The Stewart Euphonium StandA problem to be dealt with by all but a few of the shorter euphoniumists is the problem of supporting the instrument. The weight of even the lightest euphonium on the market, combined with the too short distance from the leadpipe to the bottom bends makes for a major obstacle for the beginning or the part time euphoniumist. I have seen any number of partial solutions to this widely recognized problem, from books to pillows to wood blocks, but as yet I have not seen the problem approached with the logic of the "Stewart euphonium stand".
Designed by Mr. M. Dee Stewart, trombonist and tenor tubist (euphoniumist) with the Philadelphia orchestra, this stand consists of a single peg attached at an angle to the euphonium by two special clamps. Properly installed, the peg rests on the seat between the euphoniumist's legs, and can support the entire weight of the instrument, making for considerably freer finger movement and for somewhat easier breathing. For those of us without self compensating tuning, it frees the left hand for manipulation of the tuning slides necessary in the "f" register.
With its relatively high price tag, I wasn't the first on my block to run out and buy one, but we got a little ahead on the mortgage and last month I put in my order. It took a while for delivery: Mr. Stewart explained that "production difficulties" slowed down the current run of the stand. According to my letters it took about four weeks from the order letter to delivery.
I have played with it during concerts, rehearsals and practice, and I have come to the conclusion that it is a legitimate accessory for the euphonium, and can be very useful within certain limits.
To begin with, the euphonium is often called upon in a solo capacity where it is necessary to stand up with the instrument. The "Stewart euphonium stand" is of no use at all here, and if not used right, can be downright crippling. If you are in any position where you will be called upon to solo (and we should all be prepared for such eventualities), you should be very careful that your left arm is more than strong enough to support the instrument for the duration of the solo and encore. To this end, I found it very necessary to put in at least two periods of practice without the stand for every one period with it. I wouldn't recommend using it at all for the last few weeks approaching a recital.
Another very important consideration is adjustment of the peg: not only the distance, but also the angle it leaves the horn. I am certain that no two persons will have the same angle from the same horn, and certainly with the variety of embouchure preferences, the length of the peg will vary considerably. Nothing can substitute for a lot of patience and experimentation with the angle and the peg length, but while experimenting, it might be well to keep some of the following points in mind.
1. Every time you think you have the ideal length or angle, remove the peg (taking note of the distance!) And play your horn, noting how the mouthpiece feels. It is very easy to end up with the peg too long or too short. Just a little deviation is all it takes to foul up your embouchure. Instructors who use this stand must be particularly attentive to this aspect with their younger students who might not understand the importance or have the patience. During the first week or so, I found I often adjusted the peg too high. Not leaving enough pressure on my upper lip, although the general posture seemed all right.
2. You will note that it is necessary to adjust the peg just a bit (perhaps no more than 1/4 to 1/2 inch) shorter than normal if you are reading down a full page. This won't cause you to slouch any more than you normally would anyway, and if you want, you can just lift the euphonium off the chair for the top few lines. I find that when I sit down with the stand. I first adjust it for a comfortable upright position and then push the peg in just a bit for my "diaphragm squeeze" and for the longer page.
3. The angle that the peg leaves the horn is critical in that it affects the side to side motion. The clamps should be adjusted so that the euphonium pivots along a plane parallel to the floor. This is important in reading across a page.
My personal advice is not to become entrenched with one adjustment of the peg or clamps -- you can only lose. Different seats (padded or unpadded) and different levels of fatigue demand different settings.
I personally found the "Stewart euphonium stand" to be quite useful for the busy work part of my practice routine: the finger exercises that take up a good part of my time (and similar areas where I repeat a passage over and over and over), but don't feel that it is important enough to wear pie out physically and limit my practice period. At the end of any exercise where I have been using the stand, I make a point of practicing the whole thing one or more times through standing. The differences you will feel will illustrate how important it is that you do this. I believe that the "Stewart euphonium stand", with the above system, has done no harm to my technique. And very possibly may serve to help it quite a bit. A month is too soon to judge, however.
Another very useful facet of the "Stewart euphonium stand" is the long rehearsal. It is not at all uncommon in the Marine Band to have two- or three-hour long rehearsals, euphoniums playing throughout, of course. The long rehearsal is not the thing that is difficult, however, as is the practice session afterward. By using the stand during some of the longer rehearsals as we have had recently, I found that I had substantially more "pep" left for practicing.
In short, the "Stewart euphonium stand" is not, perhaps, the answer to all our problem, but if used intelligently, can be of substantial aid for certain difficulties inherent with the euphonium.
The stand is available from The Brasswind.
NOTE: this article is reprinted from Euphonia magazine, Jan-Feb 1978, with permission of the publisher, Glenn Call.
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