Middle School Band Games and Competitions Using PlayTunes App
Updated: Feb 16
Middle School Band Games and Competitions Using PlayTunes
Your kids love friendly contests. Trust me. If you’re not doing some form of competition now, you’ll see them light up; for a large percentage of students, a dose of healthy competition can inspire the band to new levels of quality. If done right, competition in band can be a healthy way to get some amazing playing out of students!
First: Promote section closeness by grouping them together – the moment you create a team, you’ll see them really bond. It’s natural.
Second: Set up rules for success: For any contest in sports, there are penalties for unsporting behavior. In the NFL, unsportsmanlike conduct, personal fouls and the like lead to yardage penalties. The same goes for our band contests – if groups are talking during others speed drills, we add time penalties. Kids get excited during these events, so we have to keep the lid on the pot. We all have that extra-excited student who needs a little reminder now and then about behavior, so keep that in mind before you start.
One contest idea is to project PlayTunes on the screen or board in front of the class and put up a long tone PR exercise – this is one where you try to break your record. You can do one section per day here, and make an average. So the clarinets would all play on Monday, Trumpet Tuesday, etc. and on that day the section would each play a long tone, blowing up the balloon, for as long as they can, thereby setting a baseline average. There are two ways you can make contests out of this (well, there are LOTS) – you can do two sections in one day and the highest average wins (hint: to keep it fair put flutes vs. tubas). The other way to go, and you could use this at the same time, would be to use that average the next week and offer an incentive to those who beat their average.
We have scale exercises that sections could challenge each other to see which sections can get 3 or 4 stars at 120bpm, or even take a star rating average in section. This can be done in just a couple of minutes during rehearsal and I guarantee you'll have everyone's attention!
A word about incentives: candy/band stickers, etc. are better than packing up early – we are modeling that it’s best to play, not to take breaks, and packing up early teaches that the reward is to not play – that’s not what we want them to take away!
Long tone warm ups are a great way to build tone, and if you are not a brass player, be sure to have kids buzz pitches before then play, so they internalize pitches and learn how to use embouchure and airspeed to build proper tone and intonation.