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Video: When Is an Easy Piece Hard?

Rating: 10 votes, 5.00 average.
One would ordinarily think a piece in 4/4, named "Romance," marked "Moderato," where the quickest rhythm is in a few dotted-eighth/sixteenth figures would be pretty easy, right? Well, OK, it's in A concert, but that is one of the standard scales taught in school and used in high school band pieces (sometimes, anyway).

There are two harder things about this piece. One is the upper range, which goes to a high C# concert (D# treble). That's a bit tough. But I find the hardest facet by far is needing to present a smooth, "romance"-sounding flow while negotiating some arpeggios that include skips of an octave + a third in some cases. It's a good challenge, though! This is one of my all-time favorite Romantic-era pieces and it's well worth the effort. The video below is brand new and you can hear how it sounds on euphonium.

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EASTER EGG (Special, non-obvious feature)

We have talked on this blog and forum about the use of alternate fingerings, both for technical issues and for intonation. Within this video the sharp-eyed and sharp-eared observer may notice a different use. See if you can pick it out!

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  1. Pat's Avatar
    We clearly have different definitions of "pretty easy", but you make it look easy.
  2. SteveP's Avatar
    Thanks Dave. Beautiful. Couldn't find the egg though.
  3. davewerden's Avatar
    Thanks for the comments! I'll reveal the secret of the egg in a few days. I want to give others a chance to guess first!
  4. JakeGuilbo's Avatar
    2 + 3 for C#, 1 and 3 for C, 2 for B Nat. Seems like a stable choice of fingerings!
  5. RickF's Avatar
    I'm thinking Jake found it. I'm so used to seeing open, 1st or 2nd fingering for notes above high Bb. Maybe 1-3 and 2-3 fingering speaks better for you or - is better in tune?
  6. davewerden's Avatar
    Jake and Rick noticed some alternate fingerings I am using here, but that is not the Easter Egg I was teasing about! I'll give folks another day to find that one. However, you two are on the fringes of getting it.

    I have often used 23 for high C# concert and 13 for C. Those seemed to be good options on my Bessons, Sterlings, and Adams because the standard fingerings are on the low side and require more work (and care!) to lip them up, especially when you are a bit taxed.

    In my 1979 recording with the USCG Band of Morceau Symphonique I used 23 for the high C# for example. Inherently you get less stability with more valves in that register, but you also get a lot of risk when you have to lip a note up where there is such a narrow partial to play in.

    In the case of this video, especially at the end, I wanted to have a strong vibrato on the low side of the note (vs. one that goes above and below), so using 23-13 for C#-C gave me the room I needed to do that. It's a different sound that I like sometimes. And of course this song requires a lot a chop work and I tend to be less fresh by the end.

    Many years ago I heard a trombone clinic given by Lloyd Elliott and he demonstrated the difference between a bi-directional slide vibrato or a downward slide vibrato. It was very interesting and the thought stuck with me. In this piece, I wanted a different-sounding vibrato (from my norm, at least) for those long high notes. Seemed like a good time to try it. I think I got at least some of the effect I wanted.
  7. RickF's Avatar
    I watched and listened again. I see around 1:33 that you first use 2-3 then 2 then quickly 2-3 fingering again for the high C# concert. You do it again at 1:50. Like a quick trill or mordant - but on the same pitch. Could that be it?
    Updated 10-01-2015 at 12:08 PM by RickF
  8. davewerden's Avatar
    Rick wins the prize. Oh, wait... there isn't really a prize... just the honor!

    Here is the excerpt in question. The 3 notes with fingerings over them were tricky. There is a jump of a 5th up to a high note, which is easy to miss. Then I had to throw in an articulation for the dotted quarter, which is one more thing that could mess me up, mostly in the event the slur does not execute exactly when I expect it to.

    I would of course use 23 for the dotted eighth, which is the natural fingering. And I like to use 23 for the high note. That makes the slur a little trickier to time perfectly. So my practice was with all 3 notes using 23 until a week before we recorded.

    Then I discovered the magic solution, which uses the fingerings shown above! I use the natural 2nd valve fingering for the 16th, which makes the slur more dependable. The I switch to 23 for the longer note. While doing that I did NOT tongue (where the little purple line is). The change in fingering was sufficient for clarity and eliminated another risk factor!

    If I were at the top of my game I might have done this differently. But with about 3-4 hours of practice available during a good week, I need to rely on my head as much as my chops! This is a brand-new use of alternate fingerings for me.