Choosing Your Band Instrument

Choosing Your Band Instrument

Each instrument is unique and fun, but just like a sports team, not everyone can play the same position. Not everyone who “really wants” to play a certain instrument will be able to.  Directors will look at a student’s personality and physical characteristics to help determine the best instrument for each individual student. The student’s choice will always be considered, but understand that it may not always be what is best for the student to be successful.

DO NOT immediately run out and get an instrument until you have met with the directors at the t NMS Band Instrument Drive  so you are sure you have all the necessary information about quality brands and models and the list of required accessories to accompany the instrument. Do not buy used instruments from various sources such as pawn shops and eBay without consulting one of the Null Middle School Band Directors. Consider this purchase as important to your child’s success as the purchase of a vehicle is to your family’s safety. Take precaution in instruments whose history you are unaware of as there may be hidden defects (even in some new instruments, depending on brand).

You can hear what the instruments sound like here!

Family: Woodwind, Personality: Conscientious

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 teardrop-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.

Family: Woodwind, Personality: Focused

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.

Family: Woodwind, Personality: Studious

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. Students interested in playing oboe will rent their instrument from the school for $50/year to help cover cost of maintenance.

Family: Woodwind, Personality: Serious

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 underbite should avoid bassoon. Agile thumbs is 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.

Family: Woodwind, Personality: Mellow

The alto saxophone gives the impression of being both a brass and woodwind instrument, however it is indeed considered a woodwind instrument.

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 quality reeds. A box of 10 reeds 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.

Family: Brass, Personality: Confident

The trumpet (cornet is a smaller version) is the smallest member of the brass family. The sound on a trumpet is produced by vibrating the lips inside 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 underbite 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 vibrating the lips inside 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 underbite 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.

Family: Brass, Personality: Analytical

Like the french horn, trombone players should have good “musical ears”. The trombone is played like the other brass instruments (vibrating the lips inside 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.

Family: Brass, Personality: Artistic

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 underbite 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. Null 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.

Family: Brass, Personality: Unique

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. Students with a history of academic trouble should not consider tuba as we rely heavily on the ability of the tuba players to be consistently UIL eligible. Null MS 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.

Family: Brass, Personality: Coordinated & Organized

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, lowest 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.