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Thread: How do I learn to read Bb music from a bass clef perspective?

  1. How do I learn to read Bb music from a bass clef perspective?

    Hi, I'm having trouble understanding how to play music that is written in Bb on my euphonium. Do bass clef readers transpose Bb music to concert pitch on the fly or just learn the Bb fingerings/notes?

    Apologies if this is a simple question.

  2. Bass clef music for Euphonium (and Trombone) is not transposed. It is the same as 'concert pitch'. This question has actually come up a number of times on the forum, and a number of posters, including the administrator of this site, have methods of facilitating Bass Clef reading from a (transposing) Treble Clef background. I personally am using fingering charts in both Bass and Treble Clef as I begin my Euphonium journey. I read both clefs fluently as a longtime keyboard musician, but I still have to learn the fingerings on the instrument. So will you. It doesn't take long! Most fingering charts are chromatic, but I like to create fingering charts for Diatonic major and minor scales, and learn those thoroughly. Simple tunes or hymns are excellent study material but harder to find in Bass Clef. I just bought a collection of "Euphonium Hymns" by Allen L. Borton (Tuba and Euphonium Press) and the majority are in Bass Clef. Several are in untransposed Treble Clef. Norlan Bewley's website has chromatic fingering charts for compensating and non-compensating 3 and 4 valve Euphoniums. Print out several copies in Bass Clef and circle the notes for a different scale on each one. Let me know if this creates more new questions than it answers. Good luck.
    Edit: http://www.dwerden.com/forum/showthr...m#.XyuO3DVlCUk
    Last edited by leisesturm; 08-06-2020 at 12:04 AM.
    John Packer JP274 MKII S

  3. I read bass clef already, I mean Bb music like trumpet music.

    Does someone who normally reads bass clef have to first read the music in treble clef and then down a whole step to get the pitch? Or do they just learn Bb notes and fingerings

  4. #4
    In my own case I faced the reverse situation. Here is how I solved it:

    http://www.dwerden.com/forum/entry.p...Clef-Euphonium

    That post gives a quick little reference of how the notes relate to each other. In our previous discussions, some have used a "transposition" method such as I did and some prefer to just "learn the notes" in the new clef. Either way can work, but I tell in the above post why my own method had a hidden advantage.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  5. #5
    I should also add...

    You mention trumpet music. In treble clef we read music just like a trumpet player does, but our sound comes out an octave lower for any given note.

    Using the sounding note of a concert pitch middle C in bass clef as a fixed starting point:

    - In bass clef euphonium that is written one ledger line above the bass clef (as it is for piano) and when we play it is in the correct octave
    - In treble clef euphonium it is written on the 4th line of the staff and when we play it is in the correct octave (the transposed music "fixes" that for us)
    - In bass clef, a euphonium plays that with 1st valve
    - In trumpet music, that is written as D just below the staff and the trumpet player uses 13 fingering

    - within our instrument's partial series, we are playing a whole step below the open 5th partial
    - within the trumpet's partial series, they are playing a 4th below their open 3rd partial
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  6. Thank you both for the help!

  7. If you started as a concert pitch bass clef reader (as I did since I played cello at the same time) and have played much bassoon, cello, or trombone literature, then you will have learned tenor clef as well. I was fluent in tenor clef by the time I was 12 years old.

    Therefore, I "read" Bb treble parts (whether trumpet or baritone or euphonium) as if they are tenor clef and add 2 flats. When I read a Bb treble part, I am "thinking" in concert pitch. Folks who learned Bb treble first (like Dave Werden and others), tend to "think" transposed pitch when reading the concert pitch bass clef parts.

    Most recently, the kicker for me was when I played a Bartok Tenor Tuba piece this last February in a local symphony. It was written in Bb transposed BASS CLEF. On the fly transposition of one whole step was just not in my head at the time. I have the same issue with concert pitch treble parts (flute, oboe, or piano for example). Since I don't do either of these other two transpositions regularly, I have to actually write out the parts in one of the clefs I am fluent in.

    BTW, I can "read" Eb treble parts (any brass band Eb instrument, alto or baritone saxophone, etc.) as if it is in concert pitch bass clef, and just "add 3 flats". Getting all of the accidentals and key signatures sometimes is a stretch, but mostly ok.

    Doug
    Last edited by daruby; 08-07-2020 at 05:38 PM.
    Sterling Virtuoso 1065HGS & Adams E3 Prototype 0.70 Top Sprung valves
    Sterling Virtuoso 1050HGS baritone
    New England Brass Band
    Winchendon Winds/Townsend Military Band

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by daruby View Post
    ...Therefore, I "read" Bb treble parts (whether trumpet or baritone or euphonium) as if they are tenor clef and add 2 flats. When I read a Bb treble part, I am "thinking" in concert pitch. Folks who learned Bb treble first (like Dave Werden and others), tend to "think" transposed pitch when reading the concert pitch bass clef parts....
    I am one of those folks who started on trumpet and treble clef. I learned bass clef in high school and eventually became fluent at it (no transposing in the brain). I then took on tenor clef, which was like reading treble clef and adding 2 sharps. I can play all three of those fluently.

    I play trombone in orchestras, and alto clef appears all too often. That clef really gives my brain a workout. If the music is not wickedly fast, I can usually make do sight reading. If the music is for a concert, I will practice the alto clef at home until I know it cold. My brain has never quite grabbed onto alto clef to make it a fluent clef for me. I still read alto and think of it as tenor clef up a third. I have heard there are some people who imagine a line below the 5 line staff and ignore/unimagine the top line to read alto. This shifts the alto clef music up a third. I think I said that right, but its late...

    As for concert pitched treble clef, I wasn't too good at that until I started playing a bunch of music in church. Many, many hymns. The organ/piano parts on the bass clef line were easy to play, but the treble clef parts in concert pitch made me think a lot (like alto clef does). But, I did quite a bit of this playing, and eventually got pretty good at reading it. But I am transposing this music in my head on the fly, rather than reading it fluently.

    I also play Eb tuba, and reading bass clef tuba music in treble clef and adding 3 sharps works just like Doug said.

    It is indeed interesting how people take to learning and playing in other clefs and keys. With so many different backgrounds, there are a multitude of approaches.

    And when I play piano music, get this. I can read and play the treble clef part fine. But the bass clef part is like transposing for my brain. Even though I can pick up my euphonium and play the bass clef line with no problem at all. Probably because when I see a bass clef Bb, I play that note on the euphonium as a Bb (open). And somehow that equates to a C on trumpet in treble clef. So my brain thinks the key on the piano should be a C, but it is a black note Bb. I know, weird, so weird how the mind works.

    So to the OP, Patrick, you are not alone when you venture into other clefs you have not played on before. There are many approaches to how to do this. In the long run, for any serious euphonium player, I think it is really important to read bass and treble clef fluently. Get exceptionally good at both of them. And if you play trombone also, learn tenor clef which should be easy if you know treble. And good luck with alto clef.
    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)

  9. Great insights from everyone. Thanks so much!

  10. #10
    Dr. Jerry Young contacted me and HIGHLY recommends this book:

    https://www.euphonium.com/store/meth...ef.html?id=102

    Jerry is a very experienced teacher and a smart, practical guy, so I would consider the recommendation "gold."
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

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