We all know that kids today like to have fun. So why not try making some of the important things you teach fun. We do not need to try and entertain our students every moment of every day but we teach music. In band we do not work on assignments we PLAY! We play because it should be fun.
Here are a few ways I have found to break things up and make a game out of listening and adjusting pitch.
1. Tuning Duets - Go through your band having different like instruments play unison notes. Have the two players play one note right after the other. Each student in the band writes done if they think the first player was sharper, flatter or in tune. This gives you a chance to give individual players a quick chance for help and everyone gets to listen and identify it. You can do this as an assignment but I find kids take more ownership if you turn it into a competition on who can get the highest score. Motivation to get the highest score is better motivation for most kids than their grade. You just turned listening, tuning and individual assessments into a game instead of a lecture.
2. Don't Just play long tones play long tones with exciting accompaniments - If you could make long tones more fun your kids would do it more. Seriously, long tones are boring. Not anymore. Watch this video which shows the score for Band Intonation Exercises along with the accompaniment tracks. You can teach long tones and tuning into something interesting.
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3. Short Small Ensemble or Section Performances - assign small groups or sections a small excerpt, interval exercise or easy chorale to play for the class. BIE Exercise or BIChorales would work perfectly. Give them five or ten minutes to practice it then have each group perform it for the class. This can be a great opportunity for students to learn in a different social situation then your normal learning environment. You can quickly assess how to help each group and or individuals. You can identify who needs the most help and find ways to help them.
4. Teach a song by rote - Choir teachers do this all the time and band teachers neglect this. If you teach a melody by rote students spend time listening and adjusting pitch, they also get to hear you play good tone on your instrument. Students who spend time learning to play by rote can play more in tune and develop listening skills that make them great musicians. Give them a chance to start training their ears before the musicianship/dictation class in college.
5. Student Centered Learning (instead of lecture) - Make teaching intonation student-centered not teacher centered. Band used to be a class where the kids sat and listened while the teacher lectured. If students can read what to do without having every instruction from the teacher you can save rehearsal time, they will get to play more. More playing equals more fun and a better band. BIExercises and BICHorales are designed with student-centered tuning tricks, hints and helps for each exercise. Students can see what notes are generally out of tune and ways to fix it without the teacher having to say everything. You run a few exercises or chorales and they learn without you having to talk all the time.
Experienced band teacher, author, clinician and musician. Brian has a Masters in conducting from Sam Houston Sate University through the American Band College. He was quarter Finalist for Grammy "Educator of the Year" 2018