The hardest section of your band to get to play well and cleanly is always the inner parts. Why? I have always thought it was simple, members of my band who were the weakest players play the inner parts. They were not as good as my strong players so they could not be heard or play well.
It is difficult to blame kids when it is really my ineptitude that causes the problems. That being said I was searching for a way to teach them better. Do I do more rhythm sheets or more playing tests? I was perplexed because some kids are able to play them well without that extra work.
Let me get to the real solution. I think we are preparing kids wrong to play inner parts. We spend all of our time in books learning melodies. Rhythm sheets are good teaching tools but I feel do not always transfer from exercise to real music. The way they are used in real music is different so some of my students do not connect the two together. When I work on articulation exercises my students do not connect how the exercise and real music are the same.
Solution: Teach real music. Teach students to play an accompaniment part. Teach students how to play a bass line. Teach students how to play a counter melody.
Solution in action: I compiled 50 excerpts of Sousa's marches because each strain has every part of music: melody, counter melody, accompaniment, and bass lines. I wrote out every part so everyone in the band can learn to play each part. Click here to see an example. Now everyone learns together how to play an accompaniment, bass-line or counter melody.
Benefits: We started sight-reading new music for an upcoming concert and all of my inner parts already know how to play the accompaniment. They were playing the rhythm and music with other parts well, the first time. My inner parts and bass parts were able to listen and balance the first time to the melody and know how they work together.
Conclusion: Students cannot play inner parts and bass lines because we never practice them in any of the method books. We only try to teach it while we are teaching everything else at the same time and it is slow and unproductive. Try a couple of these exercises for free here. Also, order a free demo copy here or order a classroom set here. Playing a different march every day or every few days is the highlight of my rehearsals. My students love it and it is so easy to do because it is organized in a book, I do not have to pass out parts every day and we get to practice each part in unison.
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