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Thread: Tuba vs. Euphonium: 12 y.o. switching from one to the other

  1. Tuba vs. Euphonium: 12 y.o. switching from one to the other

    Hello! I need some advice! I have a middle schooler who has been playing tuba for one year in his school band. He likes it a lot. He joined the "Pep Band" this year, and now has to play a Sousaphone, which he hates. (Hurting his shoulder & back, and doesn't want to do it because of the discomfort). If he sticks with tuba, he'll have to play Sousaphone in marching band in high school, which he had originally wanted to do until he tried it! I'm concerned he may quit band over the Sousaphone & thinking we should switch to a different instrument that he can march with AND play for concert performances. (Currently he plays tuba for concerts, then Sousaphone for Pep Band/football games). How easy is it to switch to euphonium from tuba? Are the notes & fingering the same? Would it be like learning a new instrument or are there a lot of similarities? I've been trying to find this information with internet searches and can't find the answer! Thank you! Obviously, I'm not a brass instrument player! Appreciate any suggestions!

  2. #2
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    I found it quite easy. There are a LOT of similarities. The euphonium is really a baby tuba that just hasn't grown up. (Euphonium players tend to dislike this description and insist that the euphonium isn't a tuba -- but structurally it is. It's just the baritone voice rather than the bass voice.)

    In fact, in some fundamental ways (certainly as a beginner) the euphonium is easier and more pleasant to play than the tuba. The fingerings won't all be identical (since the euphonium is pitched an octave higher than the BBb tuba, though both are pitched in Bb), but most of them will be, and he'll adapt to the minor differences almost immediately. He should not have any trouble with the smaller mouthpiece and will find it easier to get a decent sound out of the instrument. At least that was my experience, and I suspect it's the same for others who have done this as well.

    To some degree this assumes that he ends up with a decent euphonium in good shape. But otherwise the transition should be uneventful. It might even be possible to play BOTH in his band if he's having trouble with Sousaphone: tuba in concert band, and euphonium in pep and marching band -- if the director will go for such a deal. Switching back and forth is a piece of cake. If the band isn't short of tuba/Sousaphone players, such a deal may be possible. But if the alternative is that the band will lose a tuba player anyway, the director also may compromise. Worth a try.
    Last edited by ghmerrill; 10-01-2017 at 10:49 AM.
    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)

  3. Tuba vs. Euphonium: 12 y.o. switching instruments

    Quote Originally Posted by ghmerrill View Post
    I found it quite easy. There are a LOT of similarities. The euphonium is really a baby tuba that just hasn't grown up. (Euphonium players tend to dislike this description and insist that the euphonium isn't a tuba -- but structurally it is. It's just the baritone voice rather than the bass voice.)

    In fact, in some fundamental ways (certainly as a beginner) the euphonium is easier and more pleasant to play than the tuba. The fingerings won't all be identical (since the euphonium is pitched an octave higher than the BBb tuba, though both are pitched in Bb), but most of them will be, and he'll adapt to the minor differences almost immediately. He should not have any trouble with the smaller mouthpiece and will find it easier to get a decent sound out of the instrument. At least that was my experience, and I suspect it's the same for others who have done this as well.

    To some degree this assumes that he ends up with a decent euphonium in good shape. But otherwise the transition should be uneventful. It might even be possible to play BOTH in his band if he's having trouble with Sousaphone: tuba in concert band, and euphonium in pep and marching band -- if the director will go for such a deal. Switching back and forth is a piece of cake. If the band isn't short of tuba/Sousaphone players, such a deal may be possible. But if the alternative is that the band will lose a tuba player anyway, the director also may compromise. Worth a try.
    Jacquie B:
    This is really helpful! I was thinking about talking to the band director about playing one tuba in concert band/euphonium in marching band. I'm glad to hear it shouldn't be too difficult to learn euphonium when you can play tuba. Thank you so much!

  4. #4
    Gary gave some nice perspective. I would think you might expect a few days for him to become functional on a basic level. After a few weeks I'm guessing he'll be 95% of the way there. It's a very "friendly" switch, partly because the basic concepts (embouchure, air, fingers, type of tone) are similar. It's also a friendly double for someone who wants to keep both going.

    After a few decades of playing euphonium I picked up tuba to build my air supply. Even with my being so ingrained in the little brother, big brother was pretty easy to get used to.
    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
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    Owner of TubaEuph.com, DWerden.com

  5. #5
    I've never made this particular switch, but when I was in high school I was "promoted" to piccolo for marching band. The transition is much faster than jumping from flute to…well...euphonium. I remember things like suddenly playing lower on the piccolo to match the flutes. I wasn't used to sounding higher than them while pushing the same buttons and it felt all wrong for the first few days. Then going BACK to flute after my first marching season had a phase where I had to get used to the bigger instrument all over again. After a good amount of switching back-and-forth, none of it really is an issue anymore. Obviously it's not the same thing, but it's analogous.

    Kids dabble with instruments all the time in high school. At any given time in all four years of my high school, at least half of our sousaphone section played completely different instruments in concert band and one of the concert band tubas was in the colorguard. Some were various brass players. Some were disgruntled woodwinds who wanted to contribute more sound wise on the field. Your child's back is a legitimate concern. My sister was one such disgruntled woodwind and the band director was thrilled to have another sousa player...until she learned that my sister was diagnosed with scoliosis as a child. It was a mild case, but it was enough for the director to tell her "no way". Those instruments are no joke.

  6. #6
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jacquie B View Post
    Hello! I need some advice! I have a middle schooler who has been playing tuba for one year in his school band. He likes it a lot. He joined the "Pep Band" this year, and now has to play a Sousaphone, which he hates. (Hurting his shoulder & back, and doesn't want to do it because of the discomfort). If he sticks with tuba, he'll have to play Sousaphone in marching band in high school, which he had originally wanted to do until he tried it! I'm concerned he may quit band over the Sousaphone & thinking we should switch to a different instrument that he can march with AND play for concert performances. [snip]
    A short personal note: being required to play in marching band in 10th grade made me quit playing baritone horn (and concentrate my time on piano and organ). I didn't resume playing baritone horn until sophomore year in college (at U. of Pa., the symphonic winds ensemble was separate from any marching or pep bands).

    The marching band director had choreographed arm movements for our horns (i.e., various synchronized swinging motions) - easy for trumpets or clarinets, not so easy for baritones. At the time, I had never heard of plastic mouthpieces and using a brass mouthpiece on the football field on a cold November day was uncomfortable. I have, in recent years, performed locally with a marching bands in parades. The euphonium is slightly heavier than a three-valve baritone horn, but (a) I don't have to swing it around, (b) I use a body strap to hold the weight of the horn. I highly recommend some kind of body strap to your student, if he will be marching with a euphonium.
    Dean L. Surkin
    Mack Brass MACK-EU1150S, BB1, Kadja, and DE 101XTG9 mouthpieces
    Bach 36B trombone; pBone; Vincent Bach (from 1971) 6.5AL mouthpiece
    Steinway 1902 Model A, restored by AC Pianocraft in 1988; Kawai MP8, Yamaha KX-76
    See my avatar: Jazz (the black cockapoo) and Delilah (the cavapoo puppy) keep me company while practicing

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