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Thread: high note practice

  1. #1

    high note practice

    Where does high note practice fit into your practice regimen? If I put it too close to the front, I blow out my lips and can't practice as long as I'd like. If I put it too close to the end I've already fatigued my lips and don't have what it takes to reach those high notes with musicality.

    At the ripe young age of 66 I'll be starting my journey toward a music degree Spring 2023. As a lifelong hobbyist player I now need to "throw it into high gear" and build the chops needed to be effective as a music major. I have a comfortable concert A, but concert Bb lacks musicality and everything above that is a bridge too far.

    Thanks for your insights!
    Sterling Virtuoso Euphonium, Denis Wick 4AL
    Besson New Standard

  2. #2
    I may have mentioned it is one of my warmup videos posted in a recent thread, but basically...

    I start on a low Bb concert and work gradually up and down from there. The first goal is to get my chops loose and flexible, and I generally start with slurring over scale fragments, moving to scales. Then I bring in slurred arpeggios. Then I introduce tonguing. A lot of that takes place going all the way down to pedal C and up to an F above the staff (bass clef). THEN I move to my high range building. I use scales for that purpose, described here:

    https://youtu.be/VTJ4Gb9aBTE

    Not mentioned in the video is that I try to not lose my flexibility as I do this. I do a 2-octave scale, as in the video, but I alternate with a 3-octave upward scale. Or sometimes I use reverse direction scales. For example, starting on middle Eb, I play up 2 octaves and back down. Then I start on the same note and play down 2 octaves. I want to keep the low range nice and loose as I work up to my highest range.

    I use some of that logic during practice. If I'm working on typical "money" range, like with a march, that can tend to lock my chops into the middle range. So I mix in some low range work as well, just briefly as my mood strikes me.

    Unfortunately, my methodology doesn't work during a concert! If the program hangs me in the mid-top of our normal range, my chops can get pretty stiff!
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    Alliance Mouthpiece (DC4)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  3. #3
    Many thanks! I've reviewed that video many times. Mixing in low-range work does seem to help, and taking small breaks after some high notes also extends my endurance.
    Sterling Virtuoso Euphonium, Denis Wick 4AL
    Besson New Standard

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Location
    Florida, United States
    Posts
    13
    Hello! If it helps, I graduated recently with a degree in music ed in 2021 and range didn't click for me until after I left my university. The top of my range was the high concert B natural and it wasn't all that pretty either. I really delved into the Bill Adam routine and philosophy of playing and that changed my entire world. But here's my daily routine that worked for me.

    First, I blow lead pipe to put myself in phase with the horn to loosen up and figure out what the horn needs that day in order for it to respond, the point is to come into agreement with the horn. To blow lead pipe take out the main tuning slide and blow like you would a concert F. It should come out as an Eb or an E, intonation not as important for this, feeling and sound come first. play for 4 or 6 beats a time and work your way up and down the horn one partial at a time, no valves should be pressed. Cool thing about blowing leadpipe is you can't force the sound to come out at the higher partials (at least for me). It's a great way to check if you're tense or using too much pressure, choking the air. Blow every note the same, replicate the feeling of ease everywhere.

    After leadpipe I'll blow expanding long tones, play for 8 beats and rest for 4. Start on concert F, expand down chromatically, then up chromatically, so next would-be E, then F#, then Eb, then G and so on. I usually expand all the way up to the real high F and pedal F. Some days I'll go further depending on how I feel. I use the three-strike rule, give myself 3 tries to play a note and if it doesn't want to come out, I move on, no need to tire out the face

    After long tones, I'll take the Clarke #1 exercise and expand that chromatically. I start on E, then chromatically play up to Bb, always go to the tritone of whatever note you start on and back and forth, I do it about 3 times before moving onto the next note. Next move down to Eb, play up to A, then the next set would be F to B natural etc... Expand the same way like in long tones, as high and low as you can go. Working on moving fingers in time with a met, I started at 80bpm in eighth notes and just work up speed. Blow through the notes as you get higher and low in the range.

    For lip slurs I'll play some schlossberg exercises and maybe add a couple tones at the top of them to expand my way up going through every valve combination.

    Articulation I like expanding scales, I usually start on E Major, and single tongue each note of the scale in quarter, eighth, 16ths up and down until I get through all 12 major/minor scales I mix it up daily, so all scales are rotated and get worked on. Rotate articulations too from single to double or triple.

    At the end of my routine, I like to use Mr. Werden's high note exercise like in that video as he explained, also a good way to test my endurance after quite a long practice session. It's a good indicator of how my face feels after a lot of playing and where my "true" range is at when I'm tired. I use the three-strike rule for everything as a way to limit myself on mistakes. If notes don't come out, move onto the next thing. Always rest as much as you play, I usually don't play for an hour or two after this if I have other practice sessions planned.

    After about a month or so of this I started to see some real progress with sound and range. I'm always expanding range high and low in every exercise I do. Every time I play high, I would be playing low the next set to prevent stiffness/tightness. It's opened up my ability to play throughout the horn to the extremes and connecting the extreme ranges. But I've gotten to the point that when I'm done my face feels really good, I don't feel tired or overworked and everything is responding the way it should be.

    Let the sound guide everything you do, and the body will figure it out if you keep at it, just have to trust it.
    This routine is also really great to stay in shape and build chops if you don't have too much time to for separate sessions throughout the day. I teach during the day so sometimes at night I only get to do this and it's a great way to hit every aspect of playing and refine it. This is just what works for me, my university professor was big on mouthpiece buzzing for sound and range, but it only created more issues for me than it fixed. I had extreme tension and even busted a lip once with him. So, blowing leadpipe was a great way around that. I haven't buzzed on the mouthpiece alone in over a year and the people I play with have only noticed improvement since I stopped. I'm not sure if this is any help but this is how I practice high range. You can pick and choose what you like until you find something that works for you like I did for me. I hope most of this made sense. After about a year of keeping this up daily I went from being stuck at Bb natural to squeaking out the top Bb and everything else underneath has become a lot easier, not perfect. But being able to play the notes with more ease was a huge step compared to where I was before, and it's gotten me ready for all kinds of wind-band literature.

  5. I'm not sure how to put this into a euphonium concept. I was talking with a section mate last week about range. I was a trumpet and french horn player before taking up euphonium. When we talked about range, he laughed and said my range was because of that previous experience. I now also play tuba and the same thing happened with that. When you get to the very high range on the low horns, you are using the muscles that small horn players use. If that is already developed, it makes it much easier. Maintaining a small aperture also aids in soft playing through an extended range.

    So saying that, would playing a small horn work to train the embouchure?
    Richard


    King 1130 Flugabone
    King 2280 Euphonium
    King 10J Tuba
    Conn 22B Trumpet

  6. #6
    Many thanks for your response. I've never tried lead pipe blowing, but will give it a go!
    Sterling Virtuoso Euphonium, Denis Wick 4AL
    Besson New Standard

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Richard III View Post
    I'm not sure how to put this into a euphonium concept. I was talking with a section mate last week about range. I was a trumpet and french horn player before taking up euphonium. When we talked about range, he laughed and said my range was because of that previous experience. I now also play tuba and the same thing happened with that. When you get to the very high range on the low horns, you are using the muscles that small horn players use. If that is already developed, it makes it much easier. Maintaining a small aperture also aids in soft playing through an extended range.

    So saying that, would playing a small horn work to train the embouchure?
    Very interesting. I wonder if playing on my old trumpet would negatively impact my euphonium playing or if it would add range... never considered trying it, but I will now.
    Sterling Virtuoso Euphonium, Denis Wick 4AL
    Besson New Standard

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Location
    Florida, United States
    Posts
    13
    I think it depends on the person. I played French horn for a good year in the past and my embouchure issues really really showed. It was much more noticeable, which was a good thing cause I realized the way I was playing wasnt working and I figured out on euph that I was having the same issues.That's my experience though.

    The routine I typed earlier all came from the former trumpet professor at Indiana. Follow the sound in your head and everything else will follow, then it's just practice from there. If the mechanical gets in the way in your head you'll lose sight of where you're going. Once I stopped focusing on the actual muscles, my embouchure and aperture like many other teachers taught me in the past to focus on I saw improvement for the first time in years. You can be analytical about these things and know what needs to happen to play high/low or other things but It's too much going on at once in the mind while trying to play. I gave all my attention/drive and focus to the sound I want in my head, and hammered out my daily routine working on range and all other aspects chasing that sound. So this is my approach to that issue and it's very individual.

    Try different things, if it works it works. All about how you practice. What works for me may or may not work for you. Won't know til you try. 👍
    I always like to say strive for freedom of sound, and to play freely, unrestricted by the physical.

  9. #9
    A little off topic Pat, but I want you to know that you are a current hero of mine. I’m playing with a local community college wind ensemble, and our music ranges up to about Gr. 5.

    I started playing seriously in June of 2019, and I’ve been practicing an hour a day, interrupted only by 5 weeks off during COVID and 8 days off a month ago from oral surgery.

    I originally thought that finger technique would be my toughest challenge but as my playing refines I find that getting the upper range of my euphonium into workable shape is actually even tougher.

    I have a usable Eb-F (bc) above the staff, but I’m playing music that requires at least a G.

    I find the intervals exercises in Arbans to be the most helpful, and I do them every day. In my Arbans they begin at p. 156 or so and there are about 6 pages of them.

    Please continue to post about your degree work. I’m older than you are, and I need all the encouragement I can find!

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by ann reid View Post
    A little off topic Pat, but I want you to know that you are a current hero of mine. I’m playing with a local community college wind ensemble, and our music ranges up to about Gr. 5.

    I started playing seriously in June of 2019, and I’ve been practicing an hour a day, interrupted only by 5 weeks off during COVID and 8 days off a month ago from oral surgery.

    I originally thought that finger technique would be my toughest challenge but as my playing refines I find that getting the upper range of my euphonium into workable shape is actually even tougher.

    I have a usable Eb-F (bc) above the staff, but I’m playing music that requires at least a G.

    I find the intervals exercises in Arbans to be the most helpful, and I do them every day. In my Arbans they begin at p. 156 or so and there are about 6 pages of them.

    Please continue to post about your degree work. I’m older than you are, and I need all the encouragement I can find!
    I enjoyed a lesson with my soon-to-be euphonium instructor and was pleased that I didn't appear to be as far behind as I feared. He helped me find some high notes above "high" Bb (BC), so I've got something to aim for and refine. I'm buzzing a trumpet mouthpiece (7C) and I'll see what that does for my range over time. Updates to follow once I start the program for real.
    Sterling Virtuoso Euphonium, Denis Wick 4AL
    Besson New Standard

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