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  • Roger
    Senior Member
    • Oct 2017
    • 211

    Sousa's most difficult march

    I've played a lot of Sousa marches, but never "Hands Across The Sea" until it showed up in our folder for our next concert. It's probably the most difficult I've encountered due to tempo and range - especially range. I'm playing TC. Part of the issue is that I'm a 78 y/o comeback player -- playing for about 7 years after not playing for about 50.
    Has anyone had difficulty with this march or do you have your own "most difficult" Sousa march?
  • ghmerrill
    Senior Member
    • Dec 2011
    • 2384

    #2
    Okay, old-timer (you're 2 years older than I am) ...

    I can't possibly keep Sousa's marches straight. Until recently, I thought that I must have played most of them, but then I keep encountering other ones, and looking at the complete list, I can see that I'm not even close. The guy wrote marches from 1873 through 1931 (almost 60 years)! I suggest that most of us haven't even played half of them. So whatever answer I might have to this almost certainly won't count. Also, in high school I used to memorize these on a weekly basis (for doing marching routines at football games or parades). I don't think I could do this now to save my life.

    US Marines: The Complete marches of John Philip Sousa
    Gary Merrill
    Wessex EEb Bass tuba (DW 3XL or 2XL)
    Mack Brass Compensating Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J9 euph)
    Amati Oval Euph (DE 104, Euph J, J6 euph)
    1924 Buescher 3-valve Eb tuba (with std US receiver), Kelly 25
    Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K10/112/14 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
    1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

    Comment

    • davewerden
      Administrator
      • Nov 2005
      • 11137

      #3
      "Hands" is definitely a toughie! It has some technical challenges, especially if you want them to be really clean sounding. The trio stays high and also requires some good finger. A particular challenge in the trio is keeping the dotted-quarter/eighth-note fingers accurate. Even among some of the service bands, those figures start sounding like triplets as they get to the higher notes! BTW, that rhythm is especially hard when the dotted quarter is the written A. In that case, I play the A 12 as usual, but the G# with first valve. I would never use 1st for G# on a long note because it is flat, but that won't matter on this figure and it is easy enough to help you keep the rhythm correct.

      That kind of trick works in the 2nd strain of the march as well, now that I remind myself what it looks like. You might find the high B easier to play in tune if you use 12 - that also saves your chops, vs. using 2nd and lipping it up (it is usually flat). Anyway, using 12 there lets you use the same fingerings I mentioned above for easier rhythmic control.
      Dave Werden (ASCAP)
      Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
      Adams Artist (Adams E3)
      Alliance Mouthpiece DC3, Wick 4AL, Wick 4ABL
      YouTube: dwerden
      Facebook: davewerden
      Twitter: davewerden
      Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

      Comment

      • davewerden
        Administrator
        • Nov 2005
        • 11137

        #4
        Originally posted by ghmerrill View Post
        The guy wrote marches from 1873 through 1931 (almost 60 years)! I suggest that most of us haven't even played half of them.
        His military style marches total around 136, and I have not played all of them. Stars and Stripes is also right up there on the hardness scale, but I'll be there are some I would find hard still.
        Dave Werden (ASCAP)
        Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
        Adams Artist (Adams E3)
        Alliance Mouthpiece DC3, Wick 4AL, Wick 4ABL
        YouTube: dwerden
        Facebook: davewerden
        Twitter: davewerden
        Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

        Comment

        • John Morgan
          Moderator
          • Apr 2014
          • 1885

          #5
          "Hands Across the Sea" is a great march with a great euphonium/baritone part. It can be a little bit of a challenge, but I think one of Sousa's most difficult marches to play accurately is "Stars and Stripes Forever". It has several parts and several licks that I think are difficult to play well and correct. Probably why it is on the list of pieces for many auditions. Or required to be recorded and sent in to see if you are asked to physically come to an in-person audition. Sousa sure could write some fine marches. I never tire of them.

          On "Hands Across the Sea", if the tempo is brisk (or anything beyond 110-120 or so), I personally would double-tongue most of the patterns where you have 4 eighth notes in a row or 2 eighth notes in a row. It is just cleaner and not muddy, especially at brisk tempos. Then you have a high B (TC) to contend with at the start and later a couple of high C's (TC) to contend with in the melodic line. Get those two things (double tongue and a few high notes) under your belt, and you are more than half-way home.

          On the melodic line with the high C, try playing that line down an octave and just play it and listen and feel it till you have it down cold. Then try it up an octave. If you have difficulty playing above a G or A (your A right above the staff), you'll need to work on range training exercises to get to where you can play a high C.

          Playing the high B at the start of the march is sometimes difficult to hit. I would practice that with the note before it, I think an F# and down an octave. Play back and forth between the lower F# and the B to hear the interval. Go back and forth several times. Then try it up an octave. Again, if your range does not include the high B, you will need to do exercises to increase your range.

          If you just absolutely cannot play the B and the C's just yet, then play the B down an octave and play the measures that have the high C in them down an octave. If you have more euphonium/baritone players who can play the higher notes, then that should not take away from the march at all. But in the end, you will want to get the range to handle those notes, if possible.

          Happy Sousa marching!!
          John Morgan
          The U.S. Army Band (Pershing's Own) 1971-1976
          Adams E3 Custom Series Euphonium, 1956 B&H Imperial Euphonium,
          1973 F. E. Olds & Son Studio Model T-31 Baritone
          Adams TB1 Tenor Trombone, Yamaha YBL-822G Bass Trombone
          Year Round Except Summer:
          Kingdom of the Sun (KOS) Concert Band, Ocala, FL (Euphonium)
          KOS Brass Quintet (Trombone, Euphonium)
          Summer Only:
          Rapid City Municipal Band, Rapid City, SD (Euphonium)
          Rapid City New Horizons Band (Euphonium)

          Comment

          • ghmerrill
            Senior Member
            • Dec 2011
            • 2384

            #6
            Originally posted by John Morgan View Post
            "Hands Across the Sea" is a great march with a great euphonium/baritone part. It can be a little bit of a challenge, but I think one of Sousa's most difficult marches to play accurately is "Stars and Stripes Forever". It has several parts and several licks that I think are difficult to play well and correct. Probably why it is on the list of pieces for many auditions. Or required to be recorded and sent in to see if you are asked to physically come to an in-person audition. Sousa sure could write some fine marches. I never tire of them.
            I think that one thing that's distinctive about it is that (so far as I know, and I've now played it on saxophone, flute, tuba, trombone, and euphonium) it is challenging on any instrument you choose to play the part on. This is really quite an "accomplishment" for the composer.
            Gary Merrill
            Wessex EEb Bass tuba (DW 3XL or 2XL)
            Mack Brass Compensating Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J9 euph)
            Amati Oval Euph (DE 104, Euph J, J6 euph)
            1924 Buescher 3-valve Eb tuba (with std US receiver), Kelly 25
            Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K10/112/14 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
            1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

            Comment

            • John Morgan
              Moderator
              • Apr 2014
              • 1885

              #7
              Now that I read through my post, I remembered there are some more high B's (TC) in that march, I think most preceded by an F# except for one where there is a middle B that jumps to a high B (TC). So keep working on range!!
              John Morgan
              The U.S. Army Band (Pershing's Own) 1971-1976
              Adams E3 Custom Series Euphonium, 1956 B&H Imperial Euphonium,
              1973 F. E. Olds & Son Studio Model T-31 Baritone
              Adams TB1 Tenor Trombone, Yamaha YBL-822G Bass Trombone
              Year Round Except Summer:
              Kingdom of the Sun (KOS) Concert Band, Ocala, FL (Euphonium)
              KOS Brass Quintet (Trombone, Euphonium)
              Summer Only:
              Rapid City Municipal Band, Rapid City, SD (Euphonium)
              Rapid City New Horizons Band (Euphonium)

              Comment

              • John Morgan
                Moderator
                • Apr 2014
                • 1885

                #8
                Originally posted by ghmerrill View Post
                I think that one thing that's distinctive about it is that (so far as I know, and I've now played it on saxophone, flute, tuba, trombone, and euphonium) it is challenging on any instrument you choose to play the part on. This is really quite an "accomplishment" for the composer.
                You have me beat, I have only done S&S on baritone/euphonium, trombone and tuba (once). I had a saxophone (a soprano one) for a short while, and Linda said to me, "John, it is either me or the saxophone, take your choice". Good-bye soprano sax and my Kenny G aspirations. Linda played flute for a while, I tried it and about passed out (no air resistance), so that was very short-lived.
                John Morgan
                The U.S. Army Band (Pershing's Own) 1971-1976
                Adams E3 Custom Series Euphonium, 1956 B&H Imperial Euphonium,
                1973 F. E. Olds & Son Studio Model T-31 Baritone
                Adams TB1 Tenor Trombone, Yamaha YBL-822G Bass Trombone
                Year Round Except Summer:
                Kingdom of the Sun (KOS) Concert Band, Ocala, FL (Euphonium)
                KOS Brass Quintet (Trombone, Euphonium)
                Summer Only:
                Rapid City Municipal Band, Rapid City, SD (Euphonium)
                Rapid City New Horizons Band (Euphonium)

                Comment

                • Roger
                  Senior Member
                  • Oct 2017
                  • 211

                  #9
                  All great advice, thanks. My high range does need strengthening, especially in pieces like "Hands" where it's required throughout the piece, and also if it's played late in the concert. We also have Bolero and Tarantella included in the concert. But . . . if I'm not challenged, I won't grow back into my former playing self. I was first chair all-state in N.C. on baritone horn, but that was 1963. Probably won't get quite there again. Love the Forum, always very helpful and affirming!

                  Comment

                  • ghmerrill
                    Senior Member
                    • Dec 2011
                    • 2384

                    #10
                    Originally posted by John Morgan View Post
                    I had a saxophone (a soprano one) for a short while,
                    I'm not sure a soprano counts. Might as well play clarinet. But a soprano played at any level below expert is psychosis-inducing.

                    Originally posted by John Morgan
                    Linda played flute for a while, I tried it and about passed out (no air resistance), so that was very short-lived.
                    I sense that you were trying to transfer your brass technique to flute (all that "fill the horn with air" nonsense). C'mon, man ... flute is exactly like blowing across a bottle top to get a tone. Almost no air is required. Less is more. Etc. I played mostly flute in college because (a) all the other flute players in the orchestra were girls, and (b) when the band played for hockey games (sitting behind one of the goals), the flute players sat in the first row right behind the protective glass -- so the missed shots went overhead. The guys with sousaphones in the back row tried to catch them in their bells (and sometime succeeded). Everyone else had to duck.
                    Gary Merrill
                    Wessex EEb Bass tuba (DW 3XL or 2XL)
                    Mack Brass Compensating Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J9 euph)
                    Amati Oval Euph (DE 104, Euph J, J6 euph)
                    1924 Buescher 3-valve Eb tuba (with std US receiver), Kelly 25
                    Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K10/112/14 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
                    1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

                    Comment

                    • John Morgan
                      Moderator
                      • Apr 2014
                      • 1885

                      #11
                      Originally posted by ghmerrill View Post
                      ...C'mon, man ... flute is exactly like blowing across a bottle top to get a tone. Almost no air is required. Less is more...
                      I love your sax comment, Gary, so true. Anything less than perfect sends people running to escape. It almost drove me nuts (almost).

                      And the flute, to me, is in the same category as trombone. I seem to lose all my air before I even get going. On trombone, there really is no resistance mostly. It strikes me as almost comical where a composer will have a big ending of a piece and have the bass trombonist playing a very low note at triple F for three continuous, slow measures. Ha-ha-ha-ha. Very funny, mister composer. You don't know about bass trombones, do you? I would have to take multiple gulps for that last 45 second note!!!

                      And flute, yes, I probably didn't quite have the proper technique glued down when I attempted it. I just seemed to lose all my air in a New York second. Maybe that is why I never heard anything but my air whooshing out shortly before I hit the floor.

                      And, sorry, Roger, I don't think this detour of your post is helping you on "Hands", but maybe there is something useful in here.
                      John Morgan
                      The U.S. Army Band (Pershing's Own) 1971-1976
                      Adams E3 Custom Series Euphonium, 1956 B&H Imperial Euphonium,
                      1973 F. E. Olds & Son Studio Model T-31 Baritone
                      Adams TB1 Tenor Trombone, Yamaha YBL-822G Bass Trombone
                      Year Round Except Summer:
                      Kingdom of the Sun (KOS) Concert Band, Ocala, FL (Euphonium)
                      KOS Brass Quintet (Trombone, Euphonium)
                      Summer Only:
                      Rapid City Municipal Band, Rapid City, SD (Euphonium)
                      Rapid City New Horizons Band (Euphonium)

                      Comment

                      • davewerden
                        Administrator
                        • Nov 2005
                        • 11137

                        #12
                        Here are the fingerings I mentioned for Hands Across the Sea as well as one other set I found useful:

                        Attached Files
                        Dave Werden (ASCAP)
                        Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
                        Adams Artist (Adams E3)
                        Alliance Mouthpiece DC3, Wick 4AL, Wick 4ABL
                        YouTube: dwerden
                        Facebook: davewerden
                        Twitter: davewerden
                        Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

                        Comment

                        • John Morgan
                          Moderator
                          • Apr 2014
                          • 1885

                          #13
                          Another fingering that can work well on the melody line is using 3rd valve for the A and then 2&3 for the G#. So you are just putting the 2nd valve down and up, similar to Dave's version of just putting the 2nd valve down and up, but with a different finger staying down the whole time. I suppose his fingering might be a tiny bit easier, but the A sometimes is more in tune with 3.
                          John Morgan
                          The U.S. Army Band (Pershing's Own) 1971-1976
                          Adams E3 Custom Series Euphonium, 1956 B&H Imperial Euphonium,
                          1973 F. E. Olds & Son Studio Model T-31 Baritone
                          Adams TB1 Tenor Trombone, Yamaha YBL-822G Bass Trombone
                          Year Round Except Summer:
                          Kingdom of the Sun (KOS) Concert Band, Ocala, FL (Euphonium)
                          KOS Brass Quintet (Trombone, Euphonium)
                          Summer Only:
                          Rapid City Municipal Band, Rapid City, SD (Euphonium)
                          Rapid City New Horizons Band (Euphonium)

                          Comment

                          • ghmerrill
                            Senior Member
                            • Dec 2011
                            • 2384

                            #14
                            Originally posted by John Morgan View Post
                            On trombone, there really is no resistance mostly. It strikes me as almost comical where a composer will have a big ending of a piece and have the bass trombonist playing a very low note at triple F for three continuous, slow measures. Ha-ha-ha-ha. Very funny, mister composer. You don't know about bass trombones, do you? I would have to take multiple gulps for that last 45 second note!!!
                            Yeah, the problem on trombone -- particularly bass trombone in the low valve registers -- is creating enough resistance (somehow) to initiate the notes. Sustaining them is an issue as well.

                            This is what I've been working on daily for the past several weeks -- with improvement, but slowly; and with some equipment changes.

                            I'm working towards playing some of the Sear Advanced Duets for Tuba with the tuba player in my current community band -- with me on bass trombone. This requires a reliable and reasonably pitched pedal F (octave below the BC staff, on the F valve or Gb valve). I've been switching between two rims and two shanks (backbores) to get that. But I don't want to lose a clear tone above the staff! Don't want to go fuzzy there. And of course it's necessary to play in that low range on the valves and below the staff without having to breathe for every note. Pretty challenging, but progress is being made.

                            On the tuba, and on the euph, I can play all of that without effort or concern.
                            Gary Merrill
                            Wessex EEb Bass tuba (DW 3XL or 2XL)
                            Mack Brass Compensating Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J9 euph)
                            Amati Oval Euph (DE 104, Euph J, J6 euph)
                            1924 Buescher 3-valve Eb tuba (with std US receiver), Kelly 25
                            Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K10/112/14 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
                            1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

                            Comment

                            • Roger
                              Senior Member
                              • Oct 2017
                              • 211

                              #15
                              Thanks David and John, very helpful.

                              Comment

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