6th Grade Band and Orchestra Students are offered their first elective music class in sixth grade — band or orchestra. Sixth grade band and orchestra introduces students to traditional instrumental ensembles and prepares them for continued study at the middle and high school levels. Although all students are encouraged to participate, band and orchestra are not required. Most middle and high schools do not offer beginning instrumental classes; this is really the only opportunity to enter the band/orchestra program. Students who do not participate in Band or Orchestra are not penalized. They often are given choices such as silent reading time or helping out in younger students’ classrooms. Students who do participate do not miss anything in their main classrooms. No sixth grade classroom instruction takes place during Band and Orchestra time. Orchestra and Band are taught as separate classes three times a week for 45 minutes. A registration slip, signed by both the student and a parent or guardian, is required for enrollment in band or orchestra. Once registered, students are expected to participate for the entire school year. During the first few weeks of school, band and orchestra teachers visit each school to describe the program and demonstrate all of the instruments that are taught. In addition, there are two Parent Nights offered in August and September to allow sixth-graders and their parents an opportunity to learn more about band and orchestral instruments taught in our program. Please plan to attend one of these evening events. It is important that students choose an appropriate instrument. Students should certainly pick instruments based on the sound they like, but physical factors such as hand size and dental structure can have a big impact on playing success. Students should not acquire instruments before checking with an orchestra or band teacher; instruments are not needed in class for the first two to three weeks of the school year. Band/orchestra students receive quarterly progress reports. They earn grades of O (Outstanding), S (Satisfactory), or N (Needs Improvement) in two categories: Achievement and Effort.
  • 6th Grade Orchestra and Band Registration Slip and Contract

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  • 6th Grade Band Instruments Choices

    6th Grade Band Instrument Choices

    Finding a good match between student and instrument is important. Since music is all about sound, choosing an instrument based on its tone quality, or sound, is a good place to start. Beyond this are physical  considerations — factors such as hand size, dental structure, and mouth shape can have a big impact on playing success. Band teachers or specialists at local music stores can help determine if a student is physically compatible with a certain instrument. Any instrument can be played equally well by girls or boys. 

    There are practical considerations as well. If your family drives a compact car, it would be impossible to transport a string bass. There are also restrictions on carrying certain instruments on ASD buses. 

    Don’t feel that you need to rush out and get an instrument right when school begins in the fall. In fact, students should not acquire instruments before checking with a band teacher; instruments are not needed in class for the first two to three weeks of the school year.

    Most sixth-graders choose one of the following instruments:

    • flute
    • clarinet
    • alto saxophone
    • trumpet/cornet
    • trombone
    • baritone
    • percussion (bells, drums, cymbals, etc.)

    Other Less Common Instruments:

    These instruments are somewhat more difficult to start on than the ones listed above. They may not be a good choice for elementary band unless one or more of the following conditions are met: 1. The student shows an immediate high aptitude for music (good ear, practice habits, enthusiasm); 2. The student can take weekly private lessons on the instrument; 3. The student has a strong background in classical piano.

    • oboe
    • bassoon
    • bass clarinet
    • tenor saxophone
    • horn
    • tuba

    Guitar and piano (keyboard) are not taught in band.

    For Instrument Demonstrations click here

    Instrument Descriptions


    This is a small instrument that plays high pitched notes and plays the tune, or melody, in most band music. More than any other instrument, it requires a careful match with the student. Very few students are mediocre flute players — most can either play the flute very well or simply cannot play it at all, due to lip shape. Your band teacher will help determine if flute is a good choice. It is important for your child to have a strong second choice if they wish to play the flute. 


    This instrument is also small. Like the flute, it often plays the tune in band music. It is an easy instrument to start on, although like all instruments it has its own difficulties later on. It also requires a constantly replenished supply of reeds, which must be purchased and are fragile. The clarinet is also an excellent choice if the student wishes to eventually switch to oboe, bassoon, or saxophone. 

    alto saxophone

    This instrument is large, heavy, and expensive. It uses reeds, like the clarinet. To successfully play the sax, a student must have large hands. Although it is rather easy to play if the student is big enough, it is sometimes a better idea to play for the first year on the much lighter and less expensive clarinet, and change to sax in junior high school. A few taller, large-handed students can play the tenor saxophone. 


    These two brass instruments are so close to being identical that a choice between them is not very important. The trumpet is small and high pitched. It sometimes plays the tune, especially if the tune needs to be loud. The trumpet mouthpiece puts great demand on face and lip muscles and requires a great deal of practice time. Braces on the teeth make trumpet playing difficult. If the student is a casual band student, and not diligent in their practice, the trumpet is not a very good choice. On the other hand, if they want to play the melody and really be heard, the trumpet is a fine choice. 



    These two related “low brass” instruments are really quite similar. They use the same mouthpiece, and can play from the same music. The main difference is that the baritone has valves (it’s like a big trumpet) while the trombone has a slide. These instruments with their low sounds play the very important bass line in band music, like an electric bass in a rock band. They are both easier to blow than the trumpet. The trombone’s slide is capable of some great special effects. 


    Percussion is more than just drums! It includes struck instruments such as the triangle, cymbals, wood block, claves, as well as melodic instruments such as bells and marimba. All percussion students start on bells and drum practice pad, and are tested on both drum rhythms and bell melodies. They begin using actual drums later in the school year. Percussion requires excellent rhythm skills, and much practice. Students are encouraged to use a “percussion kit.”

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