This instrument selection guide, along with the instrument testing that we will do in August, is intended to help each student make a decision on which instrument to play.
Each instrument is necessary in the band. Very much like any sports team, we need each position filled in order to have a complete team. Each student will pick three instruments s/he would like to try. They will be tested on their first choice first. If the student has a hard time on that, we will try him/her on their second choice, and so forth, until we find the appropriate instrument for your child.
Please do not go and buy an instrument until this testing process is complete. Considerations when purchasing an instrument: Please stay away from retail stores and online auction sites when purchasing an instrument. These will present you with a cheap instrument, and the instrument will be just that - cheap.
We will have an instrument sales night in August where we will have rental instruments available. We will deal with instrument selection and rental/purchase then.
Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening.
Physical Characteristics: Flute players should have a slight “frown” to the upper lip with NO tear drop shape in the middle. Flute tones are produced by being able to focus an extremely small airstream to an exact location on the tone hole. The tear-drop-shaped lip will make it difficult to direct the air so precisely. Flute players should also have agile fingers for moving this multi-keyed instrument through a fast musical passage. Students with extreme overbites (receded jaw) should avoid choosing flute as this makes it difficult to produce quality sounds.
Other Considerations: Students with double-jointed fingers should avoid selecting flute as double-jointedness can cause lack of agility in the fingers.
The oboe is similar in its appearance to a clarinet, but it is played using a “double reed” instead of a single reed and mouthpiece.
Physical Characteristics: Students with profound overbites or under bites would have EXTREME difficulties producing good sounds on the oboe since the embouchure (mouth position) requires equal pressure on both sides of the reed at the same placement.
Other Considerations: Because the oboe is such a difficult instrument to master, only students with high academic performance records will be considered.
The bassoon is to the oboe what the bass clarinet is to the clarinet. It is the larger, lower sounding version of the double reed instrument. However, bassoon students will not play oboe before switching, instead they will begin on the bassoon itself.
Physical Characteristics: A slight overbite is okay for students wishing to play bassoon, however, a student with an under bite should avoid bassoon. Agile thumbs are a necessity for playing bassoon proficiently as well as a medium or greater hand span.
Other Considerations: Like the oboe, the bassoon is such a difficult instrument to master. Students are required to maintain a supply of 3-4 high-quality reeds at ALL times. Reeds can cost $10-15 each. The financial trade-off for having to take lessons and keep a stock of working reeds is that Null provides bassoons for students at a cost of $50 (maintenance fee) for an entire school year for routine maintenance.
The clarinet uses a “single reed” and a mouthpiece to produce the sound. Willingness to purchase or rent a director-recommended clarinet is a MUST! Unfortunately, there are some clarinets on the market whose poor design and craftsmanship will make it next to impossible for your student to succeed. We can help you avoid that pitfall. Some clarinet students may be chosen to play Bass Clarinet as 7th graders.
Physical Characteristics: One necessity of clarinet tone production is the ability to make the chin flat. Orthodontia is okay, but if a student has an extremely rounded bottom row of teeth, the mouthpiece will be hard to place in the proper position for tone production.
Other Considerations: Instruction in clarinet can be meticulous. Students who are able to focus on and perform a detailed series of instructions could do well on clarinet. Students who have difficulty remembering a series of instructions should avoid playing clarinet.
The alto saxophone gives the impression of being both a brass and woodwind instrument, however it is indeed considered a woodwind instrument. The alto saxophone, which uses a single reed like the clarinet, is a very popular instrument like flute.
Physical Characteristics: Since the balance of the saxophone is maintained by the use of a neck strap, it is extremely important that students be able to sit up completely straight when asked to.
Other Considerations: Saxophone players are responsible for maintaining a working stock of 4-6 quality reeds. A box of 10 reeds costs around $23 and can last (with proper care) up to 4 months. Alto Saxophone students will have the opportunity after their first year of instruction to audition for Tenor Sax or Baritone Sax based on their proven musical and behavioral abilities while in alto saxophone class.
The trumpet (cornet is a smaller version) is the smallest member of the brass family. The sound on a trumpet is produced by buzzing into a small mouthpiece.
Physical Characteristics: While orthodontia is somewhat troublesome to a trumpet player, it is not impossible to make good sounds with braces. A slight overbite is okay, but an under bite can severely hinder progress on trumpet. Trumpet players come in all shapes and sizes.
Other Considerations: Trumpet parts usually have the melody (recognizable) part, therefore students who choose the trumpet should exhibit a confident demeanor, strong personality, and demonstrate a high level of self-motivation.
French Horn Family: Brass, Personality: Academic & Noble
The french horn sound is produced by buzzing into a small mouthpiece similar to a trumpet. Students with good musical ears should consider french horn.
Physical Characteristics: While orthodontia is somewhat troublesome to a french horn player, it is not impossible to make good sounds with braces. A slight overbite is okay, but an under bite can severely hinder progress on French Horn. The French horn’s keys are manipulated with the LEFT hand.
Other Considerations: Because of the difficult nature of French horn notes (mentioned above), students should exhibit GREAT ability to match sung or played pitches by humming or singing. Perhaps this is a good instrument choice for students who have participated in piano lessons or honor choir groups. Null provides french horns for students at a cost of $50 (maintenance fee) for an entire school year.
Like the french horn, trombone players should have good “musical ears”. The trombone is played like the other brass instruments (buzzing into a cup-shaped mouthpiece), but uses a slide instead of valves. The slide is not marked or notched and players rely on their muscle memory and hearing to tell if they are in the EXACT proper location. Students with good musical ears should consider Trombone.
Physical Characteristics: While some might think that trombone players must have long arms, the truth is there are numerous accommodations that make it possible for students of all shapes and sizes to play. A slight overbite is acceptable, while an extreme under bite would hinder success. Trombone players should have slightly fuller lips than average.
Other Considerations: Great trombone playing takes good concentration and study. Many quiet academicians have excelled at trombone.
The euphonium (you-PHONE-knee-yum) is sometimes known as the baritone. It is a member of the brass family and looks like a small version of a tuba. Its sound is similar to that of a trombone, but it uses valves like a trumpet instead of a slide.
Physical Characteristics: Euphonium players should have moderately full lips, but not too full. A SLIGHT overbite is okay, but an under bite would hinder a good sound. The euphonium requires a medium-sized hand span to reach the valves and students should have an above average lung capacity.
Other Considerations: Students with an above average amount of orthodontia will find the mouthpiece of the euphonium a bit more comfortable than trumpet or French horn. The Ashworth Band provides euphoniums for students at a cost of $50 (maintenance fee) for an entire school year, but students are required to purchase their own mouthpieces.
While many believe the tuba is the largest instrument in the band and would be hard to physically manage, the tubas we use for beginners are ¾ size and easy to handle.
Physical Characteristics: Tuba players need to have full lips and a large lung capacity. While the size of the student doesn’t matter too much, a long torso (upper body) helps a student reach the mouthpiece of the tuba while resting the bottom of the tuba on the edge of their chair or across the thighs.
Other Considerations: The tuba provides the musical foundation for the band and requires players that are self-motivated over-achievers. The Ashworth Band provides tubas for students at a cost of $50 (maintenance fee) for an entire school year, but students are required to purchase their own mouthpieces.
Just because you are always tapping on things does not mean you are a natural percussionist (drummer). In fact, the percussion section is the most select, hand-picked section of the band. ONLY students with the highest grades, fewest discipline problems, backgrounds in piano lessons, and extremely high gross and fine motor skills will be considered for percussion.
Physical Characteristics: Students should exhibit a great deal of coordination in gross and fine motor skills.
Other Considerations: The study of percussion includes bells, triangle, tambourine, maracas, claves, bells, xylophone, marimba, and timpani among many other instruments.