Music education always & always looking forward.

My Favorite Instrumental Teaching Videos

Despite my undying and eternal love for popular music, my training is in instrumental music education, namely, Band Director stuff. I teach beginners, and that's the best part of it all. There's a frustration that hits right a week or so into playing their instruments, but in the few weeks before, as they're learning and falling in love with music on another level, it's high excitement for everyone.

In my classroom, we're lucky to be 1:1 with Chromebooks. (Sort of.) I took a bunch of technology training a year or so ago, got my Google Level 1 certification, and more than anything, I overuse Google Forms in my classroom. 

But in addition to getting as much information as humanly possible from my students via Google Forms? I try to expose my students to music they might not have found on their own, especially great players of their instruments. Or, at very least, people who play their instruments who are doing really, really, really cool things with them. 

Band is a very traditional subject to teach. But I become extremely hype at the thought of using very traditional instruments in totally new ways. We may not always do that in our middle school concerts, but I want to expose my kids to that as much as humanly possible. 

So here's a collection of both extremely traditional and less conventional videos found on YouTube that I use as classroom aides.

It's basic, but a surefire kid-pleaser video. Your second or third day lesson plan for Beginning Band is basically done. (Sorry, all of the southeastern United States, I'm a little late on that for y'all.)

After the intro to all of the traditional band instruments done, I show videos about individual instruments. I start with flute, and have students try the flute headjoint to see if they can get a sound out of it. And we always watch this video. 

And this woman with her subcontrabass flute is in Florida, and the Florida Flute Choir meets at Stetson University, right around the corner from where I grew up. 

I cannot with YouTuber culture -- and moreover, the way that my students think that "starting a YouTube channel" with no other talent or skills is the key to success -- but I really really like Melissa.Flutes channel. Give credit where credit is due (and how smooth jazz cool she makes "Chained to the Rhythm" sound). 

Next, we move onto single reeds day. This is the most frustrating day for beginners, because I don't have and endless supply of reeds for all of them to try in one day. The music stores who come next week do. They have to wait a little, and as a result they get a little frustrated. So I try to show them really cool single reed videos. 

I start with various weird instruments. Who doesn't think that stuff is cool?! 

A kid screamed out "clickbait!" when I showed them this. Whatever. All of these things are real & super weird!

This is even cooler. I'm not a clarinetist, not even a clarinetist doubler, but it's #goals to be able to play all of these one day. 

Ah, the ubiquitous instrumental cover of "Despacito". Whether you love it or not, this song is the biggest of the latest pop phenoms. And kids love it, whether they admit to it or not. (Many sixth graders hate everything that's popular; I assume that it's a side effect from being Too Cool for School all throughout fifth grade.)

The NPR Tiny Desk concerts are the most wonderful resources, and this might be the best one ever for beginning band kids. They're so floored when they see the traffic pylon stuck in a saxophone that you've got them on your side. And I can vouch for Moon Hooch; I saw them accidentally in Orlando about five years ago and could not get over them. 

You might want to save this one until after a few kids have fallen in love with the baritone, though, because saxophone gets enough good press. Every kid wants to play saxophone. You never need to recruit for it. 

Next we move onto high brass. I have kids do a four-way buzz: a "horsey" bus, a "tight" party favor buzz, buzzing on the actual instrument mouthpiece, and then putting the mouthpiece into the instrument. And I give them Alison Balsom at the Proms to watch. 

And then we give them some pop stuff, too. 

Another YouTuber musician, and some potential copyright infringement, but when kids hear a song they like and think, "I could do that," I can tell you anecdotally that it motivates them.

And of course, some sweet French horn loops that form a Coldplay song on a farm setting. What could be better?

Then we transfer those buzzing skills to low brass. This is the instrument group you have to sell the most, because it can sometimes be a hard sell (unless that group includes your instrument) and it's the group of instruments you need most in your band to make it sound great. So you've got to push it all, starting with the versitility of the trombone. 

A YouTube classic for the ages takes us back to the farm, only this time, with a very different audience. I guess the cows like songs in Mixolydian mode. 

We love all things Trombone Shorty in my classroom. He's a musician committed to education as well, and is going to be honored by Little Kids Rock this fall. My kids particularly loved this video, and they absolutely loved watching Barack & Michelle Obama grooving in the audience. 

A wondrous, lush sound from a tuba ensemble from UT Austin, and a beautiful hymn setting. Any day we bust out the Chromebooks, I hear this song coming out of some student's laptop speakers.

Your kids might recognize Patrick Sheridan from the famous Breathing Gym videos, but this custom-made Jupiter tuba is a riot itself. And he sounds like a riot when he plays it. 

And you can't pass up the opportunity to play the gigantic tuba. Anything totally out of the ordinary presents and opportunity to capture the musical imagination of your kids. 

Once we get through low brass, we move onto percussion, without a whole lot of fanfare (get it?! brass!? fanfare!?!?!) because all kids want to play percussion. I add a few cool things in there, though. I guess.

Kids should absolutely get a chance to see Evelyn Glennie, famed Scottish and hearing impaired percussionist. I cued this video up because beforehand, she gets a two minute standing ovation, and my students wanted a little more immediacy. 

I love this video because it shows some up-close hand drumming, and just in general some incredible skills.

A classic music teacher substitute lesson plan, this is a great reminder to your percussion students that YES, they can practice anywhere. Just don't hit the marimba mallets on the floor. 

If you're looking for more stuff from some other sources, there's some great full-scale ensemble videos out there. 

Seriously, if the kids tell you that every exciting piece of classical music you play for them MUST be Star Wars, just give in a little and let them listen to some Star Wars.

It's not the end of the world, and if you find yourself with an inconvenient schedule due to any number of bananas things that happen in a school day, this is a good option.

I KNOW that this is an ad for a bank and I KNOW the logistics of this happening totally naturally and I KNOW that Beethoven is not the be all end all of great musicians or composers but this STILL makes me cry.

Alright, kids who are not familiar with non-Western instruments will be a little confused by this, maybe, but it's all good. My students got to see the Silk Road Ensemble last year at our local PAC. It was an amazing opportunity to hear Yo-Yo Ma, and my students already have a brag worthy concert audience list. The real highlight of the Silk Road Ensemble was seeing Dr. Cristina Pato play the gaita, the Galician bagpipe, and hearing her tell stories about her family. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that she's possibly the most brilliant person I've ever been in the same building as. Unbelievable. 

There's one more video I make sure I show my students every single year, especially when they ask, "Why is our music notated like that?" Yes, I can pop things into Finale with as many repeated sections as possible with almost no extra effort. But it wasn't that was even 20 years ago, as our old German friend proves. 

That should tide you over for a time. Over 2 & 1/2 hours of video content for your students to digest, much of it about music or at least instruments they have very little experience with at this point in their musical careers. It beats the stuffing out of watching endless YouTuber apology videos.




Direct Modulation in Aretha Franklin's "Freeway of Love"

A Fine Line to Walk: Direct Modulation (Repeatedly) in Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line"