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Have the Music Inside You - Then Let It Out!

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We spend so much time discussing horns, mouthpieces, techniques, etc. that sometimes we forget that playing euphonium is ultimately about making music. Playing tuba is ultimately about making music. Playing trombone is ultimately about making music. See where I'm going?

During lessons I give I often play recordings to demonstrate something or other. I haven't kept track, but I think that my students hear other instruments (or voice) much more often than euphonium recordings during our lessons. There are a couple reasons for that. First, the state of the art of brass playing is not generally in the euphonium realm. And the state of the art of sustained instrumental playing (as opposed to piano, for example) is not necessarily with the brass family. I choose the best examples I can find to demonstrate something.

The point is to hear music played as well as it can be. Readers may have noticed a page on my site called "Self-Teaching Resources." This is a page that list many recordings that are inspirational and/or instructional for a musician. But you see on that page several trumpet, trombone, and violin recordings. The only euphonium recordings listed are my own free downloads - not because I think they are the best example of anything, but because I wanted to offer something on the page that one does not need to spend money on.

I also use vocal recordings. Singers are concerned with conveying the meaning of the lyrics as carried by the melodies, and that gives them a different perspective. And string players have many fewer technical limitations that brass players, so they can concentrate more on the music itself.

One recording I have especially enjoyed using is "The Penny Whistle Song" by Henry Mancini. The version I have is played by the great flautist James Galway, performing on an actual penny whistle. I own one of these, and the one I have cost about $12. His is probably better, but its operation is the same. When he plays this simple instrument he sounds so musical that you can't help but smile - not because of the novelty so much, but because he sounds as musical on this as on his platinum flute. The reason is simple enough. Galway has the music inside him, and it pours out through his mega-buck flute or his tube-with-holes-drilled-in-it penny whistle.

We should all approach music this way. But how do we get the music inside us? Listen to as much fine music as you can. Think about what you are hearing, and feel what you are hearing. Listen to a variety of instruments. DO NOT just listen to euphonium (or tuba, or whatever your main instrument is). In my job as a web programmer I learned that designers often use fake Latin text on pages they have mocked up for customers. It looks like Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Proin eu tortor ut justo mollis. They do this because they don't want the customer to focus on the words but rather on the design. I think the same thing works when you listen to other instruments. You can focus on the pure music better because you are not focused on the demands you would face playing that music on your instrument.

So listen to your instrument on recordings, but also listen to great violinists, singers, cellists, trumpet players, trombone players, etc. Absorb the music. Then share it with others as you play.

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