Date: Tue, 7 Sep 1999 08:52:19 -0400
From: "Jeanne G Pocius" <>
Subject: Re: Teaching beginners

Dear Bryan:

I follow the schedule below for beginners:

Lesson 1:  Set-ups

a.  Buzzing lips(imitating lawnmower, airplane taking off, I have the kids do a loose horseflap, then using the tips of the index fingers to gradually tighten the seal toward the center of the lips---iow, start the loose buzz, place the tips of fingers on outside edge of lips(both sides), then gradually blow harder and use fingers to help close the seal so the  buzz moves toward the natural buzz point(*set*) of embouchure....

     Because I believe that this is determined anatomically, this may or may not be centered exactly....This process also helps with determining whether the child is an upstream or downstream player(which may or may not change, based on future orthodontia).  With older players I use a lip *pop* to determine best *point-of-seal*, but youngsters usually don't have enough muscle developed(via eating, talking, making faces, etc) to use this approach.

   Other things that help are the *mmm-mmm* good (Campbell's Soups commercial), showing them that forced gas(in this case, pressurized air) is cool to the touch(Have them blow without compressing lips at all, then form chops and blow/buzz against the palm of their hand---they'll notice that the air is cooler when the air is compressed.)

    I work at getting the trumpet students to play second line G, and then show them this note on the staff(and that the *bulls-eye of the G clef encircles the G line*), then work on playing *long tones*(4 -10 seconds' worth initially) and simple attacks/patterns.

b.  Once they've established a good buzz, I'll add the mpc and get them to buzz a song(even if it's just the rhythm of a song, without much pitch differentiation) on the mpc.

c.  THEN I'll add the mpc to the horn(explaining the proper way to insert the mpc without jamming it, and that, if it SHOULD get jammed, it's imperative to  bring the instr. back to ME, and not let Dad try to remove it with pliers<G>, since I have a machine that will pull the mpc out easily when stuck((the *Bobcat* mpc puller works for 90% of stuck mpcs, the others go back to a repair person---this is inexpensive and if you don't already have one, can be purchased through the Woodwind and Brasswind))

C.  At this point we learn how to sit or stand while holding the horn(and that pinkies DON"T go into the ring unless we're putting in a mute/using a plunger or turning a page while continuing to play<G>!), and I also address good posture for resting(with the horn across the lap or in the traditional *bell-on-the-upper-leg* concert band position)...This achieves a sense of tradition and ceremony, which I find stays with the kids for many years when it's begun early and reinforced.....We also talk about NOT putting the horn down on it's *nose*(the second valve slide), NOR standing up on the floor on its bell(and I show them my trumpet stand for that purpose and that THAT is what sometimes LOOKS like the trumpet is resting on its bell on the floor...

Personally, I try to incorporate music reading from the very beginning, unless the student is VERY young(if they're 4th grade or older, though, they SHOULD be able to handle learning to read music)....I have, on occasion, taught 5 yr olds, and in that case, I might teach by rote for a while.

If I'm in an individual lesson(not a group lesson or class lesson), I like to use the Sigmund Hering Trumpet Method Books, supplemented by the *Complete Trumpet Player* books, put out by Wise Music(London/NYC)....In group lessons, I try to use whatever method the local school is using and supplement with the Hering books(there are also fine etude and duet books, which can be incorporated as early as three to 4 months into the lesson year)....

I also have a series of rhythm charts that I've developed over the years, which I use in teaching scales and scale patterns to help develop an awareness of sub-division(so important to good sight-reading later on)....

Hth, let me know if I can help  in any other ways...
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Take Care!
Jeanne G Pocius