Program
Arts
Music

Band Instrument Selection Process

It is a common misconception that any student can play any instrument if they just work hard enough. While a strong work ethic is definitely a requirement for any successful musician, every student has physical characteristics that make them better suited for some instruments and less suited for others. Therefore, it is important to match students with instruments on which they will have the greatest chance of success.
A concert band must have a precise balance of instruments to create a good sound; much like a good cake recipe must contain a perfect balance of ingredients to taste good. No instrument is necessarily easier or more difficult than any other, but each instrument will present its own challenges over time. Weekly private lessons for all band students are encouraged, but not required.

At the beginning level, Norwood band students study one of four basic wind instruments: flute, clarinet, trumpet, or trombone.  All beginning band students will be required to play a wind instrument in fifth grade and all students will be introduced to percussion instruments. At the end of the first year of study, those students who have made significant progress on their wind instrument and ensemble skills will have the opportunity to audition to move to oboe, bassoon, saxophone, French horn, or percussion for the next level of study in sixth grade. Students will have the opportunity to try-out each instrument before making their selections. Parents and students are asked to make a commitment for at least a full year so students can develop basic skills, and the director can make an adequate evaluation.

Please read the information below to help guide your student in the selection of an instrument best suited for them.

Flute

The flute is a metal pipe about two feet in length that is made of nickel or silver, depending on the quality of the instrument. The flute changes pitch by pressing keys located on the body of the instrument. Getting a sound on a flute is a lot like blowing across the top of a glass soda bottle. Students who wish to play flute should have small, thin lips that are fairly straight. A student with a teardrop shaped upper lip will have a very difficult time getting a good sound on a flute. Flutes make up about 10% of the beginning band. Click HERE to listen to the sound of a flute. Students interested in playing the oboe in sixth grade should play the flute in fifth grade.

Listen to the sound of a flute

CLARINET

The clarinet is shaped like a recorder and made of hard plastic or wood, depending on the quality of the instrument. The clarinet uses a wooden reed that vibrates to create a sound. Like the flute, the clarinet changes notes by pressing various keys on the instrument. Students who have good fine motor skills will generally do well on a clarinet. Clarinets make up about 40% of the beginning band. Click HERE to listen to the sound of a clarinet. Students interested in playing saxophone in sixth grade should play clarinet in fifth grade.

Listen to the sound of a clarinet

TRUMPET

The trumpet is a bugle shaped instrument usually made of brass or nickel silver and has a brilliant tone. Students make a sound on the trumpet by “buzzing” air through a mouthpiece and pressing valves to change pitch. Students with severe overbites, very thick lips, or braces may experience some difficulty producing a good sound on a trumpet. Trumpets make up about 20% of the beginning band. Students interested in playing the French horn in sixth grade should play the trumpet in fifth grade. Listen to the sound of a trumpet

Listen to the sound of a trumpet

TROMBONE

The trombone is a brass instrument that, like the trumpet, makes a sound when a student “buzzes” air into a mouthpiece. Unlike the trumpet, the trombone changes pitch by moving a slide back and forth. The trombone slide creates some of the most unique sounds in the band! The trombone is a great deal of fun to play and is the most important instrument in the beginning band. Trombones are the foundation of the entire band. There are virtually no physical characteristics that would prevent someone from producing a good sound on the trombone. Contrary to common belief, short students can play the trombone just as well as tall students. Many trombone players are needed, as they make up about 30% of the beginning band. Students interested in playing the tuba in seventh grade should play trombone through sixth grade.

Listen to the sound of a trombone

Located in Bethesda MD, Norwood School develops students in grades K-8 into confident lifelong learners who have the academic, character, and leadership skills to succeed in high school and beyond. Recognizing that children are multi-faceted, Norwood provides many opportunities for safe risk-taking, exploration, discovery, and growth in a nurturing, supportive, and inclusive school community.