Shashi  Ramu

Shashi Ramu

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Sutton Group Realty Systems Inc, Brokerage *

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Repertoire and Programming Resources for Band

CLICK HERE for Alfred Music's Contest/Festival Guide for directors



Strengthening Your Core –

Repertoire Selection & Curricular Development


*This is a bulleted/ VERY abbreviated workshop outline . Please email me with any questions about any of this!

Preliminary Comments on programming philosophy and library building:

  • Teaching Music Through Performance – not only a book title, but also a working philosophy directly related to Comprehensive Musicianship. Consider teaching theoretical, historical and other lessons/units through rehearsal and performance or CORE literature.
  • Remember! Curriculum (the Ontario Ministry document) CAN BE TAUGHT with the instruments in the hands/laps!

How do we assess quality music?  What makes a “quality” piece of literature?

Repertoire Selection – with the concept of TEACHING repertoire in mind

  • Evaluate, Catalogue, and CATEGORIZE – this is key for Grouping and Sequencing

Many great pieces fall into multiple categories – THAT’S OK!

  •               Festival
  •               Lyrical  **including Liturgical**
  •               Programmatic
  •               Transcription
  •               Marches/Fanfares
  •               Solo with Band
  •               Pop/Movies/TV/Disney/Broadway/Copyright driven selections

Avoid shopping and purchasing for specific students and by the year, for the current year or year ahead. Avoid “teaching to the test” - which is preparing for concerts and festivals. What skills are you trying to develop now?  Reading, writing, listening, or speaking?

  • Establish your “core repertoire,” then create a rotation sequence so that you can reuse some of your best teaching strategies. 

This list should cover all of the categories and answer questions (outlined below). If there are selections which you feel all students should learn about in certain years (elementary versus grade 9 versus senior years) then include these.  

  • Can the selections be used for sight reading in class and rehearsal, using the core literature, to keep this part of your library relevant

Criteria for core repertoire selection

  • Decide what you want to teach before you select what you want to study.        
  • Consider Compositional Craft and composer’s intent/story if there is one
  • Maintain a Unity and Variety for Grouping and Sequencing (below)

KEY POINTS and teachable characteristics (see appendix below for grade specific examples)

  • Key centre (more than B-flat, and not just major keys), tonal shifts, use of accidentals
  • Time signatures (3/4, 6/8, cut-time)
  • Historical periods (Renaissance, baroque, classical, 19th century, 20th century, contemporary)
  • Traditional and contemporary notation (aleatoric passages)
  • Form (overture, suite, theme and variations, march, ballad, song form, fanfare, dance, rondo)
  • Tempos (quarter note = 56 – 152)
  • Length
  • Cultures (scale patterns, modes)
  • Seasonal Elements
  • Difficulty for individual sections (where are your strongest players?)
  • “Teachable Moments” in the work

              *Can everyone learn the tune?

              *Can you develop composition activities?

              *Do the works present opportunities for improvisation?


              *Aural Skills (Intervals, rhythmic patterns, “Groove”etc.) ?

  • Student engagement regarding Musical Contour and landscape. Can the students understand and relate to the direction? Is there a clear path from point A to Point B?
  • COST!! Is the dollar amount commensurate with the piece and grade?

Grouping and Sequencing

It is not only the repertoire selection that creates a quality musical experience for performers, but it is also the combination of the repertoire.  Carefully selected programs create a musical whole where works compliment and contrast one another.  Selecting literature using the above criteria works to create a sequenced and balanced curriculum that facilitates the development of knowledge and skill.

A balanced concert programme is one which covers multiple categories while (still) being TEACHABLE in any setting.

Practical uses for G&S:

  • Grouping and sequencing method book activities, scales and studies (published and created), and repertoire
  • Relating musical work to musical/curricular context
  • Developing units and/or themes, activities and assessments (Lesson Plans)

Just because you select good repertoire does not mean you are working towards concept development!!

  • Make the effort to teach towards musical understanding
  • The Musical Elements have to work together to be a successful work

How do you make sure that the students/players are understanding?

  • Informal and formal assessment – SELF AND SECTIONAL ASSESSMENT IS KEY!
  • Sightreading and assessment therein
  • Creating and fostering transferrable musical (and other) skills

How do you make sure that they know that they are/are not understanding -

Can your students articulate their knowledge?

 *self rehearse/direct/assess/presentation for director at the beginning of rehearsal and at the midway point – both with warm up chorales and a challenging section of pinnacle selection – then EVALUATE their presentation.

*Think about HOW you will approach the content and the CONTEXT of each piece.

*Activate your own reflection and SCORE STUDY methods and goals (this is a whole different workshop)

Repertoire Grading Characteristics and Examples 


  • First 6 notes, sometimes stretching to Bb major scale OR first six notes plus Eb
  • Bb key signature
  • Rhythms simple:  whole, quarter, half, eighths, NO syncopation; Tempos are usually moderate
  • Educational dynamic and articulation markings, clear “roadmap” for teaching
  • 4/4 time
  • Newer Grade 0.5’s ensure that melody moves around the band

BAND Grade 1-1.5 (100)

  • Simple key signature (Bb, Eb concert, 2/4, ¾, 4/4), minimal changes
  • Rhythms simple:  whole, quarter, half, eighths, limited syncopation; Tempos are usually moderate
  • Simple harmonies and/or a lot of unison; Usually within an octave for range – smaller range of pitch
  • Lots of repeated melodic material; Limited dynamics
  • Pieces are shorter – usually 2 minutes or less
  • Fairly simple instrumentation; Use of combined parts (Low W.W./Brass)
  • At times associated/correlated with specific Method Books

BAND Grade 2 (200)

  • Use of repetition/ostinatos but slightly more difficult rhythms
  • Interval jumps are fairly simple as are articulations
  • Little more rhythmic complexity and some tempo changes
  • Expanded instrumentation (i.e. bassoon)
  • Pieces are a little bit longer ; Tempos vary and occasional metre changes
  • More percussion parts and more complex percussion music
  • Clarinet – more crossing of break – larger pitch range for all instruments
  • Larger dynamic range
  • More part playing  (i.e. Clarinet 1,2, Trumpet 1,2), little less unisonal playing
  • More solo playing in clarinet, flute, trumpet, alto sax

BAND Grade 2.5 - 3 (300)

  • More syncopated rhythms, tempo changes and more varied articulations, wider ranges
  • Keys:   Ab concert, some sharp keys
  • All clarinet parts are over the break for the most part
  • More frequent use of special effects (glissandi, fall offs etc.)
  • Meters are more complex as are changing meters and More use of chromaticism
  • Increased instrumentation, and less doubling of parts; A wider dynamic range

             Pieces are longer in duration – generally more endurance needed

  • More solo opportunities ,Introduction of use of mutes (usually in Level 200 and up)

BAND Grade 3.5-4.5 (400)

  • Fourth/fifth year of playing (Grades generally 11,12)
  • Wider variety of instrumentation
  • Changing metres/compound time signatures/time signature changes/keys/key changes
  • More rhythmically challenging (hemiolas, syncopation), double tonguing
  • Greater note range and more difficult interval jumps (disjunct motion)
  • Longer pieces (endurance); More solo sections
  • Huge variety of articulations and dynamics; Variety of tempos demanding more musical control
  • Percussion sections/parts are larger; Use of : Piccolo, Alto clarinet, Bass Clarinet
  • Each section is larger (i.e. French Horn 1,2,3,4, Trombone 1,2,3); More technically challenging
  • Often multi-movement works

ADVANCED BAND Grade 5+ (500)  (some examples graded/American publisher as 4.5)

  • Fifth/sixth year of playing (outstanding high school bands, and universities)
  • Wide variety in : key signatures, time signatures, tempos, styles
  • More difficult time signatures: 5/4, 7/8, 12/8
  • More complex harmonies (tuning issues), rhythms
  • One can often find unusual and unique markings in scores
  • Use of extra instruments:  piano, harp, contrabassoon, contrabass clarinet
  • Many technically and musically challenging solos - *oboe solos are frequent
  • Full range expected in each instrument
  • Complex forms and often multi-movement works
  • Scores are much longer and more complex
  • More advanced instrumental techniques needed:  trills, glissandi, mutes
  • More challenging solos, soli/tutti sections
  • Some clef changes
  • Often use of off-stage parts
  • Includes extra parts such as piano, harp, string bass etc.
  • Use of traditional and graphic notation – use of performance legends
  • Scores are much more complex, many movements and longer in duration
  • Occasional original orchestral transcriptions – orchestral music or movie track sound scores