It’s almost time for band camp…

…how dusty is your instrument?

Now that it’s July, rehearsals for marching band are probably starting in a week or two. And looming in the not-so-far distance is band camp. Sweat, bugs, sunburn… and hours of music rehearsal. Yeah, music – remember that pile of half-sized mayhem you’re supposed to be able to play from memory (while carrying your instrument and executing some killer drill) in about two or three weeks? Do you actually know where it is? Have you started learning it?

(If the answer is no, chances are good you’re not alone.)
(If the answer is yes, prepare to be among the minority when rehearsals start.)

So, what can you do now that you have less than a month to make it sound like you’ve been working on those chromatic runs (flutes, clarinets) and super exposed melodies (trumpets)? How can you commit them to memory so you aren’t trying to learn music and drill and marching fundamentals all at the same time?

I. Listen

This is the easiest way to learn your music quickly, and how to learn it right. After you’ve located your music, look for the publisher (probably listed at the bottom, beneath all of those runs you’re supposed to ace in three weeks). Now, hop on your laptop and do a quick Google search of that publisher, and chances are good they have a website where you can type in the name of the song you’re looking for. If you’re lucky and it’s JW Pepper, which most marching band arrangements are, they provide audio files of the pieces they sell. Listen to it.

Listen again, and this time focus on the sound of your instrument. (Those runs sound so cool!)

Listen again, following along with your sheet music. (Those runs look so hard!)

Most marching band shows are less than 10 minutes long, so if you listen to it three times you’re looking to spend less than half an hour on it. However, if you do it often enough (read: every day) you’ll get to the point where you’ll have the overall sound of the show memorized. You may even find yourself walking around humming parts of it instead of the chorus of Bad Blood. Maybe.

II. Practice

Wait, don’t roll your eyes and close the page! There’s a trick to practicing memorization. I use this when I teach sectionals at band camp, and even though it can be really repetitive, it’s also super effective. Some students who couldn’t check off pre-game before were able to check off half-time music after using this method.

This is how it works:

  1. Play the first four measures. You must play it perfectly – no missed notes, no wrong rhythms. Don’t cheat yourself, because your brain will learn it wrong and all of this will be for nothing.
  2. If you play it perfectly, play it again.
  3. If you play it perfectly, play it a third time. Try looking away from your music, but it might mess you up.
  4. When you’ve played it perfectly three times in a row, flip your music over and play it again. If you’re able to do
  5. Play measures 5-8.
  6. Repeat steps 2-4.
  7. Go back to the beginning and play measures 1-8 with your music. You must play it three times perfectly. (This will be easier than you think, since you’ve already practiced it so much.)
  8. After you play it three times perfectly with music, flip your music over and try to play all eight measures without music.

Keep working in 4- and 8-measure increments, and remember to go back to the beginning and put everything together once in a while so you don’t forget the beginning.

III. Team Up

Working with someone else in the room will keep you honest and also creates a more authentic environment (one-person marching band? Weird.)

There are two options here:

  1. Ask a friend, not necessarily in the same section as you, to come over and listen/repeat with you.
  2. See if a private teacher in the area will let you take a couple of lessons to really focus on marching band music. They probably know more tricks (especially alternate fingerings for those runs) that they’ll be more than happy to show you!

Flute

flute lessons

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Clarinet & Sax

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Trumpet

$25/30-minute lesson

Wednesday

Low Brass

$20/30-minute lesson

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Drumline & Pit

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