Time to Order: Do’s, Don’ts, and Dreams!
Whenever I get close to order time I pull out the catalogs I’ve been hoarding all year and I start to think again about how to spend my meager budget. I get only $100 a year from my fine arts dept and another $100 or so from my building. Of course the budgets aren’t allowed to be put together. That means that I can’t pool my funds together and order anything over $100. Well, with shipping and handling and everything else I really can’t order anything over $90. What to buy!?
I hope this list of “Do’s, Don’ts, and Dreams!” helps you when you get ready to order resources and I REALLY hope that you’ll chime in at the end of the post and offer your comments. I’ve found more amazing products/instruments/books from talking with other music teachers and networking than I ever found by ordering on my own. I’d love your thoughts! What should I buy next time? What do you think is really worth it? Let me know!
Today I’m going to start with the standard West Music Catalog. I chose West because where I teach this is sort of the golden standard place to shop. Pretty good prices, great selection, and man are they fast! I wish that I could tell you I was getting some sort of referral credit for writing about them as an example in this post, but alas… I’m not (if you are a West Music employee and see this post, please go ahead and tell your bosses to send West Music gift cards to David Row at…) I’ll try this again with another publisher/music company next time. Maybe Plank Road Publishing, Music is Elementary, or another similar vendor?
Click the name of the item to follow a link to its description on the West Music website page. Click on the image to enlarge.
Do’s – Things Worth Buying
If we’re talking recorder and you’re on a budget then DO get the West Music Recorder. It’s three piece, it comes with an awesome free cloth bag, and it really does sound good. My students had been playing on Tudor brand recorders for the last few years and these West recorders really do sound pretty good in comparison. Mostly, I like that they’re cheap in price but not cheap in quality. You know what I mean? They don’t cost much but they’re not flimsy. You’re not going to get the intonation or sound quality that you get from a Yamaha or Aulos but it’s not bad.
When I decided that I wanted to buy a tenor/alto recorder I went to my source, my Orff Level instructors. Dr. Rob Amchin, an awesome teacher… check out his YouTube page, chimed in and said that he buys Aulos brand. These recorders have been fantastic and aren’t too expensive. The Tenor is $50 and the Alto $29. Compare this to Yamaha’s 300 series Tenor $66 and Alto $28. Comparable price and even a little cheaper but a really good quality.
I was able to get this through a DonorsChoose project and I’m soooooooo happy about it. I use these drums all the time for songs, games, and more. They’re relatively easy to store (they nest together) and seem to be quite durable and tough. I’m not worried about giving them to even my most ornery students. The different sizes allow you to have different sounds and are great for students to get a variety of experiences (they love switching drums). Totally worth the money. Buy them as a set or buy them individually.
This little handy item sits under your claves and makes the sound of the clave more brilliant and the playing much easier. It’s the coolest little adaptation for little hands. I have wondered a few times whether I could make something like this myself, but I think it might just be easier to buy this $5 version.
Is my student part of the Northwestern University Symphonic Wind Ensemble? Have they just been accepted to the New York Phil. Percussion section? No? Then a cheap triangle will likely be just as good as the hoity-toity, expensive version. I don’t need to pay an extra $20 for a fancy stand or special brand name triangle. I teach 8 year olds. They will not appreciate the subtle differences in triangle brands. Buy the cheap one. This goes for wood blocks, cowbells, and rhythms sticks as well. Save your pennies for other things.
This instrument is so cool for sound effects and layering into ensembles or rhythmic ostinati. The vibraslap has a totally unique and exciting sound and the kids love it! I’ve used it as an attention grabber, as a sound effect during Halloween storytelling, and more. Worth it. Not that expensive. You only need one or maybe two.
This is next on my list of sound effect/cool instruments to have. I can’t describe this sound but luckily I found this video clip so that you can see how to play and also hear the sound. The kids will do anything to play the flexatone and it will add a lot if you bring it in at the right times. It’s a fun addition to make to your ensemble and again, not all that expensive.
There are three different sizes of Slapstick available to buy from West. I listed the 15” here. I’m not sure if one size would be better or worse than another. This is a hilarious instrument to add into any sound story and has become one of the most often chosen instruments in my classroom for all sorts of activities.
Bam. These egg shakers are awesome. Buy a class set and use them often for steady beat, rhythm practice, ensemble work, and lots more. They are durable enough to outlast even your most energetic child and fit right in the palm of their hands. West sells normal eggs (pastel colors I think) or these awesome glow in the dark eggs. GLOW IN THE DARK?!? Seriously, class set. Worth it.
If you want to start doing more folk dancing but want some help along the way this book is a great one to have. It comes with a CD and has some great instructions inside to help you get your kids moving. The New England Dance Masters really are masters and this resource is a good place to start if you want to look through their stuff.
This book has a ton of ideas for using movement manipulatives in class and has exciting lesson plans and extension ideas. Artie Almeida is a fantastic author and her lessons are easy to recreate, easy to manipulate, and super super fun for the kids. I love doing the movement activity with the Nutcracker Trepak song. Great resource for listening with good music and moving!
These books are lifesavers for the teacher who wants to incorporate Orff instruments but maybe doesn’t have a lot of training on how to use them. They make it easy for you to add in some mallet lessons and give you lots of ideas on how to teach basic concepts using barred percussion.
The books even give you suggestions on what to do if you don’t have a lot of mallet instruments and aren’t sure how to rotate kids through, which is fantastic information to have if you’re pondering those questions. Thanks to Artie Almeida for another amazing resource! There are other digital resources to go along with these books if you have and use a SMART or Promethean Board, but honestly, the books are a great start. You don’t need much more than the books and the instruments.
This book is perfect if you want some basic exercises to get started and to get kids going on recorder. This is a good primary resource to start with and oh, so, CHEAP! Get the accompaniment CD for $12. Book two is only $3.50 I used this resources in my Orff Levels courses and have pulled certain items and songs from this book to use in my classes. It’s not a method book but a resource to pull from as needed.
Do’s Extras for Your Sub Tub
Great for subs, great for inside recess, great for reinforcing rhythm/drumming and other concepts. Kids love this DVD and think that it’s super fun. I love it because it’s a great extension for things we’ve already learned and gets kids thinking about what really makes music (and how you can use ANYTHING to make music). This is one of the best of the STOMP DVDs and is also pretty inexpensive from West Music.
Reading Rainbow reads this famous book, illustrates and animates it, and also features performances by the Julliard YOUTH orchestra (our kids get to see other kids playing). This DVD is well worth the money. Perfect for those of us in 30 minute classroom settings. Pop this in your sub tub or use on a day when you’ve lost your voice.
Dont’s – Save Your Pennies for Other Things…
These drums are not as cool as the Tunable Tubanos (100 Series) that you often see in World Music Drumming videos or workshops. I have a friend in my district whose principal decided to buy her a whole class set of large tubanos but because she wanted to save some money decided to buy the pre-tuned and not the tunable drums. The pre-tuned are a lot cheaper but my friend who has to live with them every day says that they are not as versatile, do not sound as good, and are harder to maintain. I have the tunable tubanos, this is the 100 series (not a class set, but I have about 3-4 of varying sizes) and they have been amazing. I’ll say that any time I go to a conference, see presenters, or watch videos of drum teachers that I really respect they have the tunable drums (100 series) and not the pretuned (50 series that you see here). Seems like the tunable drums are worth the extra money.
The teacher before me used budgetary money to buy this, I think. It’s NOT WORTH IT! The sound is okay and works for an effect but it’s not the “gong” sound that you’re thinking of. It’s more tinny and a smaller sound. If you want a traditional gong sound then stick with something like the Dream Chao Gong (Item# 204313). With something like a gong, or temple blocks, or drums go with the name brand. It’s probably worth it.
This was another “bought before I got to the building” purchase that I don’t think I’ve ever had kids use to play. I use these “sound shapes” sometimes when I try and show how sound changes with different sizes (e.g. soprano, alto, tenor, bass, etc) but I don’t think that’s worth $106 (especially for only 5!). They’re cool and if I had a million dollars to use for my room I’d buy a whole set, but I think my resources would have been used better elsewhere.
I get the impression that “Kid” drums are not meant for public school classrooms. They’re hard to share, they’re small, they aren’t as durable as other items. Save your money and buy the larger more heavy-duty drums. These seem to be “made for preschool” or adaptive classrooms. These do not seem to be meant for public school classrooms with large class sizes. Any thoughts on these? I have about 3-4 from the previous teacher and it doesn’t seem like they’re all that usable for us.
Need a border for your bulletin boards? Don’t buy them here. You can buy musical borders from Hobby Lobby, Michaels, US Toy, Lakeshore Learning and basically anywhere else. These musical borders are expensive and with shipping, well… get them anywhere else. The only one that I would possibly get is the musical symbols bulletin board liner (Item# 530324) but that’s still $10 and still probably not worth it.
Dreams – If I Had Unlimited Funds
These flipforms are soooooooooo cool. They are risers, a stage, and a platform all in one. They are fairly easy to move, they look really cool, and they adapt to fit the situation that you need it for. You can buy the set of four or you can buy they one at a time. You can also buy a version in grey or in all black. Can you see why this is on my dream list? Ugh! If only…
A 7’8″ x 10’9″ rug with the five-line staff and treble clef. This is such a cool resource to be used in an elementary classroom. I’ve seen it used for note identification (for games) for normal seating, to separate space, and you can even buy a “bass clef” add on to teach treble or bass clef. Can you see why this is also on my dream wishlist?
If I had endless money I would buy all of these. They’re really cool illustrated books that go along with songs that many of us teach. “There’s a Hole in the Bucket” “The Derby Ram” “My Aunt Came Back” and more. Check them out. If you can get one or two or five, they are worth it! I’ve looked over them at West Music booths at conferences and I’ve loved them. Especially as we get more and more pressured to incorporate literature into our rooms, these picture books are a god-send. $16.95 each or $130 for the whole set. Bam!
This is a complete set of 9 different CDs that have folk music and accompaniment to go with a ton of different dance styles and activities. It’s a great place to get started and awesome for those of you who want to have a recorded track to move to and authentic music to hear when you’re teaching.
I hope this has helped you plan your budget/order or has given you something to think about. If you’d like to have more posts like this let me know in the comments below and tell me what subjects you’d like to hear more about. What instruments to buy? What methods books to use? What would you like to hear about?