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Thread: How does one play the euphonium?

  1. #1
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    How does one play the euphonium?

    I titled the thread as I did, hoping to stimulate some responses.

    I have recently made a permanent switch from tuba to euphonium. I played euphonium briefly in college about 45 years ago, and all I can really say is that I filled a void in our concert band at the time. I played the euphonium as though it was a small tuba, which I have since learned is not the right approach.
    I have read many comments on the Internet to the effect of: “one cannot play the euphonium as one does the tuba.” What does that actually mean?

    Some webinators have said that the euphonium requires a more “focused” approach. Focused? Smaller embouchure aperture? Smaller airstream? Visualizing a large flugelhorn rather than a small tuba?

    I am honestly not trying to scam anyone out of a long-distance, non-auditory lesson. But I would really welcome advice from those of you who are regular doublers on the various low brass choices. Mine is a permanent switch, but a half century of tuba has left some pretty deep habits.

    Thank you.

  2. #2
    Welcome to the forum!

    I often say how hard it is to talk about music using our vocabulary. This might be one of those cases.

    Frankly, I would say "you can't play euphonium like a trombone" or "you can't play euphonium like a trumpet." The concept of airstream is too different. Trombone and trumpet require a somewhat narrower and faster airstream, while euphonium requires a wider and slower airstream. But tuba also requires a wider and slower airstream.

    As for the opening, tuba and euphonium like a wider opening (aperture) for the embouchure. You are playing in a higher register than tuba, and if you are getting the notes, your aperture is probably OK.

    But tuba players often don't use vibrato, while vibrato is part of the euphonium culture. Euphonium needs to sing on melodies, but it needs to be vibrato-less if playing in octaves with tuba.
    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

  3. #3
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    I get by, despite vibrato completely escaping me since starting back in '64...

    Work the horn the best you can, spend as much time behind the MP as possible.

    Dennis
    3 notes and the truth.

    1966 Besson 181 highly modified New Standard, early model Wick 4AL
    1918 Hawkes & Son euph 3&1 original
    1917 Conn C/D/Eb mellophone original
    1915 York Bb tenorhorn original, Bach 5GS

  4. #4
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    Thank you both for your comments. I will continue practicing what works and sounds good. In 1969, I switched from cornet to tuba, and this current process is reminiscent. I still remember cornet fingerings somewhat, which I realize is a useful skill for euphonium.😊

  5. #5
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    With your background, you probably read both bass & treble clef, so that puts you a leg up in any band.

    DG
    3 notes and the truth.

    1966 Besson 181 highly modified New Standard, early model Wick 4AL
    1918 Hawkes & Son euph 3&1 original
    1917 Conn C/D/Eb mellophone original
    1915 York Bb tenorhorn original, Bach 5GS

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Acemorgan View Post
    I titled the thread as I did, hoping to stimulate some responses.


    I have read many comments on the Internet to the effect of: “one cannot play the euphonium as one does the tuba.”
    WHAT ???? It IS a tuba -- just a small one.

    There are a number of things that this remark might mean (most of them, I think, confusing and misleading). But without wandering off into the weeds, let me offer some practical thoughts ...

    First, I think it's the kind of remark most likely to be emitted by a euphonium player who isn't a particularly good tuba player and who doesn't understand tuba playing at a certain level. But aside from that sort of ad hominem observation (or in partial defense of it) ...

    In switching from tuba to euphonium you can expect to immediately notice three things that ae pretty obviously different:

    1. The range in which you'll be playing will be significantly higher than the range of your tuba playing. The instrument is, after all, an octave higher than a contra bass tuba, and about a fifth higher than a bass tuba. In addition, you'll probably discover that the range is broader (more pitches from the lowest required to the highest required). This is especially true if your tuba experience has been constrained to band parts that are relatively unchallenging in terms of range (as opposed, for example, to more advanced duets, trios, quartets, etc.). More about this below.

    2. You will commonly encounter a lot more, and more lengthy, "fast passages" than you have with your tuba parts, and these need to be played at challenging tempos. Euphonium parts frequently require a higher degree of fingering technique than encountered in tuba band parts. Again, if you've played a wider variety of tuba music (e.g., in small groups such as quintets, duets, quartets, etc.), you'll have a leg up on this. But many tuba players with a school or community band background won't.

    3. You will probably discover pretty quickly that the euphonium is much less forgiving in terms of embouchure than the tuba is. In large part (no pun intended) this is a "feature" of the difference in size of the mouthpieces. And in part it's a feature of the range of pitch involved, coupled with that mouthpiece. The tuba permits sloppiness with "acceptable" results (at least in the range that many tuba players never go beyond). The euphonium does not.

    So, for example, if on the tuba you aren't perfectly comfortable playing in the octave above the staff (even on a BBb tuba), then you face a challenge to improve your embouchure and range so that it will be adequate on euphonium. The problem in getting that range will not be solved with just the smaller mouthpiece (as many people seem to hope), and you will likely be surprised to discover that you've been sloppy with your tuba embouchure for decades. If so, this will have an (at least initial) adverse effect on both your range on the euphonium, your intonation, and the quality of the sound in the range you have. But practice can fix that. And it will improve your tuba playing as well!

    In terms of fingering technique and playing more complex passages at higher tempo, this again is a matter of practice.

    So my take on the comment that "one cannot play the euphonium as one does the tuba" is that for the most part this is true only if you really weren't playing the tuba correctly in the first place.
    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)

  7. #7
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    Thank you for your response. I really get your point about years of community band making one complacent at tuba. I definitely appreciate your observations and advice.

  8. #8
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    A last bit of advice. Tone quality and concept are unique to each of us. Listen to various players on the internet to study their tones. Choose what you like. What you hear in your head is what comes out of the horn, so find a tone or style that works for you and perfect that.

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