Your Introduction to 6th Grade Band

So you have finally decided that you want to join the 6th Grade Band at North Windy Ridge. Congratulations! But now you need to make the biggest choice, and often the most stressful choice; what instrument do I want to play? This can be tough, especially if you know little to nothing about music. However, this guide will tell you and your family everything you need to know about all of the instruments we offer at NWR, so you can determine which is the best choice for you. Keep in mind that there are some physical limitations to playing certain instruments, but don’t let that stop you from exploring your options. You can test out all of the instruments on our instrument try out date.


How to Choose Your First Instrument


We’ll start out with the first family of instruments, the woodwinds. Traditionally this family of instruments was made of, you guessed it, wood. This family consists of Flutes, Oboe, Clarinets, and Saxophones. If you have ever played recorder, these instruments are very similar.

The flute is one of the highest pitched instruments in the band. To make the signature soft and floating sound, you blow across the hole on the top like you would over a glass bottle to make a sound. Depressing different keys allows the instrument to change pitch. Flutes are used in orchestras, wind symphonies, and jazz bands.

The next group of woodwinds use a reed, a piece of cane that vibrates to create sound. The clarinet is one such instrument. The clarinet is a black instrument with keys like the flute. To make a sound you blow into the instrument to vibrate the reed. To change the pitch the player depresses the keys. Clarinets are the most played instrument in bands, and are the most important. They play important melodies and technical passages (fast stuff), and we need as many as possible!

Saxophones are very similar to clarinets and are played the same way. In 6th grade we offer two types: alto which is higher, and tenor which is lower. They are made of brass but they use a reed like the clarinet, so they are classified as woodwinds. Saxophone is easier to play from the get go, but is difficult to master. We only take several saxophones but feel free to try it out.

The last woodwind we offer in 6th grade is surely the most difficult and exotic instrument, the oboe. The oboe is special in that it uses a double reed, two pieces of cane tied together. The oboe is played the same as the other woodwinds except it uses the special reed. Oboe has a characteristic sound that can be very pretty if played well. We only take a select few oboes in 6th grade.


The second family of instruments is the brass family. All of the instruments in this family are played in a similar way. To play these horns an embouchure is formed in the mouthpiece. The player then makes a buzzing sound by passing air through their lips. To play higher or lower you pass more air through your lips.

The highest instrument in this family is the trumpet. The trumpet has three valves that change the pitch of the instrument. It has I piercing, high, and heroic sound characteristic of superhero music. The trumpet plays the most melodic lines of all the brass family. It is often used in wind band, orchestras, pop and jazz bands. We need many trumpets.

The second type of brass instrument is the French horn. The French horn is actually really long, but the tubing is curled up into a compact shape. It has valves but the player places their right hand inside the bell to mute the sound and give it a dark, rich tone. French horn can be played really loudly and plays many cool passages in music. They are mainly used in orchestras and are known for being heard in Star Wars, Jurassic park, and playing fanfares. We need many French horns.

Trombone is the next instrument in the brass family. Instead of valves like the trumpet and French horn have, it uses a signature slide. Trombone is played by raising and lowering the slide to change pitch, much like a slide whistle. Trombone is one of the lower instruments and is important for playing harmonies and bass lines in band. You need to be of larger stature or have long arms to play, but don’t let that stop you from trying it out.

The next brass instruments are the euphonium and the tuba. The euphonium and tuba look and play very similarly except the tuba is much larger and lower. The euphonium performs the same function as the trombone in band except it can be much more dexterous due to the valves. The tuba is the lowest and biggest instrument in the band. It is important because it is the base that the rest of the band sits on. Tuba is the most important instrument in the brass family.


Percussionists play a special role in the band. They supply the rhythm and pulse for the band. Percussion instruments consist of drums, keyboards, and other mallet instruments. Percussionists will be expected to learn all of these instruments and be able to supply steady rhythm.

Snare drum will be what you first learn to play percussion with. It is characterized as a military instrument and is used in most band and orchestra pieces. It is often paired with the bass drum which is the largest drum. There are also timpani which are pitched drums that play with the band. You might recognize its sound from 2001 a Space Oddesy.