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Thread: Euphonium vs. Trombone

  1. #1
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    Euphonium vs. Trombone

    I'm not sure if this is the right category for this post, but here goes. I was having a discussion the other day with my euphonium teacher. His main instrument is trombone, but he is always encouraging me to make the best euphonium sound I can make. In other words, he is not asking me to make a trombone sound on a euphonium.

    Aside from the obvious difference that one uses a slide and the other uses valves, here's my thought about the difference between the two instruments. The trombone comes straight at you and demands that you listen to its commanding tone. The euphonium surrounds you with sound and seduces you with its sweet tone.

    Tommy Dorsey might not agree with that comparison, but what do you think?

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by massmanute View Post
    The trombone comes straight at you and demands that you listen to its commanding tone. The euphonium surrounds you with sound and seduces you with its sweet tone.

    Tommy Dorsey might not agree with that comparison, but what do you think?
    I like the comparison!

  3. I will offer a little different perspective based on the teaching I received. My trombone teacher in college said that the trombone is the closest thing to the the human voice of any instrument. He had his students listen to hundreds of hours of live and recorded vocal performances. Singers can have commanding tone, but they can also be seductive, grating, persuasive- basically the whole range of human emotion. Remember that the trombone's first use was to play with and in support of vocal music. Listen to this and see how seamlessly the trombones blend with the vocalists.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p29zSdXQhsQ

    Whenever I play trombone I try to hear someone like Titta Ruffo or Martti Talvela in my head. To me, trombone playing is first and foremost about picking from a range of tonal colors and the way I shape a phrase follows from that.

    Tonally, the euphonium is kind of a one trick pony in comparison. Before you jump all over me I will add that it is a really good trick. I don't think there is another instrument that can project and fill a space like a well supported euphonium. Roger Bobo called the euphonium, as well as the British Eflat tuba, somewhat monochromatic and always pretty. Always pretty was not exactly said as a compliment. Throw twice as much air as needed into a trombone and it will get loud and nasty. Throw twice as much air as necessary into a euphonium and it will be loud, but still pretty.

    Now to why I think this one trick is such a good one. If you want to make pretty music the euphonium provides you with a great tool kit. The higher resistance compared to a trombone allows you to make barely audible ppp entrances. The fact that you can dramatically increase volume without fundamentally changing the tone quality gives you tremendous dynamic range for shaping melodies. Add in the facility afforded by valves and there is a lot you can do in service to music.

    For me, I look at trombone playing as more a visceral experience and euphonium playing as more cerebral. I am not about to give up either of them and I love them both.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by MikeS View Post
    I will offer a little different perspective based on the teaching I received. My trombone teacher in college said that the trombone is the closest thing to the the human voice of any instrument. He had his students listen to hundreds of hours of live and recorded vocal performances. Singers can have commanding tone, but they can also be seductive, grating, persuasive- basically the whole range of human emotion. Remember that the trombone's first use was to play with and in support of vocal music. Listen to this and see how seamlessly the trombones blend with the vocalists.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p29zSdXQhsQ

    Whenever I play trombone I try to hear someone like Titta Ruffo or Martti Talvela in my head. To me, trombone playing is first and foremost about picking from a range of tonal colors and the way I shape a phrase follows from that.

    Tonally, the euphonium is kind of a one trick pony in comparison. Before you jump all over me I will add that it is a really good trick. I don't think there is another instrument that can project and fill a space like a well supported euphonium. Roger Bobo called the euphonium, as well as the British Eflat tuba, somewhat monochromatic and always pretty. Always pretty was not exactly said as a compliment. Throw twice as much air as needed into a trombone and it will get loud and nasty. Throw twice as much air as necessary into a euphonium and it will be loud, but still pretty.

    Now to why I think this one trick is such a good one. If you want to make pretty music the euphonium provides you with a great tool kit. The higher resistance compared to a trombone allows you to make barely audible ppp entrances. The fact that you can dramatically increase volume without fundamentally changing the tone quality gives you tremendous dynamic range for shaping melodies. Add in the facility afforded by valves and there is a lot you can do in service to music.

    For me, I look at trombone playing as more a visceral experience and euphonium playing as more cerebral. I am not about to give up either of them and I love them both.
    Mike - that is about the very best description of the differences between trombone and euphonium that I think I have ever heard. And I, like you, play both and love them both. Although, if I had to pick only one, the euphonium would be the one.
    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)

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeS View Post
    Listen to this and see how seamlessly the trombones blend with the vocalists.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p29zSdXQhsQ

    Whenever I play trombone I try to hear someone like Titta Ruffo or Martti Talvela in my head.
    The trombones do indeed blend well with the voices in that piece.

    Speaking of the relationship between trombone and voice, here's an interesting example where, in my opinion, Chris Crenshaw, playing a plunger-muted trombone, somehow echoes the vocals of Taj Mahal from a little earlier in the piece.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5krFNUMQHI

    I think Mr. Crenshaw plays a narrow bore King trombone.

    Another interesting thing from the piece is how the drummer makes a remarkable transition between the slow part of the piece at the beginning and an up-tempo version of the piece in the second half. A truly masterful performance in my opinion.

    In another recording the band plays Every Day I have the Blues. The arrangement is, I believe, based on the Count Basie/Joe Williams version. In fact, I am sure of it because if I close my eyes I can practically see the old guys playing and singing it. Mr. Crenshaw masterfully supplies the vocals for that version. Here's the link.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qa1vvQEj5i4

  6. #6
    "Roger Bobo called the euphonium, as well as the British Eflat tuba, somewhat monochromatic and always pretty. Always pretty was not exactly said as a compliment. Throw twice as much air as needed into a trombone and it will get loud and nasty. Throw twice as much air as necessary into a euphonium and it will be loud, but still pretty."

    I just don't fully agree with this. I have heard many players over the years sound loud and nasty on a euphonium, usually associated with too shallow a mouthpiece, poor overall technique and a lousy sound conception. And Roger Bobo writes of the euphonium in a patronizing way.

  7. Some advice I've pick-up somewhere by Steven Mead:

    Think of an egg (upright) in your oral cavity for euphonium playing. Think of that same egg (on it's side) when playing trombone.
    Euphonium: Adams E3 Custom Series (SS Bell)
    Trombone: Benge 175F


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