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Thread: Alternate fingerings

  1. Alternate fingerings

    Ok, so I've been playing my new Festivo for a few months now. Getting better with the valves. I've always heard euphonium players say "don't play like a trombonist", and was never quite sure what that meant. Maybe now I'm figuring that out. Trombone is such an analog instrument. You've got all these variations of positions, there is no real 2nd position. Euphonium is decidedly quantized. It has to fit into the slot. It's 1st valve or 2nd valve, or whatever. Trombonists always avoid positions past 4th, just because we're lazy and don't want to stretch out our arms. Plus, up high, say after high Bb, there are only 3 positions. There are 30 variations of those 3 positions, because trombonists believe it's barbaric to lip a note into tune. Move the slide, not the lips. Alternate positions on trombone are for speed and lip slurs, and lip slurs are to avoid that sad trombone wyahhh wyahhh whayyyy between notes.

    So what do you do on euphonium for a high F#? Do you really play it 2+3 (that's like playing a high note in 5th position, which no self respecting trombone player would ever do)? And what about all 1+2 notes, should all of those really be played 3. Should all 1+3 really be played 4? and a high B natural? high D? And what does it mean to not play the euphonium like a trombone player?

  2. #2
    Trombone and euphonium seem like a natural double, but there are important differences.

    Many trombonists I've heard tend to soft-tongue during slurs as they would on trombone. Don't!

    The airstream for euphonium is more in the "warm air" category than in the "fast air" category. Euphonium actually takes a bit more volume ("width") of air, and trombone likes more air pressure. Work on playing a nice solo that might be from the band repertoire (within the band, not a stand-up solo). The Holst 2nd Suite has one. Play it "easily" and make it sound pretty and musical. Keep the tone on the dark side, and don't let any edge creep in. Then increase the volume a bit at a time and maintain the same edgeless tone. It's a good way to develop the fuller euph sound.

    Alternate fingerings are very useful for euphonium, but as you mention they are slotted (no such thing as "short 2nd position"). But 3 is usually slighter flatter than 12 as one example, and there are times that is useful. May I recommend my book as a good guide to the why's and how's of alternate fingerings?

    https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/searc...m&aff_id=15680

    Also available at Cimarron Music:
    https://www.cimarronmusic.com/catalo...ngering-guide/

    Or Amazon:
    http://www.amazon.com/Advanced-Finge...dp/1494720604/
    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. Going through the same experience, it can be a bit maddening. As a trombonist I learned to make adjustments on the fly if I detect that I am out of tune with my section mates. My teacher in college told me that "trombone is the one brass instrument that can be in tune all of the time", which is true. Brass instruments with valves require a lot more compromises.

    For example, usually you would tune the first valve slightly flat, so you have an in tune 1+2. This way you can tune the 3rd valve to have an in tune 2+3. And then after that you use the 4th valve and then 4+2 before returning to open.

    Definitely check out the resources linked above, as they really can help later on when you want to avoid having to lip things up or down.
    Sterling / Perantucci 1065HGS Euphonium, Yamaha YBB-631S BBb Tuba, and a bunch of trombones.

  4. Yeah, the soft tongue thing. I learned a different approach where you use the natural breaks on the horn instead of tonguing where possible. The valve is a natural break every time, so there is no tongue unless something is supposed to be articulated. I can see how a lot of trombone players fall into that, though.

    I'll buy that book and see what it has to say. Thanks!

  5. IMHO, the Mozart Tuba Mirum excerpt sounds SO much better using natural breaks. If it's only a position away, there's no reason not to on a trombone.
    Sterling / Perantucci 1065HGS Euphonium, Yamaha YBB-631S BBb Tuba, and a bunch of trombones.

  6. #6
    Hyperbolica, I purchased Dave’s alternate fingering book some time ago and it is a fantastic resource, I’ve relied upon it numerous times, highly recommended !
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  7. Quote Originally Posted by Nbnarcisi View Post
    Hyperbolica, I purchased Daveís alternate fingering book some time ago and it is a fantastic resource, Iíve relied upon it numerous times, highly recommended !
    I bought it and looked through it last night. It looks like the secret, from a trombone player's point of view, is don't forget about those "extended positions". For example, most trombone players would never play an Eb above the staff in 6th position. I did it once recently to confuse a college kid who had no idea how I played a certain passage. But there it is, listed in Dave's book. Also high B natural octave above the bass clef, 123. I would never ever play that note in 7th position on trombone. It would sound murky, and I'd surely crack it. I'll play through his notated examples just to start to get used to the alternates. I was thinking playing 3 and 4 was the way to go. Now I'm going to have to rethink everything.

    Probably the first stop is to go through the horn with a tuner and figure out where things are. Maybe before that I need to decide on a mouthpiece. I've been playing all bass trombone mouthpieces (1 1/4g, 2g, Ferguson V, Yamaha 60) but I notice that the volume is kind of stuck in one position (can't play soft), until I use a smaller tenor trombone mouthpiece, then I've got some range and flexibility with volume. The mouthpiece that comes with the Festivo is nice enough, but seems small.

    The funny thing to me is that the euphonium plays great high and low with giant bass bone mouthpieces. Bass trombone sounds like crap up high with a big mouthpiece. On this instrument, you really have to nail those trigger notes (4th valve notes) with your chops dead on the note or they come out stuffy.


    So much to learn.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by hyperbolica View Post
    I bought it and looked through it last night. It looks like the secret, from a trombone player's point of view, is don't forget about those "extended positions". For example, most trombone players would never play an Eb above the staff in 6th position.
    Good example. On trombone I would use 6th for Eb for a lip trill, maybe, but on trombone the goal is to find the shortest path. So a short 2nd for high G is logical, since you can place the slide anywhere. On euph we have to use lips or alternate fingerings. On many euphoniums, lipping down that Eb is very difficult; even if you can do it, you'll sacrifice more tone than by using the longer 13 path.


    Quote Originally Posted by hyperbolica View Post
    Probably the first stop is to go through the horn with a tuner and figure out where things are. Maybe before that I need to decide on a mouthpiece. I've been playing all bass trombone mouthpieces (1 1/4g, 2g, Ferguson V, Yamaha 60) but I notice that the volume is kind of stuck in one position (can't play soft), until I use a smaller tenor trombone mouthpiece, then I've got some range and flexibility with volume. The mouthpiece that comes with the Festivo is nice enough, but seems small.
    For sure get your tuner warmed up and figure out the basic tendencies. Our tone and clarity are affected as we add more tubing, and that can throw one's perception of pitch. Also, you want to identify the major and minor problems and develop a toolkit of options. If you watch many of my videos, you'll note alternate fingerings that are not consistent on any given note. I MIGHT play my upper D with 12 sometimes, if context calls for it. That makes a smoother trill to Eb, for example, although sometimes I want the more aggressive trill sound from using open to 1. And for my lower D, I sometimes use 12 and sometimes 3. Etc.


    Quote Originally Posted by hyperbolica View Post
    The funny thing to me is that the euphonium plays great high and low with giant bass bone mouthpieces. Bass trombone sounds like crap up high with a big mouthpiece. On this instrument, you really have to nail those trigger notes (4th valve notes) with your chops dead on the note or they come out stuffy.
    I don't like bass bone mp's with euph, because they start to sound too tuba-like. We are primarily a singing instrument.

    The 4th valve range sounds stuffy because it is! The compensating is nice, because it allows 124 for low D, which is a natural fingering match for the D above using 12. But that extra help (which a trombone would have to get by using something close to 5th position + trigger instead of 4th position for the other D) comes by adding a few extra loops/seams along the way. When you have time, check out this article for more info. Note the diagrams like this one:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    The bottom loop is the extra path. And what the diagram doesn't show is that each place where the air passes through a piston is NOT straight. Lots of extra curves! Here is the whole article:

    http://www.dwerden.com/eu-articles-comp.cfm
    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

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