Get it Together! In Home Trumpet Teachers And Ensemble Skills

Benefits of In Home Trumpet Teachers for Band & Orchestra StudentsHow can in home trumpet lesson teachers teach students the skills of ensemble playing in the limits of private lessons? And how can we be sure that they are executing these skills once they leave their homes? These are the questions that come up after lessons. If we are excluded from ensemble rehearsals, how can we know anything about a student’s ensemble technique? There are ways to teach ensemble skills in the home that can overcome the boundaries of the one on one setting. From what I’ve experienced, these skills consist of three general-although endlessly detailed-categories.

Rhythm of course
Rhythm is the most important aspect of putting something together. When a student is playing a tune and it simply sounds good, what is working? It has to be the time! It has to be the rhythm! Without time, pulse, and rhythm, a song is not a song, and a tune is not a tune. This extends into ensemble playing as well. So when a student is playing a song, I find it always to be absolutely the most important thing that the student have a sense of interior pulse. Now, its not about having perfect rhythm, none of us have that. Only robots and metronomes have perfect rhythm.
No, it’s about having an underlying sense of pulse that can lock into all the other student’s-if all goes well-sense of pulse. How do we teach this as in home trumpet teachers? We have to be endlessly scrutinizing the student’s interior rhythm, and never let ourselves get lazy with examining this element. Chances are that if a song sounds like a song, the pulse is there. What I think is extremely helpful is asking the student to play a tune at random different speeds, to test the muscles of interior pulse. See if the student can create that pulse at any speed. It’s amazing how quickly students can start feeling the pulse and improve their sense of rhythm when gradually increasing the tempo.
While some instruments may not even have to approach this issue, for in home trumpet teachers, pitch is a huge concept. When approaching the ensemble angle, I try to think of this issue as something to be monitored closely, because if one player is out of tune it can throw the whole ensemble off balance. Again, I have to always remind myself that perfect intonation is impossible, for the student and me. What we have to do is obsessively analyze pitch to relay the importance of matching as perfectly as possible.
As students grow musically, they get better and better at this and hopefully begin to adjust pitch after hearing that it’s off. Once it’s obvious that they have an ear for pitch, we can lay off a little bit and let the student be his own pitch critic some of the time. Sometimes it’s fun to play harmonies with a student to get the ears working outside the student’s instrument. This can build the skills of ensemble playing, and I find that once a student gets going with this, they really run with it. It’s also just a fun when to spend a lesson, for student and teacher!
Play Together!
While teaching pitch and rhythm is essential to any good musician playing a stringed or wind instrument, there is also the most basic element of music which I always think about during lessons at home, and it’s something I’ve already touched on a little. It’s natural for in home trumpet teachers to try and overanalyze, or try and create super sophisticated methods for solutions such as ensemble playing, but I think teaching ensemble skills can be as simple as this: playing with your students. I have learned and taught so much from just getting in there and playing with an eager student. There is nothing wrong with showing by example a little, and I love playing with the student because then I really know how they play with
others. I’m a musician too right?
I think a good ensemble player is a less recognized trait that we don’t praise often enough. Teach rhythm and pitch until they are blue in the face and then let the magic happen with some real life small ensemble playing; ok tiny ensemble playing. Learning by doing is definitely the most fun way, especially with music lessons!
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