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Thread: How Bad Can it Be, Really ...

  1. How Bad Can it Be, Really ...

    Hi, Horn is the only brass I have ever played since getting a wild hair at age 50 and buying one from a Pawn Shop 11 years ago. I love Horn but it doesn't love me. I think I would have a better time with a Trombone or Euphonium. I would specifically like to inquire about the ergonomics of traditional style compensating Euph's with the 3+1 valve layout. It seems like the VAST majority of Euph's are made this way, and obviously a great many soloists do amazing things with them just as they are. Still I am leery of the top valve location of the primary valves because I do have shoulder issues and I have heard that these horns are hard on the body. When the Wessex Festivo front valve euphonium came out I was quite intrigued.

    So, two questions: 1. Does the fact that the bell on the Festivo is 11" vs the 12" of just about every other Euph make any difference in the tone? I would think it would and this is about the only reservation I have.
    2. The way most people hold standard Euph's with the bell pointing to the right at a ~50* angle ... does that help with the ergonomics any? How bad is it really to be comfortable playing these horns for long periods of time or over years? Thanks for any thoughts.

  2. #2
    Briefly:

    1. 11" gives a more compact sound, better focus. The 12" had a broader, larger sound. Many band players like the 11" - Willson players, for example, like the 2900 for that reason, vs. the 2950 (with its larger bell). The 11" focus can help your sound be clearer. But a 12" bell can have a bigger sound that can "cover the room" better for some players. There is not simple answer.

    2. I've come to think that the standard euphonium with side valves is harder on the shoulder and wrist. Front valves are better for the ergonomics of the human body...generally. It puts your arm in a more natural position, which is a good thing. In a band setting, the left-facing bell direction works better with the American-style baritone-euphoniums. But if the section uses side valve euphoniums with a right-pointing bell, the left-pointing bell can be awkward.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  3. For someone like me with a bit too much stomach, I find the upright valve (side valve) horns easier than front valve. I find that the front valve horns put too much pressure on my more than ample diaphragm, causing breathing issues. When I was but a young pup playing Conn Connstellations (age 14 - 20) this was not an issue. Also, I find that using the 4the valve in my left hand is easy due to some weakness in my right hand at age 68 (almost 69).

    Doug
    Sterling Virtuoso 1052HS & Adams E3 Prototype 0.70 Top Sprung valves
    Sterling Virtuoso 1050HS baritone
    New England Brass Band
    Winchendon Winds/Townsend Military Band

  4. #4
    Just some random thoughts as they come to me.

    French Horn is a pretty terrible instrument to start on. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. It's much better if you already have a skill set that you can build on before trying to pick it up. The situation gets worse given how poorly some Horns play. The number of players that can really be successful with nothing but a single F student Horn and a Farkas MDC is probably closer to zero than you might think. There's a reason you actually see professionals with triple Horns.

    For whatever you go with, I recommend a sling. The Neotech Brass Sling is cheap and universal. Finicky to set up properly, but if you're only using it on one horn, who cares? Get your horn synched up tight so that you barely have to move it to reach the mouthpiece. No hands should be close to horn down marching position.

    Top action ergonomics are horrible. A sling will help a TON by getting the weight off of your wrists, but if the actual hand position triggers nerve pain or arthritis for you...not much you can do about that. I guess you could invest in having the leadpipe bent until you like when it sits? About your question...if you don't hold the horn at an angle, the bell will be in your face.

    I like front action ergonomics a lot more than top action. Even when I was young and not beat to heck, I felt a lot faster with a front action horn. The problem with a front action horn is that if you're holding it properly, your left arm is doing ALL of the work. You can definitely build some tone in your left bicep by playing an old timey horn for a while. These horns were designed for marching, so playing while seated without a strap won't provide much relief unless you slouch (or you're really short).

    I know most people don't like them, but it's hard to beat an ovalform horn for ergonomics. The ovalform presents much more challenge to put down than to pick up. The design is well suited to standing or sitting. From a seated position, you should be able to hold the horn with almost no support from your left arm. When I'm feeling extra lazy, I'll toss my arm over the top bow while I doodle. Standing is similar to the front action horn, but your shoulders will be in a more relaxed position. Arms at your side. Elbows at almost 90 degrees. Pretty comfortable. Of course, there are other issues that come up. The only legit issue that isn't someone else's problem is that these horns aren't exactly famous for how well they play. Low notes can be stuffy. Rotors make certain articulations "interesting". So on...
    Hobbyist. Collector. Oval rotary guy. Unpaid shill for Josef Klier mouthpieces.

  5. #5
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    225
    I recently bought a used Wessex Festivo as I'm suffering from arthritis in particular the right hand. (been that way for years) The four in a row top valve is doable some of the time as well as the 3+1 but I'm sometimes not able to do the faster runs. I have an oval rotary horn that I bought a few years back and find the ergonomics very good but I get complaints in one community band. So I purchased the Festivo from a friend and after a month or so have broken in the valves (it was barely used) and worked on the sound. I've really fallen in love with the horn and was able to achieve a great sound and range. The only draw back is that this was an early production model and the valve caps are known for cross threading. After owning this horn for a time, that issue has lessened but still have to be careful. The ergonomics is good but the rotary has a little bit of an advantage. Jonathan will be surprised that I advocate for the horn but it's a good solution.
    B&S 3046 Baritone/Euphonium
    B&S PT33-S Euphonium
    B&S PT37-S
    Schilke ST20 Tenor Trombone

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by BDeisinger View Post
    I recently bought a used Wessex Festivo as I'm suffering from arthritis in particular the right hand. (been that way for years) The four in a row top valve is doable some of the time as well as the 3+1 but I'm sometimes not able to do the faster runs. I have an oval rotary horn that I bought a few years back and find the ergonomics very good but I get complaints in one community band. So I purchased the Festivo from a friend and after a month or so have broken in the valves (it was barely used) and worked on the sound. I've really fallen in love with the horn and was able to achieve a great sound and range. The only draw back is that this was an early production model and the valve caps are known for cross threading. After owning this horn for a time, that issue has lessened but still have to be careful. The ergonomics is good but the rotary has a little bit of an advantage. Jonathan will be surprised that I advocate for the horn but it's a good solution.
    I switched from the standard vertical orientation, Schiller Elite, to the Festivo because the ergonomics make the horn much easier to hold in a relaxed manner. And the Festivo seems to love the Wick SM4XR and SM5XR. If I find I want a darker tone I use a Parker 5G LaDuke model.
    Last edited by S-euph; 06-07-2020 at 12:00 PM.

  7. #7
    I started on euphonium (actually baritone) in 8th grade with the typical 3 front valve, bell front baritone. I switched shortly after high school to the 3+1 upright bell type and have used that ever since which is about 55 years. There were some years in there when I didn't play much (officer part of my military career, but still played some). Since my military retirement in 1992, I have played pretty consistently to this day.

    So I am 72 1/2 now. My right middle finger has some sort of condition, that is, particularly in the morning when I awake, if I make a fist with my right hand, then open my fingers back out, my middle finger sticks. I'm not sure this is trigger finger, but there is something going on there. Fortunately I can still play with good dexterity (the movement of my fingers on the valves is fine) but I do notice a small, dull pain there, nothing that really causes any real problem. So I don't know if that is the result of playing, but I think it is, because when I play a whole lot, the situation gets more exacerbated it seems.

    I don't know that front valves would make any difference in this case. I have occasionally picked up a section mate's bell front, 3 valve front baritone and played it a bit. The valves in the front feel really odd after playing a 3+1 style for so long. I think I used to be pretty fast with the valves on the baritone, because I did play some of the old barn burner solos in high school on that that type of horn (Carnival of Venice, Napoli, etc.). So, I probably could get used to it again, but I think I still prefer the 3+1. Holding the 3+1 horn does not seem to present any problems for me.

    Which horn is ergonomically better surely has something to do with your own physical makeup. I am 6 feet and 200 pounds (or so). Used to have those 200 pounds more or less in the proper places, it seems over time that the distribution of the 200 pounds has gone to different/wrong parts of my body, which in turn makes my belts too short! I also have gorilla arms (long) which is usually handy, especially for getting those rarely used wine glasses off of the top shelf in the kitchen cabinet. So with this current body configuration, the 3+1 is easy for me to hold and play.

    I would say my bell leans at about a 30 degree angle (at most) from upright when playing, certainly not close to 50 which would have the bell directly in the ear of the fellow next to me.

    I prefer the 12ish inch sized bell. I like a large sound that can fill a room.

    Lastly, if you do have shoulder issues, then I would highly recommend at least trying to give both varieties a go to get a feel for how it would work for you. I don't know if you can do this on the spot, it might take longer to see if there are going to be any bad effects with one style of horn over the other. Would be nice if you could try both for a period of time.

    I hope we will be welcoming you very soon to the world of the euphonium, "THE" best instrument ever, IMHO.
    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
    Wessex TE-360 Bombino Eb Tuba
    Rapid City New Horizons & Municipal Bands (Euphonium)
    Black Hills Symphony Orchestra (Bass Trombone), Powder River Symphony, Gillette, WY (Tenor Trombone)
    Black Hills Brass Quintet (Tuba)

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by John Morgan View Post

    ... My right middle finger has some sort of condition, that is, particularly in the morning when I awake, if I make a fist with my right hand, then open my fingers back out, my middle finger sticks. I'm not sure this is trigger finger, but there is something going on there....
    May I politely ask, have you seen a physiotherapist about this?

    I have too many freakish ailments to list and I am a physio lifer. (Beats the alternative.) This is not one of my issues, but in the three years I've been at my current place, I've seen four men overlap with me as patients with what seems like this same condition (in one case, ring finger). All four put it behind them within a couple of months of therapy. I'm not claiming you will, but you might have a shot.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Shawn View Post
    May I politely ask, have you seen a physiotherapist about this?

    I have too many freakish ailments to list and I am a physio lifer. (Beats the alternative.) This is not one of my issues, but in the three years I've been at my current place, I've seen four men overlap with me as patients with what seems like this same condition (in one case, ring finger). All four put it behind them within a couple of months of therapy. I'm not claiming you will, but you might have a shot.
    Hey Shawn,

    Thanks for asking! I plan to mention this to my regular family doctor next visit. I have had this for a while. I will try to get a referral to a physiotherapist. I did do some reading on this, and it seems that less use might be the therapy, but I would prefer having an expert look at it. Thanks for the recommendation.

    John
    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
    Wessex TE-360 Bombino Eb Tuba
    Rapid City New Horizons & Municipal Bands (Euphonium)
    Black Hills Symphony Orchestra (Bass Trombone), Powder River Symphony, Gillette, WY (Tenor Trombone)
    Black Hills Brass Quintet (Tuba)

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by John Morgan View Post
    I started on euphonium (actually baritone) in 8th grade with the typical 3 front valve, bell front baritone. I switched shortly after high school to the 3+1 upright bell type and have used that ever since which is about 55 years. There were some years in there when I didn't play much (officer part of my military career, but still played some). Since my military retirement in 1992, I have played pretty consistently to this day.

    So I am 72 1/2 now. My right middle finger has some sort of condition, that is, particularly in the morning when I awake, if I make a fist with my right hand, then open my fingers back out, my middle finger sticks. I'm not sure this is trigger finger, but there is something going on there. Fortunately I can still play with good dexterity (the movement of my fingers on the valves is fine) but I do notice a small, dull pain there, nothing that really causes any real problem. So I don't know if that is the result of playing, but I think it is, because when I play a whole lot, the situation gets more exacerbated it seems.

    I don't know that front valves would make any difference in this case. I have occasionally picked up a section mate's bell front, 3 valve front baritone and played it a bit. The valves in the front feel really odd after playing a 3+1 style for so long. I think I used to be pretty fast with the valves on the baritone, because I did play some of the old barn burner solos in high school on that that type of horn (Carnival of Venice, Napoli, etc.). So, I probably could get used to it again, but I think I still prefer the 3+1. Holding the 3+1 horn does not seem to present any problems for me.

    Which horn is ergonomically better surely has something to do with your own physical makeup. I am 6 feet and 200 pounds (or so). Used to have those 200 pounds more or less in the proper places, it seems over time that the distribution of the 200 pounds has gone to different/wrong parts of my body, which in turn makes my belts too short! I also have gorilla arms (long) which is usually handy, especially for getting those rarely used wine glasses off of the top shelf in the kitchen cabinet. So with this current body configuration, the 3+1 is easy for me to hold and play.

    I would say my bell leans at about a 30 degree angle (at most) from upright when playing, certainly not close to 50 which would have the bell directly in the ear of the fellow next to me.

    I prefer the 12ish inch sized bell. I like a large sound that can fill a room.

    Lastly, if you do have shoulder issues, then I would highly recommend at least trying to give both varieties a go to get a feel for how it would work for you. I don't know if you can do this on the spot, it might take longer to see if there are going to be any bad effects with one style of horn over the other. Would be nice if you could try both for a period of time.

    I hope we will be welcoming you very soon to the world of the euphonium, "THE" best instrument ever, IMHO.
    John- thatís trigger finger. I have it in my left ring finger from a combination of sailing and bass trombone playing. I waited 9 months after onset before I went to the doctor, who gave me a cortisone shot and sent me on my way. He chastised me for not coming sooner, saying the longer you wait, the more likely it will need surgery.

    Don
    Last edited by djwpe; 06-08-2020 at 11:28 PM.

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