Trying to figure out whether to split my classes on ability or by instrument.  I have always split by instrumentation, but feel that I might be able to better serve my students on ability.  Thoughts?

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Have done both ways and prefer ability matching.  You'll love it.

Hello David,

In small group lesson situations I generally stuck with instrumentation to divide. I would change the mixture of students to expose those who were not working diligently to improve, with other students  who were being diligent. I looked for the group dynamic of peers to help stuents stay focused.

The instrumental music program over all did not use talent or intelligence as a requirement to belong to the program of instruction or to play in band. The level of achievement of a Cadet Band made up of seventh and eighth grade students can be heard by going to Click on Let the Music Speak for Itself.

Your's is a very thoughtful question.

Don Hofmeister

I have done both. Right now I have a large group of strong players and a smaller group of low ability players in all grades.  The top group is easy to teach. The others is very difficult for me.  I what to help but their is no peer leadership, and I added to the difficulty.  I put beginning the low class.  The gap just get wider, but since I have band on a block schedule instrumentation is hard to keep groups together.  Great question
Ben edwards

Hi Benjamin,

The pressing question now revolves around the mixing of the slower less talented students and the mixing of those with the newer younger students some of whom will move to the stronger group relatively quickly. Since there are hidden determinants of human behoavior we can safely conclude there are some in the slower group of performers who could do much better and they just are not.

Some in the slower group will not change significantly and will continue to some terminal point.


The approach that had a beneficial outcome for me incorporated some simple interactions with the kids individually to get at what their internal worlds wanted from playing an instrument.


After the initial trial period on the horn there was often a slump in what was getting done. The students have many competing activities to catch their attention and once the glamour was gone so was the effort expended.


At this point I would go to asking questions individually in private if possible.


1. Do you see yourself playing the ---------?

2. Is it something you want to do?

3.Could you learn to play without practicing?

4.How well do you want to play? Below average, average, above average.

5.What amount of time do you think it would take to accomplish that?

6. What do your parents think you should do in the line of practice- You brothers, sisters friends etc.

7.At this point get them to commit to an amount of time they will practice per week. It could be 10 minutes a day for five days. Don't accept too little and do not accept grandiose plans. Whatever the plan is write it down in the book. Accept no excuses for not getting the Plan done. Do not even listen to any excuses. Yes you did it. Great. No , you didn't. Ask is there anything wrong with the plan. If not just calmly say ," I expect you to do it." Are you a person of your word?

In this process my attempt was always to get them to see that playing the horn was for them,not for me. It was their choice to play. If they are being forced to play and don't want to, well then we need to work out what to do with the parents and I would help in that as best I could.

You have a strong commitment to what you are doing and much is working for you so I'm just suggesting looking at the situation from a little different aspect.


Don H


That is great advice.  I have asked questions like that but not a plan of attack. 
Thank you 



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