If you have a student starting to play a band instrument, I have a couple of tips for you to make their learning and practicing much easier.
First I want to look at reeds…
Depending on the manufacturer you will find different classes and naming conventions for reeds. Typically there will be numbers like 1 – 5 in 1/2 steps – this gives 1, 1 1/2, 2, 2 1/2 and so on up to 5. Usually 1 is the softest (lightest) and 5 the hardest.
It has been my experience and my woodwind students, the #3 reed is the best. I have had the student come in for a lesson and the director told them to start with a #1 and work their way up to a three. Usually at this point the student is struggling to play the instrument. I will switch out the reed for a #3 and, viola, the student can play much better without a struggle.
I have all my clarinetist and saxophonists stay with the #3 reed.
The student needs to keep the reed in their mouth while they are putting the instrument together and usually while they are waiting for band to begin. This will give the reed enough time to soften up before playing.
Tip: If the director says you need to pick up some #1 reeds, pick up a couple of #3’s too. Better to have a backup if the student struggles.
Next, the importance of spit cloths…
Ewww, spit! Well playing the clarinet or any other woodwind instrument can be a spitty business. That is why you need a spit cloth. Tip #2: The spit cloth needs to be pulled through the instrument after each use.
Water builds up in the clarinet bore and often runs into the keys or creates gurgle sounds while blowing. It is not spit, unless your embouchure is really incorrect or very tired (either can cause drool). In order to keep the water from running into the key holes, you swab the clarinet out to dry out the bore.
Last but not least, the music stand…
Okay, the kiddo needs a music stand so they can practice comfortably at home. Sitting on the edge of the bed with the music also on the bed is not the proper way to play. It leads to back aches and not being able to get enough breath.
Tip #3: Band students need to make sure they have the proper posture so that they can build their lungs and so that they don’t have a bad habit of slouching.
There you have it. My tips for anyone playing a woodwind instrument in band!