world is not ideal, which is why there is a bell kit!
  • DO NOT allow your students to utilize the stickers as cheats.
  • Have them memorize where the notes are on the keyboard, just like you have the students memorize the notes on all other instruments (Don’t feel like you have enough time to reinforce. Utilize a flipped classroom video such as this – Percussion Keyboard Reading)

  • If you want a “cheat” utilize painters tape on the first few notes without the note names on it! Just place tape on the key and then after students get used to their hand position remove it.
  • When holding snare mallets over the pad, tell students to make it look like a SLICE of pizza or pie.

Need hints for snare drum? This is a great article on using tape, and these two on the very first days of snare drum – Day 1 and Day 2!

Have you seen Part 1 in this seriesDO Sweat the Small Stuff – Beginning Woodwinds?

Meghan Cabral teaches middle school band and works in Carmel, NY. Meghan is a Grammy Nominated Semi-Finalist, has written for many music publications including The Instrumentalist Magazine, NAfME’s Teaching Music, MEJ, NYSBDA’s Band Stand, as well as NYSSMA’s School Music News. Meghan is an active guest conductor as well as clinician for music departments and at state conferences. You can follow Meghan on twitter @band_mcabral, or Instagram @band_cabral or contact her at  To find out more information about Meghan visit her website, or check out her new publication, “A New Band Approach,” which includes flipped classroom videos ready for day 1 of beginning band as well as more advanced flipped learning at

band resources

Related Reading:
5 Steps to Recruit More Tuba Players
Three places to Oil French Horn Valves
Brass Resources Page

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