1. I have an Arban method book to work on my technique but it gets a bit boring, can you recommend any others? +
In terms of study books for euphonium, there are very few that are expressly written for the euphonium but in terms of purely technical books this is not a big problem as the technical disciplines are similar throughout valved brass instruments. Here are some I'd recommend:
- H.L. Clarke Technical Studies for the Cornet Publ. Carl Fischer
- A.Vizzutti Trumpet Method Bk.1 &2 Publ. Alfred Publishing Co.
- C.Gordon Daily Trumpet Routines Publ. Carl Fischer
- M.Schlossberg Daily Drills and Technical Studies Publ. M.Baron
- H.Mitchell Warm Ups for Trumpet Publ. Charles Hansen II
- L.J.Vannetelbosch 20 Studies (Vingt Etudes) Publ. Alphonse Leduc
- L.J.Vannetelbosch (Melodiques et Techniques) Publ. Alphonse Leduc
All these are good and quite different. Hope you can get hold of at least one of these. (By the way , practicing from the Arban should not be boring maybe you are not approaching this great book in the right wayÉmore later)
2. My high notes are difficult to get and the sound goes thin, and this affects my stamina, can you help? +
I can normally detect a defect with an embouchure shape or position also by looking at the performance of the muscles on either side of the mouth when the high notes are attempted. In some cases it is not just the position of the mouthpiece on the lips that is the problem, but in fact is the 'result' of other defects that normally are either:
1. incorrect position of the tongue, i.e. too low in the mouth (oral cavity), producing an 'AW' sound rather than an 'OO' sound
2. insufficient air flow, caused either by insufficient breath taken or a tightening somewhere between the lungs and the lips
3. insufficient use of what is normally termed the diaphragmatic muscles, so that the air flow is not correctly 'supported'.
So essentially the problem is quite a simple one but the solution is a correct balance between solving the three areas listed above in the right proportion, depending what is the most seriously defective. I'm sorry if this sounds a little complex in its explanation but seeing as you asked the question I feel I want to help in as accurate way as possible. Its a bit like phoning your doctor and saying 'it hurts when I walk, can you give me a pill to take' ,...it is probably one of two or three things !!!
So , explore what vowel sounds you make when you blow through the instrument, think AH for the middle tones, AW for the low, and OO for the high, almost as if you are half whistling through the instrument. Do more slow deep breathing exercises so that it feels as if you stomach is expanding when you breath and as you blow the air out, slowly, feel the abdominal muscles supporting the air until there is nothing left. Then do the same on long notes , from middle G down to low G. also work on sustaining low pedal C for 10 seconds with no variation in tone/dynamic. As a general rule the better your high register gets the more you will have control over the high notes. Keep the lips as open as you can and maximize air flow at all times - Hope this helps!
No, it is illegal. Unfortunately I encounter a lot of photocopies of music on my travels, even in lessons students turn up with photocopies of music IÕve had publishedÉunbelievable ! You must try to use original copies at all times. If you have a new copy and want to work and annotate a part while youÕre learning it then photocopy your own original for study purposes so as not to ruin your ÔnewÕ copy and then move over to the original once it is learned. I always advise students to build up a collection of originals..it is a good investment for the future and whatÕs more you will encourage publishers to publish more new music for the euphonium. If they donÕt sell any copies then they wont print any moreÉ.thatÕs not a great future for the euphonium, is it?
...the same goes for making pirate copies of CD's. Please buy the originals!
It is essential that you prepare you body and mind for a brass workout, just as any athlete would stretch and limber up before working hard. The lip muscles are the obvious areas where care must be taken, so that they are not put into shock that will affect all your playing that day and maybe the next. If you can also get the air moving in a positive way, before you start to play with some well thought air breathing exercises, as well as some general body stretches you will find your playing at the start of the day will benefit massively. You will be more relaxed and more air with less stress in the body. If you have time , 10-15 minutes breathing and stretching exercises at the start of the day and 5 minutes before any subsequent practice session will help you function much better as a brass musician. What's more, 5 minutes of low pedal tones before you put your instrument away at the end of a practice session or concert will ensure the blood flow to your lips will increase and quicken the restoration of strength and sensitivity.
I am a Euphonium player. When I practice at home I usually sit and put a piece of foam under my Euphonium because I find I have the most air flow that way. I find that when I stand, am looking down and block my air flow. When I perform I always stand, but I wanted to know if there is a way to get the same air flow as I do when I sit when standing.
Thanks a lot - Nathan Barbakoff
It's a very common problem and an important one too as comfort/physical ease does not always mean you are in the best position to allow the air free passage through the oral cavity. And once you change the angle to which the mouthpiece addresses the lips you are likely to get variable response from them too, with one lip working harder than the other, limiting response, range, flexibility and sound quality. There is no easy answer to playing standing up, it often has to be done, I only know of about 3 euphonium soloists who ever play solos sitting down and 2 of these are girls. Maybe we should all sit to play and this weight, 'droop' problem goes away, but to be honest I play better standing up, the body is freer, straighter and breathing is more efficient. This air efficiency unlocks the secret of good playing; great use of air.
A small pillow or cushion on the lap can fix the correct height that the mouthpiece touches the face, and so long as the back is straight , this problem is sorted. As soon as we stand the arms and body hold the euphonium is a way that feels 'normal' , or else we'd hold it in a different way and here is the root of the problem. The euphonium is often now twisted clockwise , as much as 40 degrees to the sitting position and now the instrument is lower and the the mouthpipe almost certainly is angled down, causing more straining on the lips,OR, the chin lowers to compensate, restricting the flow of air, as exercises in 'chin-lowering' (!!) (without the instrument) will demonstrate. I prefer to hold the instrument as close to vertical as I can when I stand, with it leaning against the middle and left side of my body, with the left arm supporting about 90% of the weight, the rest with the right hand. It feels so normal to me , and I'm holding the damn thing for hours every day, I almost cannot feel the weight of the instrument at all.
If I tilt the instrument clockwise ,as I mentioned above, the instrument becomes heavy and I feel straining at the back of the neck and left shoulder. There are some gadgets you can buy (straps) to support the euph while standing and there is a company in Germany who specialise in them I believe, aimed at the brassbands (German style usually) who march a lot through the streets on parades. These work ok.
Also, the Finnish superstar euphonium soloist Jukka Myllys showed me a prototype device which clips on the trouser belt (with some discreet rods to support the instrument) which seemd to work very well indeed, but I haven't seen the product advertised yet. I'm sure its coming soon and may be 'out there' already as the concept was designed initially for trombone players, with a rod going to the ground (not recommended in a
I hope these comments helps a bit. To summarise, try to keep the body and the euphonium straight and tall. It will come to feel normal and hopefully comfortable soon.
Kind regards, Steven Mead
Of course this is a question I often get asked about! 99% of the time I have no problem whatsoever carrying my euphonium onto the playing in a gig bag. Most airlines are happy to let me travel with the euphonium in a gig bag and one other carry on bag. This is an internationally agreed airline policy, but some airlines seem to vary a little bit in their application of this agreement. So long as the instrument can fit through the scanner you should have no problem. If your gig bag is oversized and looks too bulky you could be asked to check it it. Normal hard cases often do the job if you check in your instrument, but you always take the risk, may be as high as one in six, but your instrument will suffer damage. Heavy duty flight cases are much more likely to give long term protection but airlines are much more likely to charge you excess baggage nowadays. So a gig bag and a cheery disposition are your best tools! When travelling in a group or with the band you may find the airline less understanding. It is a problem, but with about 100 flights a year, I usually only expect problems two or three times, and then the answer is usually to check in my other carry on bag (a briefcase usually). Do not let anyone else touch your instrument!!
7. My instrument is quite old and seems to be flattening in pitch especially in the high notes. Why would this be? +
To be honest, your instrument probably needs a very good clean, not on the outside but on the inside. A brush on the end of a long piece of wire or flex to clean out your lead pipe is usually the one solution here. A huge amount of debris collects here and this will affect the pitch of your instrument critically in the higher register. Try it, you’ll be amazed. Just washing or bathing the instrument is not sufficient. Some companies offer a chemical clean for your instrument and this will clean the whole instrument, but beware, on much older instruments, and less well made instruments, such a clean may loosen some solder joints.
I get questions like this every week, and I wish I could give an answer in a simple manner. Generally speaking, a big at mouthpiece with a deeper cup will give you a fuller more resonant sound, and enable you to keep your lips at a sufficient openness to allow you to use high quality air. Of course as soon as a cup depth or rim diameter become too big, you will find that high notes and stamina issues become a problem.
A mouthpiece that is too small, will cause you tonal restrictions all over the instrument and may not even help with stamina as the lips may be too pinched all the time. For euphonium the most popular sizes are 3,4, (Wick , Bach) or 51 (Schilke/Yamaha) or 2,3 (Alliance), and you should really try this type of size first as the majority of people surely can’t be wrong!!
How often should I clean my instrument and what about the inside?
This is such an important area for Brass players and one that quite frankly doesn’t get talked about enough. Keeping the outside of your instrument clean is a fairly easy and routine matter, may be using the soft cloth and some good silver polish every four or five months, and then keep this in good condition using a new micro fibre cloth, preferred the new Besson cloth which works brilliantly when it is a little wet (it can be washed and kept in pristine condition, but don’t use it dry).
You can use this same cloth on the valves and ensure that day are always clean and give it a little polish but do not use abrasive chemicals here as it will in time reduce the diameter of the valve just a little!
What is really important is how you clean the inside of your instrument. Many people frankly do not clean thoroughly the inside of the instrument at all, and overtime this will cause a serious reduction in the performance of your horn, with the internal diameter of the tubing being reduced considerably due to the buildup of debris. Bathing the instrument is simply not enough, and you need to use a brush on a long wire to clean out the insides of the tubes very thoroughly. Also the inter connecting tubes through the valve group, which are notoriously hard to clean due to their inaccessibility, half to be cleaned out at least every six months, presuming you are actually playing your instrument too! For this difficult clean I take out the main tuning slide, leaving the valves in position and attach a high powered a garden hose on to the leadpipe, pushing a strong jet of water through these inter-connecting tubes. You will quite naturally see quite a large amount of collected debris being flushed out the back end of your instrument. Even if you do this every six months you will be shocked how much collects her inside your instrument, so just imagine what is in there if you cannot remember the last time your instrument was thoroughly cleaned. Soak the individual slides in warm water and then brush them out.
Take care to clean out particularly the bottom of the valve casings where debris collects and can dry and harden which can seriously affect the performance of your valves overtime. Use a good quality valve oil, I personally recommend the Websters ECO lube, but don’t apply new oil too regularly. In an ideal situation, this will be around every 10 days. The better your instrument, the less likely you will have to lubricate everyday!
Try to keep the inside of your instrument as clean as the outside. Just because you can’t see inside, that is not an excuse not to take care of it !!
Can I travel with my instrument on an airplane?
I just read this interesting article by a musician, who like me, travels a lot. You might want to read this. It has a lot of
I play euphonium in my middle school's advance symphonic band and our low
brass coach said that when we play high notes, we should try to curl our
bottom lip inwards a little to redirect the airflow downwards and upwards
for lower notes. Is this true? Since I can't really hear that much of a
difference, well it could just be me, but could you just verify?
I hope you are enjoynig your euphonium playing.
As regards the advice given by your instructor, I would respectfully say this advice is not good.
In fact it is exactly the opposite of what I would recommend.
That said I prefer not to teach the 'curling up' of the lips at all, but controlling the air flow using the angle of the tongue and thinking of vowels sounds, ah - for the middle tones, aw - for the lower and oo or ee - for the higher
I recently gave a talk in Scotland to brass teachers and my lecture notes from this seminar are on this site (articles)
Feel free to share them with who you like, including your instructor!
With best regards
What's your current favourite study book?
Well, for the last 6 months I've been drawn to the 'Brass Gym' book by Sam Pilafian and Pat Sheridan. It's very well designed and challenging on many different levels. It's well produced, and from time to time I play along with the their demo CD...a lot of my students use it too and feel great benefit. It really helps you to stay in shape and develops sound , control, range and technique.