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Thread: Playing Bass Trombone and Euph - Is It Bad for Your Chops?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2018
    Richmond, KY

    Playing Bass Trombone and Euph - Is It Bad for Your Chops?


    I know that there's probably no answer that's 100% accurate for everybody, but I'd just like to make sure I don't ruin my chops before college auditions.

    In my school's wind ensemble, we've been playing the finale from Mahler's 3rd. We don't have a bass trombone player, so my director put me on the part. I'm happy to do it - bass trombone is kinda like an instrument of guilty pleasures. There's still a technique to it, but it feels so easy and right to play, where euphonium kinda fights with you sometimes. Regardless, I've noticed a few changes in my playing.

    My pitch accuracy and flexibility has improved on both instruments. For whatever reason, every note in my range is more in-tune, and I can reach every note in my range much easier. I can even play quite a bit higher, especially on euph. I think this is probably a product of better air support after playing bass, but it's interesting!

    The real concern for me is tone. When I first started playing bass, I sounded like a euphonium player playing bass trombone. After some practice, I've managed to get a more characteristic sound, and I think I blend in well with the rest of the section. It's still a bit... blatty at the highest volumes, but I'm working on that. On euphonium, my tone has maybe gotten a bit brighter, but I wouldn't say it's less characteristic or worse. It's simply a bit different than the sound I've had. Should I be worried about that change?

    I use a Schilke 52E2 on both instruments, as the mouthpiece gives me what I need on both horns. Are there any exercises I should be doing to ensure I don't change anything with my euphonium playing? Any warning signs I should watch out for?


  2. #2
    It is probably different for everyone, but in my case it was a challenge to play actively on both trombone and euphonium. The basic concept of air use is very different on each. I'm not sure whether it is possible to play optimally on both horns for all people. But for a few people there would be no challenge at all.

    For most of us, I think if it's doable via careful balance. You'd have to do quality practice on each instrument every day ideally. If you don't have that kind of time, then keep a frequent alternation routine from day to day. Be aware of the difference in airflow for each horn and how that may be affecting your embouchure. Then see how it goes. You may find it hard to do proper tonguing on both horns because that is also very different (less so on bass trombone as far as the initial attack part, but you still have the issue of having to legato-tongue trombone between notes you would just slur on euphonium).

    The best double in my mind for a euphonium player would be tuba, despite the much larger mouthpiece. The airflow concept is the same, and of course your tongue/valve interaction is the same.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    Alliance Mouthpiece (DC4)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  3. Bad for your chops? No

    Difficult to maintain both at a high level simultaneously? Possibly. We tend to overthink these types of things. The basics are the same: beautiful sound, full consistent air flow, great articulation and style, solid rhythm and time. There’s way more in common between these two instruments than differences. Concentrate on making great music whichever instrument you’re playing and you should be fine, and also become a more well-rounded musician in the process. Good luck!!!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2018
    Richmond, KY
    Thanks for the replies!

    I usually get around 3-4 hours of dedicated practice time a day. I took a few class periods to just practice, plus marching band and after school time. So there's no shortage of practice time, and I think I can balance the two pretty well. I'll definitely give more time to my euph, but it might be fun to switch things up!

    Dave, I'll definitely keep an eye out for embouchure and air issues. So far, my embouchure feels stronger, if anything. But, I'll record myself daily on euph to ensure I don't hear any bad or strange habits pop up. I haven't had any issue with tonguing, other than faster articulations on trombone. But, that's more of a slide issue, as far as I can tell. I haven't built the dexterity there yet. I'll listen for changes here as well.

    cochranme, thanks! I definitely strive to be the best player I can be, and I think that branching out a bit is going to be good for me.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Summerfield, Florida
    Well, I play euphonium, three different trombones (bass, tenor, and small bore jazz horn - all with a different mouthpiece), and Eb tuba. I use a different mouthpiece on all 5 of those horns. When I do play another euphonium, my Boosey & Hawkes Imperial euphonium (rarely), I use yet another mouthpiece.

    So, how does that affect me? Not much negatively. After playing tuba for an hour or two, if I switch to euphonium, for example, the mouthpiece feels pretty small initially. However, within a few minutes, I am back in the grove on my euphonium. I have noticed, in fact, after playing tuba now for a few months, that my high range on euphonium is better and more solid. Pretty strange, but true. Same with my low range on euphonium.

    Dave is quite right that euphonium and tuba are more similar than euphonium and trombone. Trombone indeed takes additional/different skills in having a slide instrument verses a valve instrument. However, the mouthpiece change from euphonium to trombone is easier then the mouthpiece change from euphonium to tuba.

    My very low range on the Eb tuba is not quite where I want it to be, but I have constantly improved since starting to play the tuba.

    Probably the hardest horn for me to "get in the groove with" is the small bore jazz trombone. I use a fairly small mouthpiece on this horn, and I sometimes have a little difficulty in hitting high notes accurately. I usually need to be playing this horn pretty consistently for a period of time to lock in note accuracy.

    You say you use the same mouthpiece for euphonium and bass trombone. I wonder about that. Unless you use an extremely large euphonium mouthpiece, it would seem to me that the mouthpiece you use on the bass trombone would be too small. I use a fairly large mouthpiece (at least perhaps larger than average) on my euphonium (the Demondrae Warburton mouthpiece) and a much larger mouthpiece on my bass trombone (the Douglas Yeo signature mouthpiece). I really don't know any euphonium/bass trombone players that use the same mouthpiece for both.
    John Morgan
    The U.S. Army Band (Pershing's Own) 1971-1976
    Adams E3 Custom Series Euphonium, Wessex EP-100 Dolce Euphonium, 1956 B&H Imperial Euphonium
    Adams TB1 Tenor Trombone, Yamaha YBL-822G Bass Trombone
    Kingdom of the Sun Concert Band, Ocala, FL (Euphonium)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Central North Carolina
    Pretty much what John Morgan said. I've tried using the same mouthpiece on both instruments and it's an unhappy and frustrating result. If you look in my sig, you'll see the mouthpieces I use on both instruments. But I also (for ME) regard something the size of the Doug Yeo mouthpiece to be way too large. Similarly, a Schilke 60 doesn't work for me across the range. It took me a lot of experimentation with a number of mouthpieces before capitulating to Doug Elliott's.

    One piece of advice: Don't try to go "too large" with the bass trombone mouthpiece. This is highly variable and individualistic. And keep in mind that a bass trombone player (even in a lot of "community band parts") is expected to have an upper range very close to that of the 1st tenor (and certainly of the 2nd tenor) while also having a low range extending into the pedal range with the valves. That isn't easy. Many bass trombonists use a mouthpiece smaller than the DE one I have (which I'd say is roughly equivalent to about a 1.5/1.25-ish piece). In fact, I just recently changed to a 112 rim in order to get a little better access to the pedal stuff -- and the result is it's thrown off my higher register (keep getting the wrong partials!) and I'm working on getting that back.

    In terms of the sound, I know exactly where you're coming from. It took me the longest time to get what I felt was a good trombone sound from the horn -- instead of a "obviously a tuba/euphonium player on the wrong instrument" sound. I feel that my embouchure on the trombone is different from my embouchure on the euph (and certainly the tuba), but others will disagree.
    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 (with std US receiver), Kellyberg
    Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K9/112 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
    1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

  7. #7
    I agree with most of what everyone says. I play euph, tuba, trombone and bass trombone, with bass trombone being the newest and least familiar. I find that as a casual double, tuba is easier than trombone as despite the mouthpiece size difference, the blow is very similar. Trombone requires a more focused blow.

    I found that I had difficulty going from euph to tuba, as my face was tight, but this went away after training that transition.

    I found that playing a lot of tuba did have a negative effect on my euphonium sound, as my euph sound became even darker than it normally is. I fixed this by concentrating on the sound concept, and paying attention to what air effects were necessary to brighten the euph sound.

    i found that when playing multiple instruments, it's really important to have a really strong sound concept on each, or else your trombone sound comes out like "euphonium on a stick".


  8. #8
    I'm playing trombone in a jazz big band and play tuba in concert band and have done so for many years including my time in the Army. I haven't had a problem at all and think that there are many differences but to me its just flipping a mental switch. I don't try to approach playing trombone the same as tuba. The blow is different in addition to the physical differences. (slide vs valves). I would agree very much that it would be difficult to try to play both at a very high level. For normal playing situations though it opens a lot of doors and quite frankly is very enjoyable. Best wishes to you.
    John 3:16

    Mack Brass Euphonium
    Conn Victor 5H Trombone
    Yamaha 354 Trombone
    Mack Brass 200S BBb Tuba

  9. #9
    I can’t speak for trombone/euphonium doubling. As a trumpet player, turned euphonium player, I can say that my tone on trumpet has improved significantly since I’ve been practicing euphonium regularly. I could probably switch from trumpet to euph mid-performance, but I would have great difficulty switching the other way. I think it’s fair to say that your chops are safe, and the more you exercise your flexibility with your other instruments, the better!
    Clayton M.
    Musician for Fun
    Euphonium Newbie - XO 1270S
    Trumpet Novice - XO 1602RS

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2018
    Richmond, KY
    John, I'm using the same mouthpiece on both instruments for a couple of reasons. I searched around a bit before I posted this thread, and I found a few different people saying that playing with the same mouthpiece might help keep bad habits from developing. I have no idea if there's any truth behind that, but I don't have a reason to disbelieve it either. Also, the Schilke 52E2 is actually marketed as a bass trombone mouthpiece, although it's just a bit bigger than a 51D. It's by far the best mouthpiece I've found for euph (for me), and it seems to do alright for bass trombone as well. I can get a nice, full sound on bass down to about a C#, and from there I'm thinking it's more of a technique issue rather than an issue with the mouthpiece. There is a Bach 2G sitting in the band room that I may try out on Monday, to see what it does for me.

    ghmerril, you're correct that I'm having to get up pretty high as well as pretty low. There's a unison high Bb across the trombone section at the first entrance, and I'm not sure I could achieve that at a high level with a much larger mouthpiece. Then again, I haven't tried - but I imagine it'd be much more difficult. As for low range stuff, the piece only requires a low Eb. Not a problem with my current set-up. I can get a nice sound down to about a C#, and pass that I lose traction. My sound loses it's "oomph" and my dynamic range decreases to pretty much piano or mezzopiano. The lowest note I can actually sustain on bass is a pedal Ab, with anything else requiring a large embouchure shift. Yet, I can play a pedal B on euph with the same mouthpiece with no issue. I'm not sure if that's a "me" issue, or an issue with the mouthpiece, or both. As for the sound issue, I think now that I know that there's no immediate danger to my chops I'll go up to the local college and get a few lessons with the trombone professor there. See if he can't give me any pointers.

    djwpe, thanks for the tip! I'll definitely make sure my euph sound doesn't start to degrade.

    As for playing both at a high level, I'm not trying to be a professional musician. I'm actually going to major in music education, and teach at a high school. So while I definitely want to be good at what I play, and I need to play well for my last year of high school auditions, I'm not going to be relying on it for work. Playing both may even open up doors and opportunities for me!

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