fun4brass for absolute beginners: progressive
Band methods have appeared regularly over the past century, so why bother with another? The short answer is: to provide something not provided by the others.
The first material in fun4brass was composed in the 1970s when Clifford Bevan taught brass for Surrey County Council. The authority had the brilliant idea of providing primary and middle schools that wished to begin brass classes with two cornets, an Eb horn, a euphonium and a teacher. Thus, from the start the music, in a full four parts, had the potential to sound real and inspirational to beginner students. Within a month they were playing at assembly, at the end of term taking part in the school concert, and the instant reaction of the PTA was to buy more instruments. QED.
Since then these arrangements have been honed and tested on young pupils, adult students and during INSET days all over the UK. Why do they sound (and feel to the performers) ‘real’? In only the very first piece do all the parts move together. After that there are bars’ rest, counter-melodies, opportunities for every single part to play a leading role (not just Cornet 1) and interesting harmonies, as opposed to the bland primary triads found in so much music at this level of difficulty. Having to count bars’ rest has been found crucial in giving the players of each individual part a sense of its importance, while chromatic passages (with the fingering for accidentals marked the first time—only!) enrich the sound and thrill the player and listener.
In the first piece of fun4brass (and morefun4brass, which progresses at the same pace) the range of Cornet 1 is C-G, Cornet 2 B-D, Horn B-E, Euphonium B-A. In the final piece these ranges have grown only to Cornet 1 C-D (9th), Cornet 2 C-Bb, Eb Horn C-C, Euphonium C-D (9th). The difficulties caused by extended range for the beginner brass are thus avoided. The elements of ensemble playing are also introduced gradually. The first pieces in fun4brass and morefun4brass are in C major, and those that follow do not venture beyond its nearly-related keys. Yet these mainly familiar pieces sound convincing, ‘professional’, reflecting well on the school, the teacher, and the players.
Rhythmic patterns—often found to be one of the most difficult aspects of reading music—are introduced gradually. Compound times are not found until the intermediate level marches4brass. Slurs, accents, dynamics and articulation marks are also carefully graded. Yet things are not always exactly as expected, and sometimes melodic lines are divided between parts, making an awareness of what is happening elsewhere obligatory on each player. There are also some rounds in fun4brass and morefun4brass to give an element of freedom from the printed note. The warm-ups here may be used by the teacher with different slurring patterns (perhaps suggested by the players) to develop greater flexibility. A glossary of terms and signs used in the music, basic fingering and slide-position charts are also to be found in the first two books, and all the books include notes on the composers and their pieces.
Once the players have mastered fun4brass and its parallel, morefun4brass, they are ready to tackle carols4brass and then the easier pieces in marches4brass and holst&elgar4brass. More titles are in preparation. If you are on our mailing-list you will be kept informed, and do keep an eye on our website.
Each publication adheres to the four-part plan. The highest part, numbered 1 (Soprano, in terms of voices) can be played by Cornet/Trumpet 1 (Code 1a), Soprano Cornet (Code 1b) or a Concert Pitch instrument (Code 1c). Alto is played by Cornet 2 (Code 2a). Tenor is Eb Horn (Code 3a), F Horn (Code 3b), treble clef Trombone, Baritone or Euphonium (Code 3c) or bass clef Trombone, Baritone or Euphonium (Code 3d). Bass is treble clef Euphonium, Baritone or Trombone (Code 4a) or bass clef Euphonium, Baritone or Trombone (Code 4b). There are also parts which are generally an octave lower than Codes 4a or 4b. These are Code 4Xa (Eb Bass, treble clef), Code 4Xb (Tuba, bass clef) and Code 4Xc (BBb bass, treble clef). The choice is yours, depending on the available instruments and players, but you must have at least one part from each of 1, 2, 3, and 4 if the music is to sound complete. To put the icing on the cake we also provide a simple Drum Kit part which does not need any percussion technique but does require the ability to read simple notation.
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