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Tips That Click Phi Beta Mu

What Warm-up Book Do You Use?

Tips That Click this month explores what goes on in the first minutes of band class in outstanding programs. I was able to sit down with three experienced teachers for a few minutes and “pick their brains” about what has worked well for them in efficiently warming up and developing technical skills with their bands.

Randall Key is the Band Director at Hartselle High School, where he has served for 11 of his total 21 years teaching. He previously served as Assistant at Cullman High School. “We begin each rehearsal with intervals, the five note scale legato, slurred, marcato, and then 12 major scales.

After the

scales we use Symphonic Warm-Ups For Band by Claude T. Smith throughout symphonic season. We also use rhythm pages 40 and 41 from Exercises for Ensemble Drill by Raymond C. Fussell. Starting 2nd semester we add 42 Chorales For Band edited by Philip Gordon. I like the Claude T. Smith book because it has rhythm pages, etudes, and contemporary chorales. The etudes and chorales are written in every key and it challenges band students in several different areas”.

Amanda Ford is Band Director at Pike Liberal Arts School in Troy. She has served as an ABA district officer and adjudicator and taught high school and middle school in the public schools of Alabama earlier in her career. Her experience spans over 27 years. “The book I use all year is I Recommend by James Ployhar. Tony Whetstone turned me onto it years and years ago. It is still only $6.00 a book, so I have students

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purchase individual copies. It really has everything I need and I am so used to it. I generally start it in the second year. I introduce lip slurs and the scales and rudiments and keep expanding these all year. There are also interval studies and short etudes in all keys so we add these as the year progresses. I also utilize the chorales and tuning exercises. There really is a little of everything in this great book as it also includes dynamic studies, a glossary and a short theory section. I don’t do the same regimen exactly the same way from year to year. I adjust it to fit the strengths and weaknesses of each class and what’s going on. The book is suitable for use through high school, so I like that students can buy one inexpensive book and keep it through the years.”

Carol Jacobs led bands in Jefferson County for over 15 years, most notably at Bragg Middle School and Mortimer Jordan High School. She still serves as an adjunct instructor and private lesson teacher for several programs in the Birmingham area. “ I used a number of different books during the early years of my career and found that each had its strengths and weak points. I later took a “cut and paste” approach and created my own handout using sections from several sources. One book that I always utilized is Exercises for Ensemble Drill by Fussell. I would use the scale exercises (Section 8) daily and try to find a “form” that the students liked and drilled this extensively, being very picky on how it was being performed. The variety of things that can be explore with this one section is very extensive. I tried to employ the keys that were being used in the literature we were performing so

the student could make a tangible connection. I also used Section 9 and 10 of this book to develop and reinforce rhythmic skills and prepare for sight reading. Again, this is using unison melodic material with the idea when you get matching energy tone quality form each individual in the ensemble, then the chorales will have better balance and sonority. I used the chord section (Section 1) of Ensemble Drill, but really like using Chorale Masters by James Curnow for chorale work. This book presents the melody part as a unison line that can be rehearsed before presenting the harmonization. I would use just a phrase or fragment of the chorale so that the students could concentrate on making all elements sound balanced and perfect”.

Hopefully the advice given above will generate some ideas that will help all of us or perhaps reinforce what you already do daily.

All three directors I

interviewed emphasized the importance of not using the routines as an end in themselves; the concepts taught must be intentionally transferred to the literature being prepared or the time is essentially wasted. There have been many warmup materials added in the last few years, but I find it interesting that successful teachers seem to revert back to the “tried and true”!

Rho Chapter of Phi Beta Mu International Bandmaster Fraternity is committed to the improvement of bands and band instruction in this state. Comments on this column and ideas for future columns are welcome! Please email:,


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