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March 02, 2022

Pre-Band: What, Who, & Why

Building upon what students have already learned from the recorder, pre-band allows them to extend their wind instrument learning without being overwhelmed by a full-sized band instrument.

Brittany Bauman | Posted 2/21/22 | Article originally published on MusicConstructED


What Is Pre-Band?

Pre-band is the bridge in instrumental learning between the recorder and beginning band. The core goal of pre-band is to help all students achieve success playing a wind instrument that is suitable for young learners. Building upon what students have already learned from the recorder, pre-band allows them to extend their wind instrument learning and confidence without being overwhelmed by a full-sized band instrument.

I think of pre-band a lot like training wheels where the goal isn’t to keep them there forever. Pre-band is not a beginning band replacement; rather, it can be used at different levels to fit within any teaching situation and adapted to help reach specific goals.

Who Is Pre-Band For? 

General Music

Pre-band programs are usually started in upper elementary school a year before beginning band. Some educators choose to incorporate pre-band into their elementary general music classes.

In this format, pre-band offers an opportunity for students to progress past the recorder. Recorder step-up instruments, such as the NUVO Dood and Toot, extend upon recorder fingerings by adding a single-reed or flute embouchure.

These instruments require more air than a recorder, teaching students to support their sound. I find students gravitating towards these instruments not just because of the fun colors but also because of the tone quality. The Dood has a mellow clarinet-like sound while the Toot sounds closer to a fife.

I have found that the silicone key covers allow students to cover the tone openings more accurately and reduce the number of accidental squeaks. These instruments are pitched in the key of C, so it is easy to create mixed ensembles with other classroom instruments, which are always a hit with the community at concerts. A colleague of mine has even had their students march with their pre-band instruments in their community parade and through the school hallways – an idea I hope to borrow someday soon.

The WindStars 1 pre-band curriculum was written specifically for the Dood and Toot instruments. There is a teacher book and two versions of the student book in iconic or standard music notation. The WindStars website also has a lot of free supplemental materials to support your pre-band program, including backing tracks, practice tracks (the instrument part and backing music), print files, and other music not found in the books.

Beginning Band Primer

Pre-band can also be used as a beginning band primer. For beginning band directors, larger pre-band instruments ignite excitement to join the band and increase retention through a solid foundation in instrumental playing techniques.

The struggles that beginning band directors face have been the same for years: the student is too small to support the flute; the weight of the saxophone is causing the student to collapse in their upper body; the weight of the clarinet is putting too much pressure on their thumb. Simply put, they are too small to support a woodwind or brass instrument.

The more advanced NUVO pre-band instruments have been a game-changer in this arena. The jFlute has key extenders; the jSax is so light that it does not require a neck strap, and the Clarinéo is much lighter than a B-flat clarinet eliminating thumb strain. NUVO also introduces brass easily through the jHorn, which has a revolutionary multi-cup mouthpiece system. Students can try high, middle, and low brass cup sizes with a single jHorn instrument.

All four of these instruments are pitched in C, so transposition is not an issue. When students start on these specific pre-band instruments, they build the foundation of instrumental technique that directly transfers once students move on to beginning band instruments.

The transfer techniques include embouchure, air support, proper playing position, and actual instrument fingerings. In this pre-band class format, students should have an opportunity to play all four instruments for several lessons each. This provides both the student and teacher with valuable information about whether or not each instrument could be a good fit for them in the beginning band.

Most students I have seen can transfer from their pre-band instrument to a full-sized band instrument within a single lesson. The WindStars 2 pre-band curriculum was written specifically for the jFlute, jSax, Clarinéo, and jHorn instruments. There is a teacher book along with students’ books for each instrument. There are two versions of the jHorn student book in treble or bass clef.

Why Our Students Need Pre-Band

Through my own experiences working with pre-band students and talking with other pre-band teachers, I have seen how pre-band can support both educators and students. Pre-band instruments help students build confidence playing a wind instrument. A full-sized instrument can be intimidating to a young student. A smaller pre-band instrument allows the student to focus on learning one new concept at a time and eliminates the difficulties of supporting a heavy instrument.

Pre-band instruments can also help reduce stress for educators. The instruments are durable, so if a student accidentally drops them, the teacher doesn’t have to worry about an expensive repair bill. If anything does happen, most simple repairs can be done quickly on the spot so the class can resume right away.

I have talked with hundreds of pre-band teachers across the United States over the past few years, and on average, teachers have seen a 30% growth in their beginning band numbers within just one year of starting a pre-band program. Students who have participated in pre-band have told me they had so much fun that they decided to join the band even if they weren’t originally planning to. If your school doesn’t currently have any band program, pre-band could be the perfect way to introduce wind instruments to your students and community.

How To Get Started

NUVO has created a free virtual pre-band teacher training which consists of a series of videos that you can watch at your own pace. This training includes detailed information about all of the instruments and specific teaching strategies. Optional certification is also available for a small fee. You can learn more about WindStars teacher training here:

If you are curious about starting a pre-band program and want to learn more or have already started a program, I would love to connect with you. I believe that pre-band can revolutionize how we prepare students for instrumental success before they even step foot into a band room. Plus, all of my students will tell you that these instruments are fun, and who doesn’t need more of that in their life?

Nuvo Dood 2.0, White/Blue   Nuvo Recorder Plus, White/Blue   Nuvo Toot 2.0, Black/Green

Nuvo WindStars 1 Teacher Book, Dood/Toot   Nuvo WindStars 2 Teacher Book, jFlute/Clarineo/jSax/jHorn   Nuvo WindStars 3 Teacher Book, jFlute/Clarineo/jSax/jHorn