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Thread: Learning euphonium in treble vs. bass clef

  1. I, too, started on Trumpet and switched to Euphonium in 8th grade. (with a slight stop to Valve Trombone for a year in 7th grade). As others have said, it's not necessary right away, but he'll have to learn both if he wants to keep playing. But how to cross the bridge when you come to it?

    I had a couple of big problems with the switch from treble to bass. As incredible as my middle school teacher was (she inspired me to be a band director, which is why I'm a music major now), she allowed me to develop a few bad habits when it came to reading music. Instead of having me write the note name above a note I kept missing, she let us write the fingerings. Which may be helpful at first, but in the long run it'll mean that they think of the fingering rather than the note, which slows down the process of playing faster passages. (It's something I've had to get away from as I've developed my playing in college). I also remember her transposing the part from bass clef to treble clef rather than having us really learn the clef right off the bat. Between the two things, it took me a lot longer before I felt comfortable in the new clef.

    So my two cents, for what they're worth:
    1. Writing in note names can be good, fingerings is bad. He should be able to pick up the fingering patterns fairly quickly if he works on them.
    2. Don't transpose parts for him when he needs to make the switch. Help him learn it by keeping him in the clef he needs to learn.

  2. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Gatetrek View Post
    1. Writing in note names can be good, fingerings is bad. He should be able to pick up the fingering patterns fairly quickly if he works on them.
    2. Don't transpose parts for him when he needs to make the switch. Help him learn it by keeping him in the clef he needs to learn.
    I want to add, that writing something to each note is bad, equal what it is - note name (original or transposed) or fingering. But I'd say, that it is an advantage, if you can write to certain notes a fingering, if you make the same mistake at this note twice or more. As an origin bass clef reader I had no problems to play from treble clef, except fast passages with exotic sharps and flats. But I usually write in some stuff into the sheet at difficult passages as 'remember help'.

    Perhaps it helps to divide the problem into two parts. 1. Reading from another clef, 2. transposing. But both can be handled similar imho.

    Though, my best advice is to read all parts from the origin without transposing note by note. My last two rehearsals in our local orchestra we were a lot of cellos, but only one viola. I sat to the only viola player and played also from his viola part. No chance to write in names or so. After some difficulties at the beginning it improved minute by minute. At the end I associated each alto clef note with my instrument and all was ok.

    What I want to say is, don?t discuss about such things, take the 'strange-cleffed' sheets and practise until you have the connection between the notes and your instruments. It takes not much time. If you've learned to read strange clefs/transpositions, refresh it from time to time.
    Last edited by JoCologne; 12-05-2012 at 02:57 AM. Reason: some sign were not showed correctly
    Jochen

    Boosey&Hawkes Imperial with SM4(U-X),
    YEP-321 with DW 4AY ...
    ... and my cello

  3. #23
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    Location
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    2,040
    This thread has amazingly long legs -- and is quite interesting to me, particularly in terms of the remarks people make about starting in one clef and switching to another. This seems to be the biggest worry: that is, the difficulty of doing this. In part, however, it's not just learning the new clef that's the challenge, but (since you're essentially switching from a transposing to a non-transposing instrument in the case of euphonium), you have to learn new fingerings. Some people seem to find this more challenging than others, but I do think that it is never really a significant problem. And as has been remarked already, keyboard players are expected to learn two clefs simultaneously (though they don't have the new fingering issue exactly), and I've know trombonists who seem to play in more clefs than I have fingers (again without new fingering issues, although if you go for alto trombone you face something similar).

    In my own case, I trained for almost fifteen years as a saxophonist. And certainly a major reason for the saxophone family being composed of transposing instruments is the ease with which a player can switch from one variant or another (if, for example, the bari sax player gets the flu). And a lot of saxophonists will regularly play two or three of the variants. Among all those, only the C Melody saxophone is non-transposing and produces a C when you finger a C -- and no one plays that nowadays anyway. When I decided to pick up a second instrument, it was the flute. In part this is because I like the flute, but in part it was because of the similarity of fingerings with the saxophone (somewhat more similar than the clarinet, it seemed to me).

    Decades later when I decided to become a low brass player and acquired a 4-valve Eb tuba, I learned bass clef for the first time in my life, and I recall it taking only a few days to get it down quite well (okay, maybe with the exception of the more distant ledger lines, but that's a problem whatever clef you're in). When I changed to a BBb horn several years later, I then needed to learn "new fingerings", and this took a little more effort (it seemed), but not much. A couple of days? A similar experience when I acquired a euphonium. Even though the fingerings are "the same" as on the BBb horn they are unfortunately "at different places" in the staff . I am now in the hunt for another Eb to add to my stable and expect to pick up the fingerings again without undo difficulty.

    My point here is that while there may seem to be a number of concerns about what clef to learn first, and the difficulty of switching clefs (and essentially switching from a transposing to a non-transposing instrument), in practice this won't really matter and I would guess that any reasonable student could make a passable switch within a week or so, and a very competent switch with just a bit more time. So not to worry. I do confess that since I started playing low brass, the bass clef seems to me to be the "natural" one, but all of that is a matter of habit and there is nothing more natural about it than any other clef. This is a lot like learning to speak or read different languages (well, it is learning to speak or read different languages). But the languages in this case are really simple. Not at all l like the time I tried to learn to read Polish by myself. This whole clef thing is pretty straightforward.

    Also, it will ease interaction with the band/music teacher to continue with treble clef at this point. And why complicate that, especially for a beginning student?
    Gary Merrill
    Wessex EEb Bass tuba (Denis Wick 3XL)
    Mack Brass Compensating Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J9 euph)
    Amati Oval Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J6 euph)
    1924 Buescher 3-valve Eb tuba, modified Kelly 25
    Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K9/112 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
    1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

  4. #24
    I, too, converted from trumpet to euphonium many years ago and played in the treble cleff. Some years ago I started playing bass trombone in a church orchestra and taught myself base cleff. Now I'm playing the euphonium again in a community band and I find it easier to play in the treble cleff because most of the notes are in, or nearer, the treble cleff ledger lines. As I think about it, that makes logical sense to play euphonium and probably treble trombone parts in treble cleff. Just because it's easier to read. Does that make sense??

  5. Without doubt. It's the old young whisky/wine versus aged whisky/wine situation.

  6. Quote Originally Posted by DaveBj View Post
    Hey, dude, we're the same age. Would you agree that old farts make the best euphists?
    Without doubt. What's best, young whisky or aged whisky?

  7. #27
    Join Date
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    Hidden Valley, AZ
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    762
    "Well, no more day-old hootch. You gotta' let it age at least a week...."



    Dennis "age & avarice will always overcome youth & skill" G.
    1966 Besson 181 highly modified New Standard
    1918 Hawkes & Son euph 3&1 original
    1915 York Bb tenorhorn original

  8. #28
    For whatever it's worth (this thread's last post was 11 days ago!), I'd say that learning both clefs is a part of being a serious euphonium player. For kids who don't intend to do much with the instrument after school, it's probably not a big deal for them to stick with either TC or BC, but for those who aspire to the "next level" being able to read both clefs comfortably is pretty much a requirement.

    How to do that? Well, when I started, I played trombone in BC, of course. In essence I learned the relationships between trombone and euph insofar as the valves/slide positions are concerned and when I had that down pretty well, I started with BC/TC. The only way I learned it was to put both parts on the stand and learn the relationships (and the note names!) at the same time.

    At some point you gotta pull the trigger and put away the more comfortable clef and force yourself to play (and struggle with) the uncomfortable clef. After awhile, things begin clicking and you're fluent in both!

  9. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by Eupher6 View Post
    For whatever it's worth (this thread's last post was 11 days ago!), I'd say that learning both clefs is a part of being a serious euphonium player.
    Part of being a serious instrumentalist of any kind is being comfortable with all clefs and on the fly transpositions. Even as *just* a low brass player, I see a lot of different clefs and keys I need to read fluently:

    bass clef as-written (most euphonium parts)
    treble clef in Bb read an octave down (british brass band parts, treble clef band parts)
    tenor clef as-written (most trombone parts)
    alto clef (many trombone parts)
    bass clef in Bb or A (strauss tone poems, etc)
    treble AND bass in D and Eb (Wagner bass trumpet parts)
    treble clef in F (covering horn parts)
    treble in C an octave down (lots of vocal colla parte playing in early music groups on baroque trombone)
    mezzo soprano or baritone clef (ditto)
    reading baroque trombone music in any of the above clefs a semitone up to play in an A=465 group with a A=440 instrument

    That's not even to mention when I've played commercial gigs and the bandleader has called up a chart but told the band to transpose it on the fly to match the vocalists range.

    And we, as low brass players, have it REALLY easy compared to trumpet, horn, clarinet players. They can see any number of keys of transposed music on the same page which they have to adapt to playing on any number of keys of instruments.

    Part of everyone's music education should be becoming comfortable doing any of these on the fly.How you get there doesn't matter so much.

  10. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by bbocaner View Post
    ...bass clef in Bb or A (strauss tone poems, etc)
    treble AND bass in D and Eb (Wagner bass trumpet parts)
    treble clef in F (covering horn parts)...
    Since the question was asked originally for a beginner and for wind band purposes, I think the both asked options should be sufficient for the first years. I totally agree with Eupher6 and want to add the following: If you can play something in your "comortable key", then play the same (well-practised) piece again in the "uncomfortable key". This should always work.
    Jochen

    Boosey&Hawkes Imperial with SM4(U-X),
    YEP-321 with DW 4AY ...
    ... and my cello

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