Achieve a Quality Sound in Your Band

by Dr. Shelley Jagow

Date Posted: March 19, 2018

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Shelley Jagow is an Artist-Clinician. The goal for the Vandoren Regional Artist program is to enhance the quality of the music experience through education and the assistance of Vandoren. These highly trained professional educators and performers will engage your students through educational and fun sessions. The clinics they conduct cover a broad spectrum of topics and, based on your input, can be customized to fit the needs of your students. Contact us today to arrange your free Vandoren clinic.

As a band director for more than 25 years now, I continue to strive to find ways to make my job easier! I have taught music from beginning band through high school, and even now at the college level I constantly seek ways to improve my instrumental pedagogy. When I happen upon a teaching method or tool that provides excellent results, then I can hardly wait to share the “secrets” with my band director colleagues and music education students!

One of the best kept “secrets” is how to achieve an improved tone quality almost instantly with your clarinet and saxophone students, at any age or level of playing. First, an important principle to remember is that whatever is closest to your mouth is going to make the key difference in quality of tone. This of course comprises the mouthpiece and reed. This is good news for parents who may falsely believe they need to buy a new upgraded instrument for their child when actually they may only need to invest in a new mouthpiece and quality reed.

I recently did a clinic with a 7th grade beginning band, and randomly selected a couple students who have been playing their instrument for just over half a year. Each student played a simple passage, and then I switched out their stock mouthpiece with a professional mouthpiece and/or quality reed. Watch the following video and just listen to the immediate, improved results!

Now just imagine how much easier your job as a band director would be if you could have all your students on quality mouthpieces and reeds! The reed issue is quite easy to tackle if you tell students and parents what reeds they are required to use. Or your school could purchase the reeds in bulk and in turn sell the desired reed to the student. Parents often appreciate this service instead of having to find the time in their busy schedule to run out to a music store themselves and often picking up the wrong reed or strength. Recommendations for reeds and strengths include:

I recommend upgrading a student to a professional mouthpiece as soon as possible. In fact, it is best to talk to your local music dealer and ask them to switch out the stock mouthpiece for a quality mouthpiece in all your rental - beginning student instruments. If a student cannot afford to upgrade to a professional mouthpiece on an instrument they already own, then talk with your band boosters or local school board to inquire if they would purchase several mouthpieces that could be loaned to students or eventually purchased via a monthly rental fee. Recommendations for mouthpieces include:

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