“Spend time now to save time later” is a great quote, especially when it comes to teaching embouchure to beginning band students. Preventing bad habits early is key to a successful start on any instrument. Following is a list of 6 practical tips for teaching embouchure efficiently and effectively from day one.
1.) Train your students to practice with a mirror- every time!
This is advice we’ve all heard, but how good are we about enforcing it and insisting on it? With the distance learning we are anticipating this school year, our students’ best friend should be their mirror. We can help students by reminding them daily to have their mirrors out and ready to go on their music stands. That way, when you say “make your face look like mine,” they can quickly and easily demonstrate, checking their embouchure in their mirror.
2.) Teach with pictures- lots of them!
We all know that a picture is worth more than 1,000 words, especially for students that are visual learners. Often, we can save time explaining and demonstrating simply by showing students pictures of what we want them to accomplish. While not every face and embouchure will look 100% the same, a picture can give students something to aim for. As directors, at times we over-explain because we desperately want our students to “get it.” Pictures will help eliminate the need to give too much explanation. Remember, less is more!
5.) Model a good sound
Make sure you give your students a professional sound to imitate! If you aren’t confident on a particular instrument, provide them with videos and recordings of professional instrumentalists. We have some great performances of our “Tunes with a Twist” books on our new YouTube Channel. Students will be able to hear a good tone and technique while having fun playing along with the sheet music in their Tunes with a Twist Books!
3.) Make student Reference sheets
Students thrive with clear, consistent expectations and checklists. We recommend typing up a one-page “Do’s and Don’ts” handout with the main things they need to remember to form a good embouchure. It is helpful to have a couple of pictures on the page too.
4.) Have a director’s “toolbox”
We suggest keeping a list of embouchure tips and solutions to common problems for every instrument. How many times do you hear of a great tip from another director but you can’t remember what it was? Having a notebook of these “tricks and tips” will ensure you have the right phrase to assist a student the moment you need it. Remember, a great teacher can say the same thing a million different ways.
6.) Ask for help!
“True humility is staying teachable, regardless of what you already know.” This is such a powerful quote and important when it comes to teaching. Find a mentor, join a Facebook group, listen to podcasts and attend conferences. Need a great beginning band Facebook group to connect with? The BEGINNING BAND ENGAGEMENT Facebook group is just like it sounds- engaging! This group is a place where you are able to ask questions and get some great advice, very specific to the topic of beginning band.
If you are interested in ready-made student checklists, quizzes, slideshows of embouchure faces, hundreds of pages of director tips and solutions, you can save time and stress by checking out THE EMBOUCHURE PROJECT HERE. There are hundreds of pictures of professional musicians included- even percussion! With over 60 five star reviews, we hope this resource will be an invaluable teaching tool for you during both distance learning and in-person instruction.
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