#43for43 Teaching Tips: The First Nine

The Ensemble seeks to connect and inform all people who are committed to ensemble music education for youth empowerment and social change.

#43for43 Teaching Tips: The First Nine


ONE: For beginner string players that are working on bowing patterns, I let students come up with their rhythmic patterns by asking them questions like “what’s your favorite sport” or “what did you have for lunch today?”.  We then bow their answers, such as “peanut-butter-sandwich, peanut-butter-sandwich.” I let every student have a turn, and we all bow their rhythms as a class, and then I combine students rhythms, which results in more complex patterns and general silliness like “peanut-butter-sandwich-pizza-soup.” The student involvement is much more engaging than when I choose and direct all the rhythms myself. You can also apply this trick to simple songs as a beginning rhythmic improvisation technique.

Submitted by Lydia Veilleux, Orchestra Program Director, Trenton Music Makers

TWO: Just do it & stop speaking about it. Children learn from doing – not being told how to do it. Way too much time is wasted by teachers explaining what they are about to do. Students will nod their heads and look polite but are often waiting for you to “just do it” so they can join in. Musicality is imbedded from exposure and practice. Talk about it ten times and play it once and your students will be able to explain it well- play it ten times and talk about it once and your students will be able to demonstrate it perfectly every time. The ability to project musicality is the most important skill of a music teacher – to project musicality a teacher must first be able to “just do it..”

Submitted by Steve Copley, Head of Music, Catton Grove Primary School

THREE: Here is a video with advice on intonation and scales from our Maestro Jose Iglesias Carnot.

Submitted by Andrea Profili, Executive Director, Orchestrating Dreams

FOUR: Check out this collection of orchestral student musician advice videos by students for students. Topics of the NYO-University video library include Classical Crash Course in Jazz, Essential Items for Your Instrument Case, Avoiding Pain While Playing, Warming Up For Success, How to Work with a Piano Accompanist, and more!

Submitted by National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America

FIVE: Don’t let the lack of music instruments deter from giving music lessons.  There is plenty of music to be found in the voice and body percussion.  Allowing learners to engage with you through an instrument that requires no prior knowledge and no practice not only levels the playing field between you and the student, but also opens up the opportunity for many more kids to learn music. A lack of instruments shouldn’t be a barrier to receiving music education.

Submitted by Ilke Lea Alexander, Co-Founder & Teacher, Music Enlightenment Project

SIX: Researchers are finding that “one quick thing” at the beginning of a class often makes a big difference in participation throughout the rest of the class.  The key is hearing each student’s voice at the top of the lesson.  Even though lesson time is short, the results of investing this short time at the beginning seems well worth the time investment.  Make it a regular practice to ask every student to speak at the beginning of each class, using a prompt like: “Let’s each share one thing we are excited about in our lives.”  Ground rules: It is just one thing; it needs to be quick to share; it can be about anything.  Yes, individuals can choose to pass, but you consistently urge everyone to share.  Start by giving your own example.  And after a few days, vary the prompt to keep it fresh and interesting, and then make it increasingly about music.  Over time, you can expand the sharing to be almost like a mini-lesson about musical issues you are addressing.  But always start with their voices (sometimes you might go first to model), sharing what is relevant to them as individuals.

Submitted by Eric Booth, The World Ensemble, Publisher

SEVEN: Connect and get to know more about your students beyond the music itself, whether it be an individual or group class. This can be accomplished by music games where you gather information on things they like to do, watch, read, et cetera, and can be handy when you hit a wall in making them learn something and thus use that information as a vehicle to breakthrough.

Submitted by Adeyemi Oladiran, Chair/Music Director, Music Enlightenment Project

EIGHT: Have you checked out the wealth of resources at the National Teaching Artist Video Library? This is a national platform for teaching artists to share their knowledge.  These one-minute tips are designed to be put to use in your classroom or community today. There are new tips every month to help with classroom management and activities for the classroom.

Submitted by Eric Booth, The World Ensemble Publisher

NINE: Check out these video teaching tips from the Teaching Artists and Students of The Pizzicato Effect. ‘Pizzi’, as it is affectionately known, is the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s flagship community music program.  The videos feature:

– Sila from the Junior Ensemble explains the importance of keeping a straight wrist
– A slow bow race from the Chamber Ensemble
– The Senior Ensemble Violins sing a bow song
– The Senior Ensemble Violas role play a focusing technique
– The Senior Ensemble Celli play a D major scale sound bath
– The Beginner Celli sing their repertoire to show where it would be on the stave

Submitted by Alice Gaynor, Lead Teaching Artist, The Pizzicato Effect