Category Archives: Brass Woodshed

Two Instruments: Is it Necessary?

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During a long conversation with a parent of a 7th-grade cello player, we discussed the possible reasons behind her lack of practicing. The school she attends is fortunate enough to provide students with instruments, which they can sign-out and bring home as they please. Being both reasonable and realistic, the parent only asked for her to bring the instrument home on the weekend. Conveniently, the child “forgets” to bring the cello home.

To summarize our entire conversation, students in the 6th-9th grades are very concerned about their image. Toting a large instrument case, or any size for that matter, may not be the “coolest” thing in the eyes of their peers. Unfortunately, they care deeply about what their peers think of them at this age. In this particular case, the 7th-grade also student rode the school bus, which brings on an entirely different set of physical challenges that add to the existing image concerns.

Ultimately, the parent asked if I thought it was worth purchasing an instrument for her to keep at home so that she wouldn’t have to take the cello back and forth. In this situation, my answer is definitely “Yes.” It’s always good to own the instrument, so the child knows that you have invested in their extracurricular activity. This may inspire them to take it more seriously and not just see it as a class they were forced to take. Also, by having the instrument at home, accessibility is no longer an issue, so 30 minutes of daily practice should be incorporated into their daily schedule.

However, if you have purchased an instrument because the school does not supply one, I do not think you should purchase a second instrument just so the student can leave one at school. Most students do not have this luxury, and eventually should grow to appreciate their new interest, embrace their hobby, and have pride in being a part of the school band or orchestra. It will take some time (some longer than others), but please keep them motivated and it’ll all work out.

Here’s a list of ideas that may help speed up the process:

1. Take students to see professional band and symphony concerts whenever you have the opportunity

2. Listen to music that features the instrument he or she is learning to play

3. Find similarities between instrumental music and their favorite music genres and relate it to their everyday lives

4. Have them learn about famous people who play their instrument

5. Always try to make it fun and keep them engaged

Brass Literature from McFadden



Arban: Complete Conservatory Method, ed. Goldman and Smith (C. Fischer)

Saint-Jacome: Grand Method (C. Fischer)


Clarke: Elementary Studies (C. Fischer)

Robinson: Rubank Elementary Method (Rubank)

Gordon: Physical Approach to Elementary Brass Playing (C. Fischer)


Clarke: Technical Studies (C. Fischer)

The Allen Vizzutti Trumpet Method, Books 1-3 (Alfred)

Schlossberg: Daily Drills and Technical Studies (M. Baron)

Smith: Lip Flexibility (C. Fischer)

Colin: Advanced Lip Flexibilities (C. Colin)

Gower and Voxman (ed.): Rubank Advanced Method (Rubank)

Chavanne: 25 Characteristic Studies, ed. Voisin (International) Stamp: Warm-ups plus Studies (Editions Bim)


Charlier: Etudes transcendantes (A. Leduc)

Clarke: Characteristic Studies (C. Fischer)

Preparing for an Audition

Looking for some brief but helpful tips to get ready for an upcoming music audition? If so, you can find all of the essential advice below to enlighten yourself on the basics from Day 1 of your preparation to the actual audition.  Good Luck!

Know Exactly What is Required

You should thoroughly know the exact requirements for the audition that you are preparing for. When you register, you will be provided with all of the information that you’ll need. It’s extremely vital that you be very familiar with what you’ll need to work on so that you can begin practicing, and go purchase any materials that you may need for the audition. If there is a a specific piece for all, it will most likely be provided. If you are allowed to select your own piece, be sure that it falls within the time constraints and genre requirements that have been listed.

Also note if your audition will take place in front of judges or if you’ll be behind a screen. This will be important when you decide what you’ll be wearing. For those new to auditions, you may need to take some time to get comfortable playing alone as well as with people watching you.  More on these things in a bit.

Prepare Your Music & Do Not Procrastinate

Sight-reading Info from McFadden

A couple of years ago, I asked my good friend Avery for advice on sight-reading.  Avery has touched on this a little in some of the previous episodes but I found an email he wrote me on sight-reading, and I wanted to share it with you.

Thirty-two Etudes for Trumpet or Cornet by Sigmund Hering

Remember, just keep it slow, and use a metronome to practice.  Break them down into like 8 bars at a time, and speed it up as you get more comfortable with it.  Before you try to run it down the first time, look at for a minute, and try to recognize scale and arpeggio patters, and rhythms that you are not familiar with.  Try signing them on beat before you attempt to play.