Music With Mrs. Tanenblatt

Monday, February 19, 2018

Left Hand on Top!

For many elementary music teachers, the new calendar year coincides with the start of a unit on playing the recorder. If you're like me, you teach recorders to third graders for several reasons: as a way to reinforce their knowledge of absolute note names, to prepare them for band instruments they can play in the future, and to get their hands on an affordable, accessible, rewarding musical instrument.

One of the biggest hurdles I find when teaching recorder is getting my students to remember which hand goes on top of the instrument. Despite posting reminders around my classroom, there's always a few students who instinctively use their right hand when playing B-A-G. I recently polled the members of a music teachers facebook group to see how they model the left hand for their students.

The results were clear that most teachers value modeling the proper technique. What do we do, then, for the kids who still just don't "get it" and can't remember which hand to use? As a way to help them remember (and hopefully get the correct posture into their muscle memory), I created "Left Hand on Top" wristbands! You can download them for free in my store:

After using them for a few years, I've found a few tricks that help me to use them most effectively. It's all about preparation. On the day that I introduce the wristbands, I want to be able to quickly and efficiently get one on each child. I have to be the one to place it on each wrist because otherwise they will inevitably end up on the wrong side.

In order to prep them as much as possible, I cut them all out ahead of time and place a piece of clear tape on each one so it's ready. All I have to do is wrap it around the child's wrist and it's done. But what do you do with 25 paper wristbands that each have a piece of tape hanging off of them? This year I came up with a system to store the wristbands that already have tape on them so that they are ready to peel and stick: I attach them all to the clear plastic cover of a three ring binder!

Before the class comes in, I just bring the binder over to my classroom door. I have them line up outside my room and announce that today they will be entering "Club Recorder." It is a very exclusive club and to be a member they must wear their exclusive recorder wristband. Then I instruct them to hold out their left hand and tape a wristband on each student as they enter the room.

My students are always excited when they get to be part of an "exclusive club" and they love having the wristbands. When taping them on, I make sure to wrap the wristband so that the blank side gets covered up and the words are on the outer portion. For most kids, they only need the physical experience of wearing the wristband once to remember the proper hand position. For others, I will save extras in case they need to wear it during the next class. Works like a charm!


  1. You know, I studied graduate Education when I was 19 in DC at Catholic... I can see into your world! I was a Music Education major in Vocal and Instrumental Music Education when I was 18 at Loyola University New Orleans, not technically related to the one I think where you are nor the other 2. I had to leave and started violin and learning German, wanting to do classical violin in Germany. I want to work with children, too, if I can. I was even considering going to graduate school for Music Education. I can relate to what you do.

  2. What a cute idea! I'm looking forward to working with my new recorder players this year, and I'm trying really hard to get the hands going consistently. I usually end up letting things slide, but these motivating ideas may help. Thanks for sharing!