Brad’s Beat August 2015

Based on my calendar,  there can be no doubt that the “Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer” are about to draw to an end for those of us who spend our lives sharing the joy of music with children.  Who am I kidding?  Most of us were well into planning our Holiday programs for 2015 before the fireworks of July 4th erupted.  In my teaching career, the end of July always brought on some anxious feelings


I wondered if I had the patience, courtesy, fortitude, creativity, stamina, hope, faith, love, peace, and joy that would be required to meet the challenges of Pre-Planning!!!  I also questioned my ability to shepherd over 1000 students through their introduction and beginning experiences with the wonderful world of music.  Except for my first year of teaching where I didn’t know any better, the anxiousness of the new teaching year could only be quelled by a serious review of my teaching plans and the materials I would be using to guide my students study.

As I started my teaching career, my plans focussed on tried and true experiences using singing, moving, and the playing of non-pitched percussion instruments.  As the years passed and my program grew, I found my students responding with excitement and renewed interest when I added Boomwhackers, Orff instruments, soprano recorders, and color-coded handbells to my instrument arsenal.  The soprano recorder was an especially helpful tool when introducing my students to the form and function of music notation.

Like many elementary music teachers, I experimented with various manufacturers’ brands of the soprano recorder as I tried to find a useful instrument that played in tune at an affordable price.  The Aulos A103N became my instrument of choice in the late 1980s.  Although the 103N was substantially more expensive than the bargain brands, I loved its intonation and the one-piece construction really saved me the headache of  constantly reminding  my beginning players not to take apart and re-assemble their instruments.  When the price point for the 103N inflated beyond my purchasing power,  I moved to a workhorse instrument, the entry level Canto CR101.

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The construction of the CR101 is less rugged than the Aulos, but the price point for the instrument makes it very accessible for classroom music programs.  I found the Canto CR101 to have good intonation, and, with proper care, it held up well in my general music program.  During the last ten years of my teaching career, I offered my students the opportunity to purchase a recorder for use in our general classroom lessons.  The CR101 was purchased by over 90% of my general classroom students, and because of the affordable price point, I was able to acquire funding to equip students unable to purchase their own instruments.   Assigning red recorders to Third graders, green recorders to Fourth graders, and blue recorders to Fifth graders made it possible to visually identify the grade assignment of the individual players during PTO programs and assemblies.

Beginning in 2000 I compiled my most successful general classroom recorder lessons into a series and created “Getting Started with Soprano Recorder” for first time players and “Moving on with Soprano Recorder” for advancing beginners as a sequential introduction to the instrument.  My interest in and development of animated lessons to teach notation and recorder techniques resulted in a higher level of student  proficiency  on their instruments in a shorter time frame than when I used traditional call and response teaching methods.  After retiring from the classroom in 2009 I concentrated on producing my syncing techniques in a format that would be accessible to teachers and was able to publish the first ever animated instruction for the soprano recorder.  Path FinderIn this series the combination of music notes visually syncing to motivating accompaniment tracks creates an interaction between the students, the animation, and their recorders.  As the lessons progress students are guided to focus on the exact point of instruction developing an understanding of the form and function of music notation.

As a learning incentive,  I offered the three-piece  Aulos 303A recorder (funded by our PTO) to my classroom students who were able to perform all of the melodies studied in our recorder unit.

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Most of the students who mastered the fifteen melodies presented in the “Getting Started” and “Moving On” series repertoire went on to become members of our performing ensemble, proud to present their playing skills on instruments they earned by their personal investment in learning!  If I were teaching in the classroom today, I would recommend using the new Aulos 903-E soprano recorder (pictured on the right) as the incentive recorder.  This instrument presents a clear tone with great intonation. (Because it is a three piece unit, there is a built-in potential to tune the instrument in any playing situation.)  Besides the evident Aulos quality of construction, the low price point of this instrument makes it an obvious choice for elementary programs.

You are invited to check out all of the useful Rhythm Band Instruments being offered for your program at the newly developed website.  If you click on the BLB Studios link while visiting the site, you will find video demonstrations of our large portfolio of animated support lessons.  I invite you to take a demo tour to discover the powerful tools animation offers to your curriculum.

That’s “Brad’s Beat” for August, 2015.   The RBI team sends our best wishes to you for a successful start to a new teaching year! Don’t hesitate to call (800) 424-4724 or visit us on the web at  if we can be of assistance to you in your program.  Keep the beat.


Bradley L. Bonner, M.Ed.

President, BLB Studios

Elementary Music Specialist, Rhythm Band Instruments