The ability to read music is essential for students to have a positive experience in band. Unfortunately this is a challenge for some students, and can prevent them from making progress. It's best to help these students develop the tools to help themselves.
One approach that has worked for me is called Say it, Fingers, Play it.
Students choose a small section of music and follow three simple steps:
Students should not move on until each step is done correctly 3-5 times. Usually if these steps are followed students play the selection perfectly on their first try. This method is effective because:
In my experience students often surprise themselves at how well they do. Some students are used to starting off with lots of mistakes and fixing them as opposed to starting by playing correctly. This approach leads to success and helps avoid bad habits as well.
The challenge with Say it, Fingers, Play it is that it requires patience. Some youngsters are not used to doing lots of repetition, nor are they used to thinking before they play. However, the good news is that by following these steps students develop the skills to learn music faster and more accurately. Eventually the process speeds up and they will be able to do fewer repetitions, skip steps, or choose larger selections.
The best way to build confidence and develop reading skills is to do more reading! Use Sight Reading Exercises for Band for two minutes each day and your students will be incredible readers in weeks. This is a perfect resource for beginners or intermediate students to practice reading something new, and it only takes as little as 30 seconds.
My students love using it since the exercises are short, quick, and always something new. Each chapter starts off super easy to build confidence and gets progressively more challenging. Ranges are limited so students can focus on reading rhythms. I usually do blocks of 5 lines at a time in class, and I have seen improvement literally in minutes!
Tips for Band Teachers
Practical ideas for your elementary and middle school band class.