37 Semester 1 Syllabus and Lesson Overview

For those utilize Canvas, the Canvas course for this class can be imported from Canvas Commons at https://lor.instructure.com/resources/1e47825724c74a29a23f108eef3e150d?shared

The first semester of this course focuses on the introduction of each of the five brass instruments through four heterogenous rotations. Non-brass players will study trumpet, horn, trombone, and euphonium while brass players will substitute tuba for their primary instrument. The rotation structure allows for an emphasis on brass, rather than instrument specific concepts and emphasizes pedagogy as well as technique. The second semester of the course emphasizes a single brass instrument, allowing students to develop a legitimate secondary instrument within the brass family.


Course description:


Teaching techniques and materials of the brass instruments.  The class includes a performance lab and will meet two days per week for 50 minutes.

Further details

This is the first of two courses dedicated to the development of brass techniques.  Together, these courses focus on the performance and teaching of brass instruments in a variety of settings and levels (specifically trumpet, horn, trombone, baritone/euphonium, and tuba).  ME 291 will focus on beginning to early intermediate techniques and practice on all five instruments.  Throughout this course, all students will get experiences on four of the five primary instruments with a focus on developing beginning-intermediate level competency for performance and instruction.  (Students who come in with a competency on one or more brass instruments will focus on skill development on the others).  These skills will be built on further during ME 292.

Key concepts for ME 291 include:

  • Proper tone production on brass mouthpieces
  • Proper tone production on all brass instruments
  • Fingering systems and pitch control in standard register on all brass instruments
  • Performance of early intermediate level solo literature on two brass instruments
  • Pedagogical strategies and common problems for all brass instruments
  • Maintenance and care of all brass instruments
  • Effective pedagogies for small group, like instrument beginning instrument instruction


All students will be expected to have the following materials and supplies:

Additional resources for study:

Boonshaft, P. & Bernotas, C. (2014). Sound Innovations. Alfred. Available in the Butler library online at https://butler.on.worldcat.org/oclc/961435341Links to an external site.

Various group method books in the Music Education locker


At the end of the class, students will be expected to have developed the following skills:

  • demonstrate fingering or positions for the practical range of each instrument including alternate fingerings where appropriate
  • demonstrate the production and control of characteristic tone of each instrument in terms of posture, position of the instrument, embouchure, breath support, attacks, releases, and other selected styles of articulation
  • perform and sight read music up to level of grade II difficulty
  • perform major scales in one octave for concert keys of one sharp through 4 flats
  • perform a chromatic scale-1.5 octaves on all brass instruments
  • explain the principles of quality tone production for each instrument.
  • explain the interval of transposition for each instrument.
  • demonstrate diagnostic skills for typical performance/tone problems
  • teach a planned, beginning lesson (including putting the instrument together, posture, embouchure position, and getting a first sound)
  • coach a developing brass player through common technical issues including identification of problems, diagnosis of causes, and prescription of solutions
  • verbalize knowledge of appropriate posture, hand position, embouchure, technique, and presentation procedure appropriate for successful start on the instrument.
  • do basic maintenance and repairs on each instrument.

Major Course Assignments

Unit playing tests.  Playing tests may be done in person during office hours or submitted online.  If submitting online, you may use Panopto to directly add it to the assignment or upload your video to a video/file sharing site (e.g. YouTube, Vimeo, etc.) and place the link for the video in the response box on Canvas.  Please make sure to place the appropriate security settings on the video so that they may be viewed by Dr. Weidner and other students in the class.  Each playing test will also include your assessment of your performance that addresses your strengths, weaknesses, and recommendations for improvement.  Playing tests may be submitted at any point prior during the week prior to the due date and time.

Beginner lessons.  Throughout the semester, you will give three beginner lessons in various formats. You will provide lesson plans for each lesson in advance and video record your lesson which you will then critique.

Diagnosis sessions.  Regularly throughout the class, you will pair with other students in the class to critique and improve their performance.  You will document what issues you identified, possible diagnoses for each issue, and propose solutions to address the issue.

Written tests.  Written tests will address instrument specific and instrument general issues of tone production, technique, maintenance, and common issues for pedagogy.

Assessment Weighting

30% Playing tests

25% Beginner lessons

15% Written quizzes/tests

10% Diagnosis sessions

20% In class activities, Short assignments, and Professionalism

Music Education Professionalism

This course is part of your preparation as a professional in the field of music education.  When in doubt, consider how your actions reflect your professional demeanor as a teacher in your own future classroom.  This pertains to your attendance, preparation, interactions, timeliness, and more.  These are the same consideration you can have for your instructors as well.  A few key elements to consider:

Attendance:  As a professional educator, showing up late or not at all is not an option.  Participation in class activities is a critical component of this class.  You are expected to be present and prepared to participate from bell to bell.  If you are going to be tardy, absent, or leaving early from a class, notify Dr. Weidner in advance.  Your grade may be lowered by one grading increment per absence after your second absence. Excused absence does not excuse you from the material covered during the absence, and some assessments may not be able to be taken at a later time. Extended absences due to illness, disability, or other factors require documentation from Student Disability Services or the Dean.

Preparation:  As a professional educator, being prepared for the activities of the day both physically and mentally is critical to your success with your students.  In this class, being prepared includes arriving with all required materials to be able to effectively participate and with enough preparation outside of class to be effective.   This also includes taking care of the instruments assigned to you.  You will be charged for misuse of the borrowed instruments.  After you have finished a playing examination on an instrument, make sure to return it promptly so that others may check it out.  In some cases, your instrument may be used by others in university ensembles as well.

Demeanor: As a professional educator, your presence and attitude often dictates your effectiveness with your students.  Within this class, we will frequently do partner or small group teaching and learning that you to both perform for and observe others critically and compassionately.  Every skill we develop in this class may not come easily for everyone, and your demeanor in dealing with others’ strengths and weaknesses affects your abilities and theirs.

Technology usage: As a professional educator, technology will always be a part of your classroom, and you are expected to model responsible technology usage.  Provided that you use technology responsibly during class to support your learning and that of your peers, you may use technology in the classroom.  If you are not using technology responsibly (e.g. taking personal calls/texts without prior notification, browsing social media), a further discussion will be had with the instructor which may limit or eliminate your ability to use technology during class.


Course Schedule

Unit 1: Tone Production on Brass Instruments

This first unit is about getting students to produce a characteristic tone with awareness of the various factors that impact that tone (e.g., embouchure firmness/tension, air support, oral cavity shape, posture). Students will tend to want to emphasize playing the “right” notes. By emphasizing comfortable, supported, relaxed sounds and deemphasizing specific pitches, students can learn to play with an effective embouchure with good air support that they will build upon as the course continues. Aural and experiential learning dominate this part of the class, with little to no emphasis placed on visual music literacy. Sound needs to develop before sight, as students will become focused on playing what is on the page with little concern for issues that cannot be notated, such as tone.

Lesson 1.1: Introduction to Brass Techniques

Introduction to the class and materials

Experiment on the mouthpiece and instrument to identify effective and ineffective approaches to performance.

Assignment: Read/Watch Prelude, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, and “Setting Up the Instrument” portion of the instrument specific chapters

Practice: Guided Practice Lesson 1.1

Lesson 1.2: Fundamentals–Posture, Handling, and First Sounds

Focus on creating a clear, consistent tone on any pitch with relaxed posture and good air usage utilizing call and response and imitation activities.

Assignment: Read/Watch Chapters 3, 5, 7

Practice: Guided Practice Lesson 1.2

Lesson 1.3: Tone Production & Articulation

Emphasize consistent tone production when combined with legato articulation. This is a great opportunity to introduce one note improvisation or call and response activities

Assignment: Read/Watch Chapters 4 & 6

Practice: Guided Practice Lesson 1.3

Lesson 1.4: Pitch Partials

Introduce the concept of lip slurs using vowel shaping (Ooo, Ahhh, Eee) to encourage adjustment to the oral cavity, changes in air speed, and firmness of the corners of the mouth. Some students will not be able to move between partials yet, and emphasize that it is more important to play with good tone than get to the higher or lower note (at this point).

Assignment: Read/Watch Chapter 8

Practice Guided Practice Lesson 1.4

Lesson 1.5: Chromatic Manipulation with Slides, Valves, and Rotors

Discuss the chromatic fingering pattern (0, 2, 1, 1-2, 2-3, 1-3, 1-2-3) that is present on all valved/rotored brass and encourage melodic exploration and improvisation.

Assignment: Read/Watch Instrument specific chapters aligned to individual instrument

Practice: Guided Practice Lesson 1.5

Lesson 1.6 & 1.7: Trumpet/Horn/Trombone/Euphonium & Tuba

Meet with students in homogenous for half the class period to discuss instrument specific concepts, including tuning adjustment practices for each instrument
Trumpet–Use of valve slides and differences between concert and marching posture
Horn–Right hand techniques and Bb side
Trombone–Slide handling and role of F attachments
Euphonium/Tuba–4th valve usage and posture issues for various shapes and sizes of students

Assignment: Prepare and submit Playing test #1, Cleaning video #1

Practice: Guided Practice Lesson 1.6 and Playing test #1

Unit 2: Pedagogical Fundamentals of Brass Development

Students begin to assume some responsibilities for peer instruction, and the instructor focuses on teaching the pedagogical aspects of brass performance. By experiencing and discussing effective practice, students build their own abilities on a second instrument while starting to understand how to develop young musicians’ abilities. Students demonstrate their ability to plan a sequenced warm up activity for students in their asynchronous Beginner Lesson Video.

Lesson 2.1: Welcome to Your New Instrument-Rotation 2

Students from the previous rotation introduce students in the new rotation to their new instrument. Make sure to cover posture, handling, and first tone production. Students are able to tag team with one another so no one student needs to know everything about the instrument.

Assignment: Read/Watch instrument specific chapters on new instrument

Practice: Guided Practice Lesson 2.1

Lesson 2.2: First Lesson Basics

Introduce sequence of instruction for first lessons, modeling specific activities (many of which were used in Unit 1)

Assignment: Read/watch Chapter 5 (Warm up Section)

Practice: Guided Practice Lesson 2.2

Lesson 2.3: Musician Wellness and Warming Up/Warming Down

Introduce a warm up sequence including long tone studies on mouthpiece and instrument, lip flexibility, and dexterity activities

Assignment: Create a Warm Up Sequence to teach to students via video lesson

Practice: Guided Practice Lesson 2.3

Lesson 2.4 Tone Production and Articulation

Extend the discussion around articulation to include staccato and accent with a focus on tone control when using separated or stronger articulations

Assignment: Create a Beginner Lesson Plan to teach Warm Up Sequence from previous lesson and Read/Watch Chapter 6 (Intonation section)

Practice: Guided Practice Lesson 2.4

Lesson 2.5 Intonation

Discuss various methods for correcting intonation including embouchure manipulation, tuning slides, and instrument specific methods (e.g. trumpet valve slides, horn hand position, euphonium/tuba alternative fingerings)

Assignment: Record Beginner Lesson Video for asynchronous instruction of Beginner Lesson Plan on Warm Up Sequence

Practice: Guided Practice Lesson 2.5

Lesson 2.6 Midterm review

Have students talk through fundamentals of posture, tone production, articulation, and intonation along with pedagogical practices for starting beginners and teaching musician wellness

Assignment: Playing test #2

Lesson 2.7 Midterm

Assignment: Cleaning video #2

Unit 3: Critical Use of Group Method Books for Learning

Recognizing that most schools will use some sort of group method book for beginning classes, this unit focuses on an approach to using method books that place critical decision making on the teacher and ensure conscious music teaching, as opposed to blind adherence to method book sequencing. Students are introduced to the concept of objective based teaching, and create a lesson plan that they then teach to the class that focuses on a single concept using the method book to support that concept in their Class Teaching Demonstration.

Lesson 3.1 Welcome to Your New Instrument Rotation #3

In one-on-one pairings, students introduce one of their previously studied instruments to a student who is new on that instrument., emphasizing posture and handling, embouchure, and first tone production.

Assignment: Read/Watch Chapter for new instrument

Practice: Guided Practice Lesson 3.1

Lesson 3.2 Fundamentals: Posture, Handling, and Tone Production

Using students as models, the class collectively addresses issues that have arisen in personal practice regarding setting up fundamentals on the new instrument. Peers use IDDS to recognize and correct issues in beginning players

Assignment: Complete Method Book Review

Practice: Guided Practice Lesson 3.2

Lesson 3.3 Method Books

Review pages out of several group method books to identify core objectives presented in individual exercises to understand how they can be used to support conceptual learning

Assignment: Create Lesson Plan for Class Teaching Demonstration

Practice Guided Practice Lesson 3.3

Lesson 3.4 & 3.5 Teaching Demonstrations

Students present short lessons with 2 activities including one aurally taught activity and one activity from a group method book focused on developing a single concept-based objective

Assignment: Read/Watch Chapter 8

Practice: Guided Practice Lessons 3.4

Lesson 3.6 Care & Maintenance of Brass Instruments

Discuss and demonstrate classroom based repair activities including valve/slide removal, mouthpiece truing, and routine maintenance

Practice: Guided Practice Lesson 3.5

Lesson 3.7 Individual Consultation Day

Students are encouraged to set individual meetings to address individual issues and practice instrument repair

Assignment: Complete Playing test #3 and Cleaning Video #3

Unit 4: Creative Activities in Beginning Instrument Instruction

The final unit of the semester focuses on integrating various instructional strategies

Lesson 4.1 Welcome to Your (Final) New Instrument

Set up the room in two concentric circles which will rotate throughout the period. Students have 90 seconds with each partner to either teach or be taught the fundamentals of their new instrument. The goal here is to simulate the one-on-one experience in most group lesson settings, where individual instruction is very limited and needs to be targeted to specifics.

Assignment: Read/Watch Chapter on new instrument

Practice: Guided Practice Lesson 4.1

Lesson 4.2 Improvisation in Beginning Methods

Introduce a variety of improvisation based activities with students in small groups. Start with low risk, low requirement activities such as call and response passing and improvised theme and variations, and move on to more complex improvisation such as drone improvisation, conversational improvisation, and melody builder.

Assignment: Read/Watch Chapter 10 & Create a Short Improvisation Activity

Practice: Guided Practice Lesson 4.2

Lesson 4.3 Using Composition to Support Beginning Instruction

Model how to arrange and compose short melodies and duets to focus on developmental needs, with attention on differentiating instruction for students at various levels and with various abilities

Assignment: Create a Short Melodic Composition for 4.6

Practice: Guided Practice Lesson 4.3

Lesson 4.4 & 4.5 Teaching through Improvisation

In groups of 3-4, students will lead the rest of the class in a short improvisation activity that focuses on articulation, tone production, or other non-melody focused fundamentals.

Practice: Guided Practice Lesson 4.4 and 4.5

Lesson 4.6 & 4.7 Composition Performance and Reflection

Perform the Short Melodic Compositions that were created and discuss how they address the developmental needs and abilities of the students within the classroom.

Assignment: Playing test #4 & Cleaning Video #4


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Brass Techniques and Pedagogy by Brian N. Weidner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book