Tips for Pan Teachers

This is one of my recent discoveries that I really love.  OK, I might be overselling this, but it is a tip that has made things easier for me and helped my students.  First, I’m curious:  How many of you teachers have all your pans labeled with the note names?  I’ve gone back and forth over the years.  When someone is first learning they really need the notes labeled, but after a while it becomes a crutch and they really don’t know where the notes are.  

The solution?  Write the names of the notes on the pans with a dry erase marker!!!  The dry erase marker wipes right off, just like a white board.  In fact, as a student is playing, the tips of the mallets will rub the markings off.   As the note names get rubbed off, the student writes the name back on the pan, without bothering me or interrupting class.  This often continues for a few weeks until the student gets bored with writing in the note names and just goes without!!

***Please note, this really only works on chromed pans, but can work on SOME painted pans.  Just test an area, maybe underneath, to see if the dry erase markers rub off easily.  Also, for dark color painted pans try a bright or neon dry erase marker!

Another benefit to this method is that you can really limit the number of notes that a student is looking at. You might just label 4-5 notes for the first few weeks and then add from there. Try to remember the first time you played a steel drum — there are a lot of notes there, huh?  It really can be hard to keep track of where they all are.

I use this with my elementary kids, adults, and everyone in between.  Last year, I had a third grade girl that loved to come in and label EVERY note on her tenor, including many enharmonic equivalents (ie. C#/Db).  She first would have to look at diagram with the note layout, but after a month or two could do it without any help at all.  She knows where ALL her notes are, even a bunch that we haven’t played!

Do you pan teachers have tips like this you’d like to share?  Leave a comment here or shoot me an e-mail!  

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