Between my work for Band Directors Talk Shop and The Instrumentalist, I have had the honor to see over two dozen articles born into publication, and, as an English teacher’s son and wannabe writer, I am extremely grateful for this. I have poured my heart and soul into many of these articles, and the topics have ranged from rehearsal atmosphere, to literature selection, to band pedagogy, to profiles of some of my personal band heroes.
But the article that seems to keep coming back and has gotten one of the strongest reactions is a “throwaway” piece that I wrote a few years ago called “20 Analogies That I Have Used (With Love) With My Band That You Have Not.” In line with my belief that humor and analogy are two of our most powerful teaching tools, and to mark the three-year anniversary of the original article, I present this follow-up:
- Imagine running across a field of baby chickens in a pair of golf cleats. This part has the potential to sound like that.
- We need to go for magical instead of tragical.
- When breathing to start the sound, the air moves in and out like you are rocking a baby in your arms. Everything is even, and the motion is constant. You don’t jerk the baby around, and you definitely DON’T THROW THE BABY.
- There is an art to music in that it should create an emotional reaction in both the performers and the audience members. We can’t play like we just got shot with a phaser that was set to, not Stun, not Kill, but Apathy.
- Thank you for your high level of non-response to my question. Now I know how the kid in “The Sixth Sense” must have felt.
- Playing in a rest is like walking into a pit that you could see coming from a mile away. You’re aware of it, you know how to go around or step over it, but you fall right into it, anyway.
- That was too aggressive, like you are texting me in all caps.
- This needs to be soft, but intense. Like when your mom gets upset with something you’re doing in church or at the movies and whispers to you to stop.
- Being aware of bad intonation and doing nothing to attempt to adjust is like knowing that you have extreme body odor and choosing not to wear deodorant.
- When articulating here, imagine lightly petting a newborn kitten on its head, not mashing it into the palm of your hand.
- Playing in time at a fast tempo should feel effortless, like riding in a really expensive luxury car gliding down a perfectly smooth highway at 70 miles an hour on cruise control – not like an out-of-shape biker trying to pedal down that same road trying to keep up with said car.
- Band is not like a sport. Sports teams have benches. No one in this band HAS a back-up or IS a back-up. We are all starters, and, therefore can’t be replaced or sent to the sideline.
- A missed key signature note that happens once is a mistake. After that, it’s a plan.
- We have a chair order in each section because we can’t sit in each other’s laps. Everyone is important. Everyone has a role to play and gifts to share. You are the first chair you.
- By writing a crescendo there, the composer is already giving you permission to do so. You don’t need me to tell you it’s OK.
- Flute (or oboe, bassoon, saxophone, etc.) vibrato is like spice in a recipe. Too little can be bland, too much can be overwhelming, and just the right amount can transform a dish into a masterpiece. And there’s no set amount from one dish (or note or piece of music) to the next. The right measurement of salt for one recipe may be way too much or way too little for another.
- Horns, there is a huge difference between S-O-A-R-ing over the rest of the ensemble and S-O-R-ing over the rest of the ensemble. Homonyms matter.
- We master a long technical passage or challenging piece of music the same way that we would eat an elephant: one bite at a time.
- When we hear something out of tune, out of balance, or out of style, then we need to try react more quickly. Think fiber Internet vs. dial-up. (This one usually needs an explanation. You could say “school WiFi vs. home WiFi” or “5g vs. 3g.”)
- Wow, so many problems keep popping up today that I feel like I’m playing Whack-a-Mole.
Jim Shaw enters his 26th year of teaching and 13th as Director of Bands at Tomball ISD’s Willow Wood Junior High (in the Great State of Texas) finally coming to an acceptance that he may be remembered by his students more for being “funny” than for being a “good teacher.” (If you read this out loud, be sure to use air quotes where appropriate.)
If you would like to receive our weekly newsletter, sign up here.
Don’t forget to like us on Facebook too!
Learn. Share. Inspire.