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MUSIC 3K03 Brass Method

Academic Year: Winter 2016

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Mike Polci


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 425

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 233715

Office Hours: Monday 11:30-12:30 Wednesday 11:30-1230 Friday 3:30-4:30

Course Objectives:

Lecture Section Structure:

The purpose of the course is to develop the student's knowledge of brass instrument playing techniques and materials. The presentation of these principles will be through playing the instruments and the discussion of various aspects related to brass playing. By the end of the course ; students should be able to perform at a beginning/intermediate level of technique ; play basic scales up to four sharps/flats and demonstrate a clear understanding of tone production and the principles of breathing as they relate to brass playing.

The course will be divided into two 6-week sessions. Students will be assigned a new instrument for each session. (This course alternates with Music 4K.03. Students electing both courses will be assigned to the two brass instruments not studied in the previous course). In addition, a number of lectures will be presented on important topics, some of which will absorb the entire class, others will use only part of the available hour.

Lectures will include such topics as: -

a)   Trumpet, French Horn, Trombone, Tuba-Euphonium: specialized techniques and materials.

b)  Breathing: Teaching Techniques

c) The harmonic series

d)  Range building

e)   Multiple Tonguings

f)    Mouthpieces

g)   other topics as dictated by student interests or needs.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Required Materials: (available from the bookstore)

1)                         Whitener, Scott. (1997) A Complete Guide to Brass. (3rd, ed.) Toronto: Schirmer Books.

Recommended Materials: (available from the bookstore)

1)                         University of Iowa Source Book - Winds and Percussion Materials.

2)                Froseth, James. (1974?) Introducing the Instruments: Text and Picture Full Score - Preliminary Book.
Chicago: GIA Publications, Inc.

Method of Assessment:

1. Playing Tests: (30%) a short solo with piano will be required at the end of each 6-week session. Material will be provided early in each session. (2 @ 15% = 30%)

2. Playing Tests: (20%) a short solo unaccompanied will be required halfway through each 6-week session. (2@10% = 20%)

3. Mouthpiece Buzzing Tests: Students will be required to buzz a short melody on the mouthpiece: 2 total : 1 in each 6 week session. (2@ 5% = 10%)

4. Develop a series of warm-up/basic routines. (10%)

These exercises should cover all the basic elements/aspects necessary to maintain good brass playing.


List of elements to be included:

Air/Tone Production

Proper Formation of the Embouchure


Range Development


Development of Technique



Each student should develop their own series of exercises based on experience and discussion in the class. The routine need not be overly long or exhausting; but be sufficient to maintain a reasonable level of playing that covers any difficulties/challenges that arise in playing a brass instrument. Students are encouraged to develop a routine that suits their particular needs and draws on information from experience on your major instrument/voice. Give a brief description of each of the exercises you have worked on; listing the purpose of each exercise and describing the practical benefits derived from each one. Also briefly discuss how each exercise has improved your playing, and discuss any particular challenges that you’ve experienced playing a brass instrument. Length: 1-2 Pages Single Spaced.


Due Date:Feb.3rd-2016


5. Comparative Analysis: (15%)

Select two recordings that prominently feature a brass instrument you're studying or have studied in this course. Do a critique/comparison of the two recordings; providing information and differences between the two. The information can cover:

  • function of the instrument in each work
  • various types of sounds/timbres used
  • comparison of musical styles and interpretations
  • is there an emphasis on technical display or more lyrical playing?
  • range of dynamics, tessitura?
  • use of trills, ornaments, shakes, mutes
  • names of the artists if soloists
  • names of the ensembles and works analyzed
  • observations of each performance both positive and negative

Repertoire can include symphonic, jazz, solo or band repertoire. Your conclusion can indicate a preference for which recording achieved a more successful performance, which one you liked better and observations as to how well the musical results were achieved. Length: 2-3 Pages Single Spaced 

Due Date: Mar.9th-2016



6. Written Test: (15%) – Will include any materials/concepts related to brass playing discussed over the term in class.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

 Extensions or Accommodations

Extensions or other accommodations will be determined by the instructor and will only be considered if supported by appropriate documentation.  Absences of less than 5 days may be reported using the McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF) at  . If you are unable to use the MSAF, you should document the absence with your faculty office.  In all cases, it is YOUR responsibility to follow up with the instructor immediately to see if an extension or other accommodation will be granted, and what form it will take. There are NO automatic extensions or accommodations

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.