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Thread: Potentially playing Sousaphone... Advice?

  1. #1

    Question Potentially playing Sousaphone... Advice?

    This is a situation I thought I would never encounter, so I'm a bit unprepared.

    First, a backstory:
    Pep Band season started last night. For our first game, we had a great ensemble attendance... but only one sousaphone player showed up, and she wasn't fond of playing solo. The director told me to play trombone parts on some songs and tuba parts on others with my bass trombone. She mentioned that she didn't care if I doubled on sousaphone the nights that we didn't have a good tuba-to-band ratio, because while a bass trombone can cover the part, it doesn't blend with a sousaphone... or the rest of the band, for that matter.

    I figure that I could take up Sousaphone so I can properly cover those parts when I'm called to. The only problem is, I've never meaningfully played a tuba before. There's a part of me that is ecstatic to play tuba, so I am motivated and ready to learn. I taught myself all of the fingerings, I'm just not prepared in the embouchure and air management department. I will mention that I am already a "tripler" on tenor trombone (both valve and slide), bass trombone, and euphonium. I've browsed around forums for a while and have already learned that sousaphones don't play quite as well as concert tubas and their intonation leaves something to be desired.

    By the way, the sousaphone I would be playing is a King 2250.

    Is there anything I should know?
    Any help and advice is greatly appreciated! Even the basic fundamentals would be helpful.
    Last edited by sirendude2015; 12-11-2016 at 05:10 PM.
    Avid horn collector, check my profile to see what I've got (not enough room to reasonably squeeze 14 horns down here!)
    YouTube Channel: TheNEWTrombonium

  2. I'm a casual euph/tuba doubler. I picked up tuba this year to replace a player in my brass ensemble who had to quit due to work conflicts.

    The principles for sousaphone are the same as the principles for trombone and euph -- you just have more air to move, more lip to buzz and more metal in the valves. If you have access to the sousaphone outside of rehearsal time, I'd work on the typical endurance exercises like long tones and lip slurs to get used to the mouthpiece and build up your muscle memory of what each partial feels like. If you can't borrow it, at least try to acquire a mouthpiece and buzz on it regularly.

    As far as intonation compared to a concert tuba goes, I honestly wouldn't worry, since this is pep band and you're going to be playing in some of the most acoustically adverse places possible. The sousaphone is there in the ensemble to lay down a blanket of bass, rather than to try to sound sweet or blend subtly into the ensemble.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Central North Carolina
    Posts
    1,997
    There's a way to meaningfully play a tuba?

    Ecstatic to play tuba? Then you should play tuba. But oh, wait, you're actually talking about playing Sousaphone.

    Just play it. Geez, it's a pep band. The last pep band I played in, I played flute. This was great because (a) all the other flute players were female, and (b) the pep band sat behind one of the goals during hockey games (I should perhaps point out that the Sousaphone players sat in the back row and caught a lot of pucks in their bells; the flute players sat in the front row, right behind the goal, and were protected from flying pucks).

    I'd offer only one bit of mostly ignorant advice: Don't use a mouthpiece that's excessively large. Getting a good mouthpiece (FOR YOU, never mind what anyone else says) will make a huge difference in your experience.
    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. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Central North Carolina
    Posts
    1,997
    Quote Originally Posted by jimpjorps View Post
    As far as intonation compared to a concert tuba goes, I honestly wouldn't worry, since this is pep band and you're going to be playing in some of the most acoustically adverse places possible. The sousaphone is there in the ensemble to lay down a blanket of bass, rather than to try to sound sweet or blend subtly into the ensemble.
    This is well put. While as musicians we should strive for excellent tone and intonation, what pep bands produce (and what it is their charter to produce) is only somewhat related to "music".
    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)

  5. #5
    I'd say just go for it! You're already mixing air and mouthpiece requirements in your current doubles. In any case, tuba or Sousaphone are good doubles for euphonium players. You will increase the muscle mass of your chops and your air will improve.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams E3, Denis Wick 4AL (classic)
    Instructor of Euphonium and Tuba
    Twitter: davewerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    YouTube: dwerden
    Owner of TubaEuph.com, DWerden.com

  6. #6
    Thanks for the advice and the laughs- I'll see what I can do about practicing and I'll have a lot of fun in Pep Band this year!
    Avid horn collector, check my profile to see what I've got (not enough room to reasonably squeeze 14 horns down here!)
    YouTube Channel: TheNEWTrombonium

  7. #7
    I don't have anything constructive to contribute, but go to my YouTube page ("David Bjornstad") and look up "The Sousaphone" for a bit of sousa-fun I'd post a link, but this forum I can't post links
    David Bjornstad

    1923 Conn New Wonder 86I, Bach 6 1/2 AL
    2018 Wessex EP100 Dolce, Denis Wick 4ABL
    2013 Jinbao JBEP-1111L, Denis Wick 4AM
    2015 Jinbao JBBR-1240, Denis Wick clone mouthpiece of unknown designation
    Cullman (AL) Community Band (Euph Section Leader)
    Brass Band of Huntsville (2nd Bari)

  8. #8
    As a tuba player, I will say that the tuba sound for a pep band is much better than a bass trombone. Any sousaphone will work. The brass ones generally have a better tone than the fiberglass/plastic horns. All are just fine. If you've already learned the fingerings, great! Get out there and play the horn, dance a bit, dress up the bell and have a good time. You might even get a girlfriend out of it (sousaphones attract attention.)

  9. I switched from trumpet to sousaphone, a fiberglass King, as a 14-year old freshman in high school (mumble) decades ago. I think the horn was larger than I was! Anyway - in addition to all the same brass playing fundamentals you are already learning and all the usual exercises, etudes, studies, etc., that you are doing, concerning the air - think more volume and a little bit less velocity; some say "big easy air." Think a little bit more "OH," and relax the jaw a little bit. A common transition issue is that a player can get a little bit nervous and try too hard, tense up everything including the jaw, and go sharp in the lower register. But keep the velocity constant in order to keep the embouchure buzzing consistently, and really work on your abdominals and intercostals to expand the bottom of the lungs to as efficient a vital capacity as possible.

    Then work on those same muscles to contract slowly and progressively to provide a consistent airstream. It works better on tuba, of course, (of course it is hard to lay on your back wearing a sousaphone!) but to exercise the muscles and not rely on gravity - try playing a tuba while laying on your back playing long tones. Then try it, while laying on your back, and raising your heels one inch off the ground with your legs straight. That will definitely help with learning how to control the air. Of course, the heels one inch off the ground was to develop stamina in the lower back for marching, but it is an interesting exercise nonetheless.

    Be careful - since more air is required, even compared to bass bone, you might get light headed. Stop for a few minutes if you do, until you get your orientation back.

    Don't worry about the "souzy-to-band" ratio that your director mentioned. Play with good tone, intonation, articulation and dynamics and watch your conductor for timing and balance. You are under and behind the bell. You have no idea what it sounds like 20 feet out in front. So rely on your director. Also, if you carry over playing souzy or tuba into a concert band setting, you will be at the back of the band, instead of in the middle, so the sound of the other instruments will cause a perception of a delay of the beat - another reason to be even more attentive to the director's beat, because there will be times when you feel like you are ahead of the beat, when in fact you are right on it due to time it takes for the echo of the rest of the band to make it back to you. So also play with courage and fortitude, knowing you are supporting the foundation of the band with the director and the bass drum.

    Oh - and to what Opus37 posted - yes, they do draw attention. That's why I volunteered as a freshmen: on trumpet, I would have been just another black speck on the field. With the souzy, they all saw me!

    Most of all: have fun! This fall marked - OK, I'll say it - 40 years since I first picked up a souzy. I still have fun playing one. Go for it!
    Last edited by iiipopes; 12-12-2016 at 05:26 PM.

  10. I don't know if there's much else to add. Just go for it. The only thing you should know for pep band is learn how to play loud, fast, and big (read "air").

    I do disagree with your statement about questionable tone and intonation on sousaphones, I've actually found that some of the best sounding horns I've played are sousaphones. It's all about finding the right one, I use an Olds O95 (full brass).
    1905 Boosey Class A Euphonium-Wick SM4M
    Yamaha 301M Marching Baritone-Schilke 52
    1960 Conn 11J-Conn Helleberg
    1961 Conn 14J-Vincent DFL
    2015 King 2341-Bach Corp. 24AW
    Olds O95 Sousaphone-King 26

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