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Teaching a Young Student

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New Member

Joined: 14 Sep 2020
Posts: 1
Location: North Dakota

PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2020 9:16 am    Post subject: Teaching a Young Student Reply with quote


I'm a Trumpet Student who teaches lessons at the local music store in my college town. Recently a 5 year old signed up for lessons with me. I let the parents know that it's really young for starting and they might want to consider waiting until he's physically larger (so he can hold the instrument at least) and has a larger attention span, but they really want to make this happen.

He had his first lesson with me last week, and I'm very surprised at how well he's doing. He's a natural on mouthpiece buzzing and responds really well to instructions.

My issue is I don't know what to do with a student this young. He can read a little bit (knows his ABCs), and I'm planning on teaching him basic musical notation in the coming weeks. He can hold the trumpet mostly fine, and apparently is growing like a weed so that won't be an issue for long. At the moment I'm planning on teaching him to play some basic children's songs. I was wondering if anybody had any experience with students this young and could give me tips or advice on what techniques would be useful for a student this young.

Hang in there and keep playin'.
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Joined: 03 Jun 2017
Posts: 38
Location: Muskegon, MI

PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2020 11:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The masters of teaching really young children instrument are Suzuki teachers. It’s an approach that is typically taken by string players, but there is a trumpet method that’s forthcoming. The basic idea is you do a lot of songs by rote. Lots of word rhythms. Focus on the feeling of how to play the instrument. I started a student in third grade, and we are just getting to notation now that he is in fifth grade. But he can play quite a variety of songs with very good technique and has a nice range.

An example beginning project would be to teach him how to play C, D, and E. Then, learn Hot Cross Buns. Again, all by rote. At the same time, teach him the following three word rhythms: “pepperoni pizza” (4 eighths, two quarters), “yum yum peanut butter” (two quarters, four eighths), and “Tom took a turkey toe” (quarter, 4 eighths, quarter). Eventually, you can sub in the word rhythms in the place of the original rhythm of hot cross buns. And you can do this with any other song. This gives the student lots of repetition while still having some variety.

A really traditional mile stone for a Suzuki violin player is playing twinkle twinkle little star with the original rhythm and all three of these word rhythms (which my teacher called the “Lunch Bunch Rhythms”). Always keep a pulse, and remember that kids like to have fun!
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Joined: 25 Jun 2020
Posts: 312
Location: Europe

PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2020 10:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

tyler.slamkowski wrote:
and remember that kids like to have fun!

Can't emphasize this enough. Above all, ensure that your student enjoys what they're doing. The most important thing you can do at a young age is inspire. If they have fun and enjoy what they're doing, they're far more likely to keep playing (and practice at home). Try to avoid making it a chore or 'homework'...there's plenty of time for that later. If you can inspire your student so that they're looking forward to next week's lesson then you've already done a great job.

Good luck to both of you!
If it were the person playing rather than the gear they use, I would sound even worse.

Tpts: Olds Recording & Getzen 700 SP
Mpcs: AR Resonance MC 40 med & MS Lead 40 sm
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Joined: 14 Mar 2003
Posts: 716
Location: Greenville, South Carolina

PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2020 3:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have taught several children that young. Usually 5 is the youngest. However, the youngest ever was my daughter at 20 months old. Some things were unique with that since she was my child and heard me practice all the time and literally would sit in a little chair in my studio watching other students. Then, she would tell me she wanted a lesson. I gave her a pocket trumpet that she drug around the house. She was adopted from China at 20 months old and immediately I sang the ABCs to her and counted numbers and she quickly learned that and I think at 4 or 5 was reading fluently. In 1st grade or earlier she read Chronicles of Narnia in 45 minutes. I can't read that fast.

When she started I knew I didn't want to kill the joy of it so I wrote her little assignments and actually taught her the staff and note names and had her sing things. I NEVER had her buzz one single note. Ever! I did get her to feel and do tongue level stuff and she really could manipulate partials easy that way. First she did it on my Conn 8D French Horn because she was enamored with a girl student of mine that played horn.

I wrote simple melodies in a range she could manage. My priority is always for students to feel tongue level and get used to blowing steady and get them to tongue. I would introduce chromatic notes and diatonic scales and write melodies around that and get her to read articulations.

If anyone was a natural it would be her. But, she did gymnastics and read books a bunch and when going to the library I suggested some videos about various things like China and various parts of the world and ballet. She clicked with ballet and it was her thing ever since. She does over 30 hours of dancing a week and works super hard. I think the biggest thing is to try to get the student to fall in love with it. Show them things. Let them listen to all kinds of music. Her sense of time with ballet is mostly because of doing music with trumpet, later a couple years of clarinet and a bunch of years of piano. Singing also matters.

Kids can do way more than you imagine.

Here's a crazy video of her playing French Horn right after coming home from China. She cracks me up how she just assumes it's no big deal. Kids don't have the fear of failure that holds adults back. Use that to your advantage.


This one doesn't sound like much but it's an example of getting her to do some simple stuff.


Have fun with it. You will become a better teacher as you put things in simple terms. If you can explain it to a child you will be a better communicator with adults too.

Jeff Purtle
Trumpet Lessons Online since 2004, teaching since 1983
New book on Claude Gordon
+1 864-354-3223 iPhone w/ FaceTime
Skype: jeff_purtle
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