Week three

Fantastic progress this week, and we’ve moved from making a noise (an achievement in itself) to making music! The children and adult learners have now learnt C, E and G and can have a go at playing them in combination in a variety of rhythms. By the end of the session, everyone was listening to one of the tutors play a simple rhythm on these notes, and then playing them back as a group. It took a few goes to get the hang of it, but soon everyone was listening and responding together to produce some music! We’ll do more on this next week and make sure everyone can confidently play the 3 notes – then we’ll be ready to start learning our first performance piece!

We started the sessions with a breathing exercise. Breathing is the second most important thing about playing a brass instrument after listening! Who knows how to breathe? Answer: everybody! But who thinks about breathing? Answer: no one, not all the time anyway! Ok then, let’s think about breathing: stand up and relax; lift your arms slowly above your head while taking in a deep breath, as much as you can squeeze in, then bring your arms slowly down and let the air out through your mouth while making a loose buzzing noise “brrrr”, and keep blowing out until you have no air left. Repeat a few times. Stop for a rest if you feel dizzy – sit down and breathe normally until you feel ok.

Now put your hand on your tummy, and breathe in as much as before. Suck that air right down into your tummy and feel it expand outwards pushing your hand out. That’s your diaphragm working – a muscle in your tummy that pulls downwards to suck the air into your lungs. Now breathe out, all the way like before and feel your tummy contract back in. Push all the air out until you have none left, and relax! Now you’re breathing like a brass musician!

During the half-time rest with a juice, we listened to “When the Saints Come Marching In”, played slowly, smoothly (“legato”) and quietly at first, then faster, louder and punchy (“staccato”) through the chorus. After a brief discussion on what we’d heard, everyone stood up and we started marching on the spot, stamping our feet to create a steady 1, 2, 1, 2 beat (left, right, left right) while Gavin played the chorus again in time to the rhythm.

It was also great to meet some of the parents from Balliol at their MacMillan Coffee Morning on Thursday, and we persuaded a few to like our Facebook page so they will see our updates! It’s really important that the children get encouragement at home, especially when we send them home with an instrument! Don’t worry, we’ll give them dusters to stuff in the end to dampen the noise!

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