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Best Beginner Brass Books - Standard of Excellence

In this new series of blog posts, I am going to review a selection of brass books that I personally use for teaching beginners, resources for intermediate players and even some study books which I use with students up to grade 8.

These blog posts will contain Amazon affiliate links but always browse around for similar products on the internet or in your local music shop.

I have found, that I never use one whole book with students but dip in and out of a few different ones to suit the needs of the student, so look out over the coming weeks for my blogs specifically targeting other brass resources.

For this review, I am featuring the Standard of Excellence, Book 1. This is a band method and there is a book for every instrument in a wind band (including percussion). I first came across this book when I was teaching brass at The Singapore American School.

Students opted into a course for music. It could have been choir, strings or band. Those who chose band were tested and then allocated an instrument. Then, band begins and is basically a classroom lesson. I really love this American system of music and wish it was used in the UK.

All members of the band will learn from this book and I will provide links below to some of the brass ones. You can find all of the others very easily.

Standard of Excellence for beginners

The book has detailed pictures and descriptions for how to play the instrument and I find it especially good for students that are younger or that are struggling a bit to make a sound on a brass instrument. Also, because the early pages focus on one rhythm at a time, it is really good for students that struggle to remember the difference between the first few rhythms learnt (crotchets, minims etc).

As this is a US book, the rhythms are described using the US system of whole notes, half notes and quarter notes etc. I find it a good excuse for students to just learn both ways. It also does a great job at teaching rests straight away along with note lengths. The slow progression helps solidify the basics and is very important.

Standrad of excellence page example

There are lots of short tunes per page and it is easy to tell a student which number they are up too and what to work on at home. As with Team Brass, there are not any pieces from ABRSM or Trinity grade syllabuses but it is a great tool to provide students everything they need in their musical learning.

Standard of Excellence, things I don't like

Three things I am less keen on with this book are below:

  1. I find the book stays in 4/4 time for too long before introducing new time signatures.

  2. I don't like how it puts flats next to notes before introducing key signatures. This is mainly an issue with bass clef books.

  3. The book almost forces students to breathe too much. It uses breath commas but they are too widely used and it would be better to encourage beginners to develop better breath control.

The final issue for me with this book is that it doesn't progress into the higher register or more complex rhythms like Team Brass. The book doesn't teach about semi-quavers (16th notes) and doesn't reach a top G (concert F) which would be around the sort of range expected for grade 5.

This being said, I do like this book, and find myself using it more with lower brass and with bass clef readers.

Look out for the next post in this series of reviews and I hope you have found it useful.

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Thank you for reading.

Mark Glover


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