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Intonation – Part 1

Intonation. One of the most challenging concepts to develop in young musicians, yet one that can negatively impact an otherwise great performance. This is the first part of a series were Jordan Stern and I discuss the ins and outs of intonation and how to improve it in your band. In this episode we discuss the basics of intonation and several causes of bad, out of tune sounds.  We also introduce some solutions, although I encourage you to stick around for Intonation: Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 for an even greater discussion of how to address bad intonation in your band.

We also discuss some materials in this series that may be helpful to you in your program.  I have included some links below to some of these items.  As a disclaimer, I receive a small credit if you purchase the items through the links provided.

Tuning for Wind Instruments

Tuning for Wind Instruments is a great resource for developing intonation and pitch consciousness in your band.  It covers the origins of intonation concerns and provided practical tips for fixing them.

Tuning the Band
Tuning the Band is a quick reference guide for pitch tendencies and idea tuning notes.  For the band director in a hurry, this may be helpful.  I tend to think of the book as analogous to a fingering chart.  I don’t need it all the time, but when I do it is crucial that it be easy to use in a hurry.

Improving Intonation in Band and Orchestra is another great resource.  This book contains not only a thorough discussing of intonation, but offers several practical resources, such as individual tuning tendency charts, for director use.

Yamaha Harmony Director

Finally, we will be discussing the Yamaha Harmony Director in a later episode, but I wanted to provide a link here in case you are either unfamiliar or in the market.

Literature Selection – Part 2

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the basics, how do you build effective and meaningful programs for your band?

In this episode we are fortunate to have Dr. Kyle Glaser join us to talk about selecting music for the wind ensemble.  We discuss topics such as audience perceptions, holistic conceptualization of literature selection, and specific resources for new band directors.  Below are some links to some of the material discussed in the podcast.

Travis Cross: We are what we play: Developing a programming philosophy

Literature Selection – Part 1

Music is what we do, so how do we pick appropriate music for our ensembles?

In this episode we will talk about some of the technical aspects of selecting music literature for your band program.  Knowing the music, knowing your students (individually and as a group), and knowing your schedule are all things that facilitate effective repertoire selection.  The general outline for the podcast can be found below.


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  1. Why does it matter
    1. Defines the musical unit
    2. Is the core curriculum
    3. Shapes ALL student experiences
    4. Intentionality
  2. Technical Selection
    1. Know your ensemble
      1. Both strengths and weaknesses
        1. Start evaluating/learning ensemble early
      2. Start from what you have/where the kids are
  • Don’t overlook sections/individuals
  1. Use a mentor
  2. Record rehearsals
  3. Be rooted in fundamental concepts
  1. General ensemble technique
    1. Look for unplayable sections
    2. Ensemble reading skills
  • Scoring
    1. Inner voices vs. melody
    2. Split parts in sections
    3. Balance
  1. Maturity
    1. Flow
    2. Fundamental transfer
  • Ensemble sounds
    1. Exceptional individuals
  1. Phrasing
  2. Dynamics
  1. Specific instrument concerns
    1. Brass
      1. Endurance
      2. Range
      3. Technical challenges
        1. Flexibility
        2. Fingers
      4. Articulation
    2. Woodwinds
      1. Breaks
      2. Clef
      3. Range
        1. Volume
        2. Intonation
      4. Technique
        1. Key
        2. Fingers
  • Percussion
    1. Do you own the instrument/know how to play it
    2. How many players needed?
    3. Be mindful of rests
    4. Intonation
    5. Physical challenges (stick changes, mallets required, etc.)
  1. Extra musical concerns
    1. Calendar
      1. Tests
      2. Athletics
      3. Other’s schedules
    2. Eligibility
  • Weather

Assessment in music education

With the increase in assessment demands across the country, it is important that music educators be well versed in why and how to properly evaluate and assess their students. Accountability is not leaving our public schools anytime soon, and the more well versed we, as music educators, can be the better.  It’s also important to the quality of our teaching, as we need to both continually and summarily evaluate student learning in our classrooms.


Ryan Sargent had a great post over at the SmartMusic blog introducing summative and formative assessment, which you can find here.  Additionally, Pete Miksza has a post describing a session he moderated regarding assessment with some materials.  Finally, if you would like a summary of much of the research perspectives, I’ve recently published a paper addressing research regarding assessment in music for practitioners.

Skype Clinics

In our technologically informed age, it may make sense to many band directors to set up a guest clinician via videoconferencing, like Skype.  If you have thought about bringing in a guest through videoconferencing, I’ve recently published some thoughts and tips about the process in The Southwestern Musician, you should check it out here.


Also, new episode of the podcast drops this Thursday!

Knowing Appropriate Rep

Learn the young band music!

The next episode on literature selection is recorded and ready to go, but I thought I’d share a resource in a related topic.  This blog post at has a great intro to some literature selection, with quick notes about several young band pieces.  It can be a challenge for beginning band directors to select appropriate literature.  Often, you have just left an amazing collegiate experience where the repertoire was phenomenal, which is great.  But you may not be quite as familiar with the beginning and intermediate band literature.  It is a good idea to begin to explore it as soon as you can, as it will help you develop literature selection skills.

In Part 1 of literature selection, we will talk about some of the practical aspects and tips.  In part 2 I am excited to have Dr. Kyle Glaser, my colleague here at Texas State University, who will join us for a more in depth discussion of programming and the existing literature for younger bands.  Fun stuff for November!

Dr. John Denis

Episode 2: Classroom Management – Part 2

Once you’re professional and have planned for class, how do you improve your classroom management?


This episode continues our talk regarding classroom management, where we talk about things such as the importance of having a few, actionable rules; developing logical and appropriate consequences, and pacing/redirection tips for improving student behavior on the spot.  If you haven’t had a chance to listen to episode 1, I’d encourage you to start there. 

If you like the podcast feel free to share or give us a review on iTunes!

As always, I’ve included a rough outline below.

  1. Have rules
    1. Short
    2. Action oriented
    3. Generic vs specific
    4. Aligned with campus/district
    5. Consistent consequences
      1. Logical and appropriate
      2. Transparent
      3. Rewards vs. punishments
  1. Pacing
    1. Feedback
      1. Clear, concise, specific
      2. Provide goals
      3. Talk less, play more
  1. Redirection
    1. Not personal
    2. Calm
    3. Non-verbal and verbal
    4. Try to eliminate payoff
    5. Don’t be afraid to redirect or apply consequences
    6. Practice/reinforce procedures.

Episode 1: Classroom Management Part-1

In our first episode we introduce classroom management: why it matters, how you can plan ahead, and the ins and outs of procedures. I’ve included the basic outline I used. Feel free to contact me with any questions or thoughts. Or you can share any ideas about classroom management in the comments. Thanks for listening!

If you enjoyed the podcast, give us a share anywhere or a review on iTunes.


  1. What drives management problems
    1. Student needs
      1. External and internal
      2. Maslow
    2. Confusion
    3. Frustration
    4. Long term change requires changes in motivation, needs, or rewards at an intrinsic level
  2. Planning and procedures
    1. Be proactive
    2. Be organized
      1. Lesson plans
      2. Curricular content
      3. Sequence
      4. Classroom and materials
  1. Procedures
    1. How you want your room to function
    2. Not punitive
    3. Be thorough – give examples
    4. Plan to teach procedures
  1. Professionalism
    1. Be pleasant, but not friends with the students
    2. Look like a teacher
    3. Talk like a teacher
    4. Model positive behavior to students
    5. Treat everyone with respect

Let Me Know What You Think!

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