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The Basics of Melody
By Katie Senn
4/19/2018 1:20:00 AM  

The Basics of Melody

Now that your student has learned the basics of rhythm, it’s time to talk about the next big idea in creating music: MELODY!

What is Melody?

Merriam-Webster defines melody as "a sweet or agreeable succession or arrangement of sounds; a rhythmic succession of single tones organized as an aesthetic whole."

Put simply, the melody is the tune of the music. It's made up of two things: rhythm and pitch. Rhythm is the beat of the music while pitch is the highs and lows of the sound. The melody is a musical line of notes that our brains interoperates as one cohesive unit with a beginning and ending. The melody is the part of music that most often gets "stuck" in our heads and serves as the main focus of the song.

For instance, if you imagine the song Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, chances are you are focusing on the melody of the song!

twinkle twinkle melody

Practicing Melody

Your student's beginning method book has intentionally placed familiar melodies in many of the exercises to help them succeed.  Parents can encourage their young musician to open up their method book, pick a song with a familiar melody, and play for you!

Play-Alongs: Pop Songs with a Purpose

play-along books

Play-Along books provide young musicians an excellent opportunity to learn the melodies of recognizable and popular songs. With the purchase of a Play-Along book, there is often a CD or online audio demonstration tracks for download or stream to help you hear how the song should sound. Once the melody is learned, students can perform with the available backing tracks to create a unique performance! Best of all, Play-Alongs are available for almost every instrument out there!  No matter what instrument your student plays -- strings, brass, woodwinds, or percussion -- they can learn to play their favorite contemporary hits. 

Band & Orchestra Play-Along Books

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Have questions? Need advice? West Music is here for you! Give our music education experts a call at 800-373-2000.




Tags: melody, beginner, basics, katie senn, alex beamer
Categories: Band & Orchestra
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The Basics of Rhythm
By Alex Beamer
3/7/2018 9:39:00 AM  

The Basics of Rhythm!

middle schooler learning rhythmYou might have heard that with rhythm, you either have it or you don't. Not only is that not true, rhythm is fundamental for beginner musicians to learn so that they can progress with their music. In this article, we cover the basics of rhythm and the best ways to practice it.

What is Rhythm?

Rhythm is the arrangement of sound patterns in music. Rhythm consists of two basic parts: 

The beat is the pulse of the music and tempo is how fast that pulse is moving. Written music is organized into measures that contain a determined number of beats, generally 2 to 4 beats per measure.  In each measure, you will hear strong beats and weak beats. These patterns of strong and weak give music a certain type of feel depending on where they are placed. 

The rhythm in a piece of music is also determined by the length of notes used within each measure. Notes can sound long or short, which helps create slow and fast rhythms. The basics building blocks of note lengths or note values are whole notes (4 beats), half notes (2 beats), quarter notes (1 beat) and eighth notes (1/2 of a beat).

The time signature tells us how many beats are each measure and what note gets one beat. Time signatures look like fractions. For example, with the time signature 2/4 the top number shows us 2 beats are in each measure and the bottom number (4) shows us the quarter note gets one beat.

Most popular music has a time signature of 4/4 which is 4 quarter notes per measure. The next time your favorite song comes on the radio, see if you can count along! 1, 2, 3, 4!

notes and rests

Practicing Rhythm

One of the most important things a young musician can do to learn rhythm is to practice with a metronome - a device that produces an audible beat at steady, regular intervals. Practicing with a metronome can be challenging at first, however, it’s essential that your practice is guided by an accurate timekeeper and that you make it part of your daily routine. Practicing scales and rudiments with a metronome will train you to move in time and create an internal clock.

Metronomes

Make sure you know your note values! One way is to practice with flashcards. Students can use notecards for solo studying, or parents can quiz their children and make it into a game. West Music carries note cards perfect for this type of musical exercise.

Hal Leonard's All-Purpose Music Flashcards

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Have questions? Need advice? West Music is here for you! Give our music education experts a call at 800-373-2000. 

 




Tags: rhythm, basic, beginner, alex beamer
Categories: Band & Orchestra
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Be the Ultimate Band or Orchestra Parent in 5 Easy Steps!
By West Music Company
1/10/2018 11:38:00 AM  

Be the Ultimate Band or Orchestra Parent in 5 Easy Steps!

 

orchestra recital

No matter the age of your kid, by being engaged in your child’s school music program they are more likely to be engaged themselves. Plus, being involved is a lot of fun! 

For over 75 years, West Music has worked with local communities to bring band and orchestra music into schools. In that time, we’ve learned a lot about what makes a successful school music program and have some tips for parents. Read our fun, foolproof guide to becoming the ultimate band or orchestra parent in 5 easy steps!

 

1. Get Your Child to Places on Time

Unless you son or daughter is old enough to drive, getting them from place to place will mostly fall on you. Being on time to practice sessions and private lessons is important because it gives your young musician as much time with their instructor as possible. If you school program is planning a recital, by attending any meetings or practice sessions you can find out important information about the day the event. For example, you might learn that all the students have been asked to wear black, so you need to do laundry tonight!

2. Be a savvy shopper, avoid big box stores

We don’t have to say them by name, but those national chain stores typically don’t give you the best value for your dollar. The instruments they sell are shiny, colorful, and inexpensive. But remember, you often get what you pay for! Instruments from big box stores are typically manufactured very cheaply and do not conform to any instrument manufacturer’s standards, meaning repairing them is virtually impossible!

Also use caution when buying student instruments online or at garage sales. Again, if the price appears “too good to be true” it probably is just that! Instead, trust a local retailer for your student instruments and supplies. Besides offering you the best quality at the best price, local stores often hire experienced staff that can help you choose director approved items. Also, it’s your local music store that will be doing instrument repairs.

Learn about purchasing or renting a student instrument from West Music.

Learn about West Music’s Repair Shop.

booster club parents3. Join a Booster Club

A booster club is a formal organization of parents, teachers, and others that support a school program. Booster Clubs are important because no one teacher or one school can do it all on their own. For younger grades, teachers need help organizing recitals and field trips. For older grades, there are always fundraising needs, but more on that later!

Ask your student’s music teacher if there’s already a booster club at your school. If not, consider starting one. West Music offers free resources for booster clubs, including the West Music Booster Handbook.

For your free West Music Booster Handbook, please contact us at service@westmusic.com.

4. Volunteer & Fundraise for Your School

If there’s one universal truth about school music programs, it’s that they are always in need of adult volunteers! Volunteers can act as chaperones for field trips or off-campus performances. They also are needed for fundraising.

Why do school music programs need to fundraise? Don’t they have all the money the need? The answer is typically no. Music programs often have additional costs that might not be covered by the school’s budget, such as new instruments or maybe a cart to transport instruments in. Without parent support, schools would never have enough to cover these costs on their own.

musical gifts for parents5. Reward Yourself!

Okay, this one isn’t a requirement, but it’s fun to show off your music parent pride. Find fun and funky accessories such as socks, bags, mugs, and even jewelry to let the whole world know that you’re a dedicated music parent!

West Music has a wide range of music gifts.

 

Related Articles

• How Music Helps Kids Excel at School
• How Parents Can Help their Young Musician
• Practice Tips for Young Musicians
• Why Choose Lesson for Your Child?

 

In closing we want to encourage you to get involved with your child’s school music program. Even if you can’t be president of the booster club, you can still show your support by driving your child to practice. By showing interest in your child’s musical journey, your child feels encouraged to continue to Play now. Play for life.




Tags: booster, have fun, young musician, beginner, advocacy, fundraising
Categories: Band & Orchestra, Music Advocacy
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Why Choose Lessons for Your Child?
By Chris Eck
11/11/2017 11:12:00 AM  

Why Choose Lessons for Your Child?


child private lessonsEvery day we are surrounded by facts about the amazing life benefits of music education. A multitude of studies confirm that children experience extremely positive academic, emotional, and developmental boosts from engaging in musical activities. We embrace the fact that a healthy education not only includes music and the arts, but emphasizes them as a daily necessity. One additional way that parents can show our commitment to building a musical life for children is to work with independent professional teachers in a private, individualized lessons program.

Benefits to Private Lessons

While school music programs are a great starting point for young musicians, they cannot always provide the one-on-one instruction your child needs. Classroom teachers and directors must diversify their energy across a wide range of areas, while a private lessons instructor can work on specific goals with each student on an individualized path.

Private, individaul lessons with a qualified instructor can provide amazing progress, whether kids are preparing for honors groups on an orchestral instrument or building the skills they need to perform a favorite pop song. Also, a private music teacher acts as a role model for young learners. They can show that hard work creates results, and that great things happen when we put our energy and our hearts together!

Finding the Right Instructor

Selecting a private instructor to work with your family is the first step. To get the most out of the lessons, choose a teacher that is a good match in temperament and style with your child. Getting to know the teacher’s expectations and having solid communication in place are also essential. At West Music, we offer one-on-one instruction in our comfortable studios with professional teachers. All teachers have verified professional credentials and go through background checks. Parents can review their biographies, schedules, and policies on our webpage at www.looking4lessons.com. Parents can also learn more about West Music's overall lessons program, including group classes and adult instruction, at www.westmusic.com/lessons.

Keep music an active part of your family routine by investing in private, individual lessons! Not only will your child progress faster, they will reap the many cognitive, social, and emotional benefits that come with learning to play an instrument. Most of all, they will develop a life-long appreciation for music and the arts as they Play now. Play for life!

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About the Author

Chris Eck Lessons DirectorA lifelong teacher and musician, Christopher Eck thrives on sharing creative enrichment with many people.

As the Education Director for West Music, he enjoys connecting students of all ages to meaningful musical experiences every day. As a private guitar and ukulele instructor, he is able to explore his own passion for playing music and to celebrate learning as a way of life. His student-led lessons focus on technical proficiency, applied theory and creative expression.

Chris studied Music Theory and Composition, Classics, Education and Child Development. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of Iowa in 2005, with several credentials and certificates along the way.

For many years, Chris worked as an early childhood lead teacher and administrator in the Iowa City area. He has always had an honored place in his work for children and young adults; teaching, mentoring, caregiving and facilitating in schools, libraries, hospitals and homes since 1990. He is a frequent presenter at professional development events for educators in Iowa and the Midwest.




Tags: lessons, beginner musicians, band, orchestra
Categories: Band & Orchestra, Conservatory, Music Education
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Brass Wind Instrument Care Tips
By Alex Beamer
10/25/2017 2:54:00 PM  

Brass Wind Instrument Care Tips

brass care tipsProper maintenance is essential to keeping your brass wind instrument in top condition. While different instruments have their own parts and design, their care is very much the same. All brass instruments require cleaning and careful handling. Here's some tips from our experts to make sure that your instrument stays in the best playing condition possible!

 

Keeping It Clean

Avoid UFO’s

Never eat or drink anything while playing except for water. Doing so will lead to scary UFO’s (Unidentified Food Objects) invading your instrument. In fact, some players brush their teeth or rinse their mouths immediately before playing as an additional preventative measure.

Special Instructions for French Horns

Of course, with the French horn you will not want to remove their rotary valves. Instead, wipe all the slides clean with a rag and reapply a small amount of slide grease. This should be all that’s needed to keep the slides working smoothly between shop visits.  

Pro Tip: Bottles with 
needle applicators really help to get the oil right where you want it.

Avoid Frozen Slides and Valves with a Monthly Flush

To avoid frozen slides and valves, it’s recommended that a soapy water bathtub flush be done once per month. The procedure is easy: Fill your bathtub with warm—not hot—water and a little dish soap. Completely disassemble the instrument, removing all slides, valves, caps, finger buttons, etc., and allow all the parts to soak for a half hour. Drain the soapy water and use a cleaning “snake” to brush the inside of all the tubes.

cleaning snake

Next, scrub the valves. If the valves are still dirty or sticky, soak them in vinegar for an hour. Finally, thoroughly rinse out all parts with warm water and place on a towel to dry. Before re-assembly, all slides should be greased and oiled with the proper oils and lubricants.

Special Instructions for French Horns

Most French horns use something called rotary valves. Unlike standard piston-type valves, the French horn’s rotary valves require special tools and training to be removed and reinstalled correctly. DO NOT attempt to remove them yourself.

You can, however, wash out the mouth pipe portion of your French horn by using a snake and a little warm soapy water. If this first section of tube is brushed out often, then you can generally avoid the difficult task having to snake out the entire horn.

 

Keep Your Instrument Safe!

DO NOT store anything other than the mouthpiece and instrument inside the case. Items such as books, music, mutes, music stands, and metronomes belong in a separate bag.

Related Articles

If you should notice a problem with your instrument, bring it in as soon as possible to be serviced. Repairs to band instruments can take just a few minutes, several hours or sometimes several weeks, so don’t wait until it is too late! Contact your local West Music store to schedule a repair or complete our online Instrument Repair Form.

 




Tags: brass, trumpet, trombone, French horn, beginner, maintenance
Categories: Band & Orchestra
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10 Care Tips for Woodwind Instruments
By Alex Beamer
10/25/2017 2:12:00 PM  

10 Care Tips for Woodwind Instruments

woodwind careProper maintenance is essential to keeping your woodwind instrument in top playing condition. While each instrument in the woodwind family is unique and need their own care kits, some maintenance is universal. All woodwinds need regular cleaning and careful handling.

With that in mind, West Music experts have put together their list of the top 10 care tips for new woodwind players.

  • Never eat or drink anything while playing except for water. Doing so will lead to scary UFO’s (Unidentified Food Objects) invading your instrument. Some players will also brush their teeth or rinse their mouths immediately before playing as an additional preventative measure.

  • After playing, remove moisture from the inside of instrument. For most instruments, use a cleaning rod with a soft moisture swab attached through the slit in the end. Pad Saver rags are not recommended for band instruments because they tend to shed fibers, causing leaks in the key pads. They also tend to trap moisture inside the instrument—the opposite of what we want to do!

  • Never use liquid polish or paste such as Silvo. Polishes can gum up the key mechanism and destroy the key pads. Instead, wipe down the keys and body after playing with a tissue or soft cloth. (For saxophones, we suggest a flannel rag.) Use a Q-Tip to clean between the keys. If the instrument appears tarnished, it is best to take it to a qualified technician and have it professionally polished and adjusted.

  • If the joints fit too tightly clean the tenons and receivers with a solvent and cloth and try again. If the fit is still too tight take your instrument to a qualified technician. Never force the joints together as you may bend the keys.

  • For flutes check the position of the head joint cork periodically using your cleaning rod. The notch in the rod should align with the middle of the aperture of the flute lip plate. Also, check for leaks in your head joint by closing the aperture hole with your thumb and sucking air out of the tenon end.

  • For all other instruments, you will need to clean the mouthpiece regularly! Use a mouthpiece cleaning brush or an old toothbrush in warm (not hot) water. If the water is too hot you can warp the plastic mouthpiece. 

  • Chipped mouthpieces should be replaced with new mouthpieces. Also, many stock or instrument brand mouthpieces that come with the instruments are hard to play and should also be replaced.

  • Never store cleaning cloths or anything else in the case. Your instrument is made to fit snuggly into its case. Storing items other than the instrument can bend the keys.

  • Your last step is to always latch up the case. All instrument cases either have either latches or zippers that need to be fully closed before moving your instrument. It’s important not to forget this step. Otherwise, when you move your case, your instrument might tumble out and hit the ground. 

If you should notice a problem with your instrument, bring it in as soon as possible to be serviced. Repairs to band instruments can take just a few minutes, several hours or sometimes several weeks, so don’t wait until it is too late! Contact your local West Music store to schedule a repair or complete our online Instrument Repair Form.




Tags: woodwinds, beginners, students, maintenance
Categories: Band & Orchestra
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How Much Should Kids Practice Their Instrument?
By West Music Company
10/9/2017 9:21:00 AM  

upset girl practicingHow Much Should Kids Practice Their Instrument?

Everybody knows that musicians improve by practicing. But the question of how much time your kids should spend practicing isn’t as simple as “the more, the better.”

 

Finding the Sweet Spot

The right practice routine is one that ensures enough progress to keep kids motivated while keeping the whole process fun. Practicing too little, and they won’t improve, which will lead to becoming discouraged. Practice too much, and they risk developing physical injuries or mental exhaustion that will keep them from pursuing their musical dreams over the long haul.

 

Practice as Close to Daily as Possible

Many books suggest a certain amount of total practice time per week. The problem with that approach is it suggests that one marathon session at the end of the week is as good as seven brief, daily practice periods. That simply isn’t true. The more daily time on their instrument (or DTOI as some music instructors refer to it), the more progress they’ll see in their playing—and the more their practice sessions will feel like a daily reward instead of a weekly obligation.

daily time on instrument

 

Improve Something New Every Week

Set them up for success by having them pick out one simple thing each week that they’d like to improve about their playing. Maybe it’s remembering to maintain good posture or playing a scale at a steady tempo, with no rushing or hesitation. Have them devote a couple of minutes of daily practice time to that one skill, and every week they will have proof that they’re getting better! Stay as close as you can to a daily routine and never let your practice schedule get so heavy that you feel drained and start losing your sense of excitement and fun.

 

One Goal No Musician Should Set

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Practice makes perfect.” There is no such thing as a perfect musician or even a perfect performance of a piece of music. Our human imperfections are part of the beauty of the music we make. Besides, if your kids ever become perfect, they would have no way to get better, and what fun would that be for them? Always remind them that practice is about becoming better, not becoming flawless.

And of course, practice should always be paired with instruction from an experienced teacher. West Music is here to help guide children to become better musicians and offer more direction outside of class when they need it. Check out our selection of group classes and individual lessons to take their skills to the next level.

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Tags: beginners, music education, practice
Categories: Band & Orchestra, Music Education
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First Time Trumpet Players
By Alex Beamer
8/4/2017 12:01:00 PM  

First Time Trumpet Players

The trumpet (and its very close cousin the cornet horn) add pep to any band. We are very excited that you have chosen it as your instrument! Whether you are a new music student or a parent of a music student, you will want to know these basics soon after receiving your instrument.


Parts of the Trumpet

Below is a diagram of the trumpet. Click on the image to enlarge it.

trumpet diagram


Assembling Your Instrument...CAREFULLY!

Even though it’s made of metal, your trumpet is delicate and should be handled with care. Follow these instructions or the instructions given to you by your music director to prevent damaging the instrument.

1. Place on a flat surface and open right side up.
2. Open the latches and carefully take out the instrument.
3. Carefully place the mouthpiece in the mouth receiver and tighten into place. Be careful not to over tighten.


Putting It All Away

1. Remove the mouthpiece by gently twisting it to the left and place it in the mouthpiece holder in your case.
2. If your mouthpiece gets stuck, seek help from your teacher or from West Music’s repair team. We have a special tool to remove a stuck mouthpiece that will not damage the instrument.
3. Press the water keys and gently blow air through the mouthpiece receiver to remove excess condensation.
4. Wipe off the outside with a soft cloth.
5. Carefully place the instrument in the case and close all the latches.
6. Store only your instrument and its accessories in the case. Sheet music, folders, and other objects may bend the keys and damage the instrument.


Related Articles


Have questions? Need advice? West Music is here for you! Give our school band experts a call at 800-373-2000. 


Adapted with permission from Alfred Music's Sound Innovations for Concert Band 1: Trumpet. 




Tags: band, beginner, trumpet, alex beamer
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First Time Trombone Players
By Alex Beamer
8/4/2017 10:51:00 AM  

First Time Trombone Players

Congratulations on choosing to play the trombone. Whether you are new to playing music, new to the trombone, or a parent of a new music student, you will want to know these basics soon after receiving your instrument.


Parts of the Trombone

Below is a diagram of the trombone. Click on the image to enlarge it.

trombone diagram


Assembling Your Instrument...CAREFULLY!

Even though it’s made of metal, your trombone is delicate and should be handled with care. Follow these instructions or the instructions given to you by your music director to prevent damaging the instrument.

1. Place on a flat surface and open right side up.
2. Open the latches and carefully open the case.
3. Make sure the slide is locked.
4. Carefully hold the bell-half of the trombone with your left hand and the slide-half with your right.
5. Position the slide at a 90-degree angle in the slide receiver and tighten the bell lock, being careful not to over tighten.
6. Pull the tuning slide out about an inch.
7. Carefully place the mouthpiece in the mouth receiver and tighten. Again, do not over tighten.


Putting It All Away

1. Remove the mouthpiece by gently twisting it to the left and place it in the mouthpiece holder in your case.
2. If your mouthpiece gets stuck, seek help from your teacher or from West Music’s repair team. We have a special tool to remove a stuck mouthpiece that will not damage the instrument.
3. Press the water keys and gently blow air through the mouthpiece receiver to remove excess condensation.
4. Wipe off the outside with a soft cloth.
5. Carefully place the instrument in the case and close all the latches.
6. Store only your instrument and its accessories in the case. Sheet music, folders, and other objects may bend the keys and damage the instrument.


Related Articles


Have questions? Need advice? West Music is here for you! Give our school band experts a call at 800-373-2000. 


Adapted with permission from Alfred Music's Sound Innovations for Concert Band 1: Trombone.



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Categories: Band & Orchestra
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First Time Tenor Saxophone Players
By Alex Beamer
8/4/2017 10:38:00 AM  

First Time Tenor Saxophone Players

Congratulations on choosing to play the tenor saxophone. The saxophone, or “sax” as it’s often called, can be seen in all types of music. As a music student, or a parent of a music student, you will want to know these basics.


Alto vs Tenor Saxophones

Both the alto and tenor saxophones are part of the woodwind family, both use wooden reeds to create sound, and both make excellent beginner instruments! The major difference is that the tenor sax is larger than the alto and produces lower tones.


Parts of the Tenor Sax

Below is a diagram of the tenor saxophone. Click on the image to enlarge it.

tenor sax diagram


Assembling Your Saxophone…CAREFULLY!

1. Even though it’s made of metal, your saxophone is delicate and should be handled with care. Follow these instructions or the instructions given to you by your music director to prevent damaging the instrument.

2. Place on a steady surface right side up.

3. Open the case and find your neckstrap. Place the neckstrap over your head so the hook is in front and the pad is resting on the back of your neck.

4. Place the thin end of the reed into your mouth or a container of water to moisten it.

5. Remove the mouthpiece cap and ligature. Gently twist the mouthpiece onto the neck cork so about half the cork is visible. If needed, place a small amount of cork grease onto the neck cork. Be sure the flat part of the mouthpiece is facing down.

6. Add the ligature to the mouthpiece, then slide the thick end of the reed against the mouthpiece with the flat side against the rectangular opening. The reed should be centered and not extend above the top of the mouthpiece. Gently tighten the ligature screws to hold the reed in place.

7. Carefully lift the main body of the saxophone out of the case. Be careful not to hold it by the keys or rod.

8. Place the hook of the neckstrap into the ring on the back of the saxophone.

9. Remove the end cap from the upper opening in the main body and return it to your case. Loosen the neck screw.

10. Gently twist the neck into position. Do not rock the neck into place or try to twist in a full circle, and never hold the saxophone by its neck!

11. Once the connection with the octave key is in its correct position with the key on the neck closed, tighten the neck screw.

 

Putting It All Away

1. Remove the ligature and reed from the mouthpiece.

2. Place the reed in a reed case. This helps it dry properly and last longer.

3. Disassemble in reverse order of assembly. Use the saxophone swab to dry the inside of the instrument. Wipe off the outside with a soft cloth.

4. Carefully place the instrument in the case and close all the latches.

5. Store only your instrument and its accessories in the case. Sheet music, folders, and other objects may bend the keys and damage the instrument.


Related Articles


Have questions? Need advice? West Music is here for you! Give our school band experts a call at 800-373-2000. 


Adapted with permission from Alfred Music's Sound Innovations for Concert Band 1: Tenor Sax




Tags: band, beginner, tenor sax, saxophone, alex beamer
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