Absolute beginner torn between playing Baritone/Euphonium or Trombone

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by custard107, Mar 16, 2018.

  1. custard107

    custard107 New Member

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    I'm an absolute beginner in the music field -especially the brass part of it-, I want to start playing an instrument as a hobby (which means I'm going completely solo, no orchestras or bands.) I like both the Trombone and the Baritone/Euph, so I don't know which one to play.
    Do you think they make similar sounds? Which one is easier to learn relying exclusively on live internet lessons? Do you think the Baritone/Euph makes a good solo instrument? And finally, what are some beginner Trombones or Baritone horns you recommend? (I'm willing to spend $600 max)
     
  2. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

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    1,163
    Well, with luck some far more experienced musicians will give you the benefit of their advice, but here's my two pennorth.

    First off, quite a few comments I've seen on American brass forums seem to suggest that many of the posters are under the impression that 'baritone' is just what Brits call euphoniums, or that the two instruments are so close there's little to choose between them. In reality, baritones and euphs are as different as trumpets and cornets, have a markedly different sound, and have very different jobs to do in a brass band.

    Baritones (like trumpets and trombones) have a much more parallel bore, giving them a brighter, punchier sound; euphs (like cornets) have a more conical bore, giving them a more mellow and richer sound. If you look at these two pictures below (both from the same manufacturer and equivalent ranges), you'll see what I mean:

    upload_2018-3-16_12-42-12.png

    Regarding what I've said above about the different types of sound you get from the two instruments, it's a fact that a very accomplished player can get a euph-like sound from a baritone, and a baritone-like sound from a euph (though they have to work at it), but that doesn't alter the fact that, due to the way the bores and bells are shaped, the two instruments have an inherently different sound, and - contrary to some opinions I've seen on other forums - they are supposed to have a different sound. As I said above, they have different jobs to do in a band.

    Trombones sound very much the same to my ear as baritones - which is not surprising, as they have parallel bores, too - and, like both baritones and euphs, in British-style brass bands, all three are in the key of Bb. So you might ask, if baritones and tenor trombones have the same kind of sound, and are in the same key, why do bands have both? Because you cannot do a long, smooth glissando on a baritone - and the valves on a baritone means that (if you're reasonably good!) you can play certain runs of notes relatively easily on a baritone which would be somewhere between difficult and impossible on a trombone, if that particular sequence of notes required shifting between extreme positions on the slide for consecutive notes. Sure, some players can do what appears to be almost impossible with both baritones and trombones - but us mere mortals have our limitations!

    Getting even more into the 'very personal opinion' zone, I'd say when it comes to choosing what to play - go for the one whose sound really grabs you - and makes you think "I'd give my eye teeth to be able to make that sound!"

    Bear in mind that a lot of learning to play is going over the same stuff (sometimes one bar) over and over and over and over . . . until you crack it. At times, it can be tough enough to keep up your enthusiasm when you run into a brick wall, even with an instrument whose sound you love to bits (yep - that's the voice of experience :(). I don't think I could keep going with an instrument about which I thought "Well, it's alright . . . I suppose . . . "

    "Do you think the Baritone/Euph makes a good solo instrument?"

    You only have to listen to some top notch street buskers to know that any instrument can make a good solo instrument! It's really down to the skill of the player, though I think it's fair to say that playing solo (whether you're playing a solo part in a band or playing on your own) is always going to be more demanding than playing an 'accompaniment' part in a band; there's a reason why new cornet players start in the back row! And there is this about playing completely on your own; you can play what you want, when you want, how you want.

    "Which one is easier to learn relying exclusively on live internet lessons?"

    Um - I've never tried live internet lessons, so can't speak from experience; the only comment I can make is that (from advice offered to beginners by teachers who use Skype) is that you MUST have a decent set-up, in terms of vision and sound, so that your teacher can both see and hear exactly what you're doing, with real clarity. In other words, a cheapo camera and mike plugged into your computer is not going to cut it - and remember that your teacher needs to be able to see if your posture is sound, that you're breathing using your diaphragm and not just the top part of your lungs, and that you aren't ramming the mouthpiece into your lips, etc, etc. - basically, as close as you can get to them being in the same room as you!

    The other point, which I've found to be true for myself (and have been told the same by plenty of other people) is that playing with others not only boost your enthusiasm for learning, but improves your playing skills much faster than if you only ever play on your own.

    Price; a limit of $600 doesn't give you a lot of scope; you only have to look at the sheer complexity of those instruments to see that making them is a very labour-intensive business. Two suggestions; first, don't buy new. All other things being equal, an instrument which sells second hand for $600 is going to be much better than one which sells new for $600. Second, really, really try to find someone to go with you when you buy it. A music teacher, a good musician with a local band, whatever - but it's a real help to have someone with the necessary skill and experience to be able to pick it up and try it to see what it's like. You only have to talk to other players to hear stories of when they tried something which looked nice, but wasn't at all easy to play, or which didn't sound that good - and then tried another which didn't look much at all, but which was a delight to play and which sounded great. You can't always accurately judge books by their covers!

    HTH, and I hope other more experienced people will be along soon to give you the benefit of their advice.
     
  3. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

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    Look at what type of playing you'd like to do...

    If you're into purely brass bands then it's really up to you - if you're into jazz or orchestras, you'll find more opportunities available to you on trombone.

    If you think you'd ever be interested in switching bigger or smaller then maybe look to Bari/euph as it's likely to be easier to switch to (say) tenor horn or tuba from a valves instrument... From trombone, the only step that's regularly useful is bass trombone (or you have to learn valves at that point).


    If it's all about your own enjoyment, listen to some great players and see who really speaks to you - odds are, the instrument you can really love and relate to the sound of is the one where you'll find yourself doing best.


    And enjoy it! Best of luck!
     
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  4. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

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    As to which is the easier, I would suggest you may be better with a valved instrument if you're going to be working largely on your own. With a valved instrument, providing you've got the right combination, all you've got to concentrate on is getting the right pitch. With a slide, the various positions are not marked but have to be learnt, largely through trial and error, and if you've not got someone alongside to advise you, that may be problematic.
     
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  5. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

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    Learning an instrument is generally a good thing to do but going completely solo isn’t a particularly practical route, to the point of wondering whether you’d be better doing something else instead and suggesting some fretted string instrument rather than brass. As to which brass instrument would be best for you that’s a real puzzle, but Peter’s comments above are spot on.

    If you remain dead set on playing Brass by yourself, which I don’t recommend, then check out what play along CD’s are available for your two choices. Your budget is not large and Euphoniums are more expensive than Trombones. If you opt for a Trombone then Yamaha’s YSL354 is a very well regarded starter instrument, however Trombone slides are easily damaged (a slight dent or misalignment will cause them to drag and make playing miserable or impossible) and unless you have a really good brass repair shop available to you then you’d be best to do something else.

    Sorry not to be so encouraging of your plans but I’m trying to be realistic. The best way to learn a Brass instrument is with a face to face teacher and, once you have learnt the basics, by playing with other musicians in either a Brass Band or a Brass and ‘Wood’ Wind ‘group’; other ways of learning a Brass instrument come a very remote second choice and IMHO you’d be better off doing something else instead. If you were in the U.K. then I’d recommend contacting a few near Brass Bands, they would doubtless welcome you with open arms, supply a basic instrument free of charge and organise some tuition for you (which would normally be free or low cost). Some places in the USA do have Brass Bands but their attitudes towards beginners won’t necessarily be the same.

    Good luck with whatever you choose to do.

    Edit. It is worth pointing out that the bore of these instruments varies and that large bore instruments take more air (volume flow) to fill them than small bore. The Euphoniums are large bore, (British) Baritones are small bore and Trombones can be either larger or small bore. The Yamaha YSL354 I mentioned is a small bore Trombone. I believe that students find a small bore instrument easier to play than a large bore, but YMMV. Music difficulty wise the Band parts for a Euphonium are, IMHO, typically harder than those for a Baritone or Trombone - in a Brass Band the Principal Cornet is typically thought of as the leader of the Band but overall the Euphonium players are very possibly the most skilled.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2018
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  6. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

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    I wouldn't say that either is easier than the others to pick up over Skype - but I would say that you'll likely have an easier time learning if the teacher's in the room.

    I seriously wouldn't rule out playing with groups in future - it's great fun, and a wonderful way to improve your own playing. For example, it's much easier to learn a good sense of time if you're regularly playing with others.

    As Jack has mentioned, "baritone" can mean different things dependent on location. You're asking a bunch of UK brass band players, which means that the pictures he posted are what we're familiar with. I wonder, as I think does he, from the way you put the words together (not to mention your use of dollars!), whether you might be in the US, where there's historically been a tendency to use the two terms interchangeably, though there's more recently been a tendency to recognise the British-style difference.

    Sounds? Well, there are three distinct sounds there, and in contrast to earlier assertions, I'd very much underline the difference in sound approach needed between trombone (more of the bore being cylindrical) and the other two (less of the bore being cylindrical). Baritone and euphonium share much more of a common blowing approach, with articulations more forgiving and a rounded mellow sound at most times being a desirable attribute. Now baritone and euphonium have sound differences, but a successful player of one can relatively easily transfer to the other. Even leaving aside the slide, trombone is a bit of a different thing to play, requiring much more care of articulation and embracing of pointy noises. As others have suggested, pick the sound that you like best; you're doing this for your own pleasure.

    In terms of making pleasing noises, there's a longer learning curve to trombone to the point of being satisfied with one's playing. The slide is more difficult than valves, and the longer cylindrical tube is less forgiving to the lips - easier to mis-focus notes.
    Any of these make great solo instruments - check out YouTube.

    $600 will not buy you very much, I'm afraid. Of these three instrument options, you're more likely to find a trombone of better quality for a given amount of money - they just have fewer bits and cost less to put together. If you can stretch a bit further, one of these is an excellent student-level option: Yamaha YSL 354
     
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  7. Queeg2000

    Queeg2000 Active Member

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    Having seen some training bands introduce beginners to brass, I would like it to Harry Potter and his wand. In most cases, someone starts on cornet (nice and small for children) but quickly they find it works for them or it doesn't. Like Harry Potter's wand, in most cases z you don't choose an instrument, it chooses you.

    If possible, get hold of a nearby band and talk to them, they will let you try their instruments and offer you all the help you are prepared to take. At a push you could try a music shop to try their instruments, though I wouldn't be surprised if they refused assuming you were just a time waster.

    As has already been said though a valve instrument is much easier if you are going it alone, but also the ability to play is transferrable onto other valve instruments.
     
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  8. Euphonium Lite

    Euphonium Lite Active Member

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    I'd also add on to this - something has obviously appealed to you to learn brass, and what is generally referred to as "low brass" in particular (ie pitched lower than trumpets, cornets and various french and alto saxhorns (what we Brits call Tenor horns)

    If there is an instrument youve heard and liked I'd perhaps try and aim for that - for example if you like the trombone sound, youre not really going to replicate it on a Euphonium. You might on a British baritone - but the instrument isnt really designed to sound exactly the same. Likewise style - if you like quick sounding passages its probably better to use a valved instrument (its difficult to play such passages on a trombone although some experienced players can do it). Likewise glissando "sliding" sounds are easier on a trombone (as you have the slide to help) rather than on a valved instrument where it has to be all done using your mouth (although it can be "bluffed" using techniques like half pressing valves).

    If you can borrow an instrument in the early days it helps. You may find that youre suited to one or another and if youve already spent the money its difficult. In the British market, top quality instruments dont depreciate in value hugely, but student level instruments often do
     
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  9. HelenPlaysBaritone

    HelenPlaysBaritone New Member

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    Location:
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    Hi Custard107 and welcome.

    I play as a hobby. A large part of that is playing with an amateur British-style brass band. Playing as a hobby doesn't have to mean--and IMO shouldn't mean--going it alone. I do the hard work at home to play my musical line correctly, but it's in the band that I hear the results and feel the joy and satisfaction that keeps me wanting to play.

    There are also considerable benefits to playing in an ensemble:
    • you benefit from the wisdom of the other players
    • you learn a musical ear for detecting and fixing problems with tuning and timing more quickly
    • you learn band skills like coming in together and staging breaths that will benefit you in any ensemble situation on any instrument
    • you learn how to skip hard parts without losing count--the band won't slow down for you whilst you figure it out
    • you learn to accompany soloists and when to pipe down because you're accompanying someone else and when to play up because your bit is interesting

    Until a wrist injury stopped me from pressing valves, I played all three! If you are in a band with a pool of loan instruments, you don't have to choose one and stick to it forever. Also, check out James Stretton, he plays most brass instruments and is on Youtube as orichalcum1

    Other people have commented more fully and knowledgeably about sounds. I get different sounds out of all three: euph is rich and mellow, baritone is lighter and brighter, trombone is brighter still and can have a raspy edge to it.

    If you can possibly get face-to-face lessons, do so. I managed to mostly self-teach trombone, but I was already a reasonably competent baritone player, so had already learned:
    • how to read music
    • how to create controlled sounds on a brass instrument using my lips, tongue, and diaphragm
    • band skills
    • breathing technique
    • posture
    The only thing I needed to self-teach on the trombone was slide technique, and even then I benefited hugely from workshops held by top-notch players and advice from my fellow trombonists in the band.

    The euph is the primary low brass soloist in the British-style brass band. My band has a stunning baritone soloist and Katrina Marzella is a top-level baritone soloist in the brass band world, you can watch some of her performances on youtube.

    Good luck with that budget. I would recommend that you join a band that can lend you an instrument and spend your $600 on lessons, tune-a-day books, and a copy of the Arban study book. I don't own the trombone that I currently play: I borrow it from the band and when I got it, the first thing I did was check that it was in good working order and gave it a jolly good clean.
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2018
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  10. spear

    spear New Member

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    I would stick to the well known makes even if you buy a second instrument you should be able to sell it again its worth paying that bit more mouthpiece is personal choice but stick to well known makes mouthpieces are the most important part of playing.
     
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  11. HelenPlaysBaritone

    HelenPlaysBaritone New Member

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    Location:
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    There's a picture of the positions at Trombone
     
  12. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

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    I’m inclined to agree. Helen’s chart is helpful and I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone but in practice a Trombone has many variations on the seven basic positions that will throw a beginner. By all means use such a chart as an initial guide and then alter the slide’s extension to bring the desired note into tune.

    Please don’t let my comments put anyone off of learning the Trombone, I love playing one, but as far as difficulty learning to play one goes most people would (IMHO) be better off selecting something with valves. YMMV.
     
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  13. David Broad

    David Broad Member

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    No half decent trombone player uses those positions, I always judge a player on how frequently use the 1st position, almost never for the best players all the time for raw beginners. 4th /5th position is the usual position I find players using for C (Bb) so they can slur up to D for instance as the slide should lengthen as you slur down and shorten as you slur up, not rocket science but some people try to slur up from 1st position C to 3rd position D by lengthening the slide, and it sounds horrible.
    As a first question does the beginner read music? If yes Bass Clef? If no to both take up the Baritone, nice and easy to play, easy but varied 2nd Baritone part in BB. If you get on all right you can move to Trom or Euph, if you don't there is always air guitar but don't kid yourself what ever you start on will sound horrible. If you can read Bass Clef and have a half decent ear then get a Trom. Its a waste of time learning and then trying to play with an ensemble. We had a guy with about grade seven who couldn't play with the band, just could not cope with playing at someone else's tempo. Currently my son and I are trying to develop techniques for learners to play along with the sound file of the arrangement they are playing, otherwise they don't learn to play in time, just listen to amateur pianists.
     
  14. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

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    How can I phrase this strongly without sounding rude?
    Most of this is not correct. There, that was moderately tactful.

    Professional trombone players use 1st position all the time. Alternative positions are jolly useful (5th being the alternative for C - 4th is C#, whose main but rare alternative is 7th). There is nothing hard about playing a convincing legato from 1st position C to 3rd position D - in fact it's quite a nice movement. Noting that slurring on trombone is not the same as slurring on a valved instrument - everything must be touched very gently with the articulation: slurring across the slide without articulation is only possible on some intervals, and can be an ugly effect if mishandled; slurring along the slide without articulation is better known as glissando.

    What is correct is the idea that slurring along the slide (but get one's articulation right or it turns into a smear...) aids smoothness. But total movement is a much more important consideration than direction of movement. If you started from a middle G in a slur upwards, you would consider strongly taking it in the alternative of 6th if you were going to 4th or 5th positions (e.g. to A or Ab), but in the usual 1st if going to 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. (e.g. to C, B, Bb). But when you start using alternative positions, it becomes imperative to realise that each harmonic tunes differently. That C in 5th is going to be flat on most trombones without further small-scale adjustment, for example. Without this correction, the tuning error becomes a greater sin than any lost smoothness.
     
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  15. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

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    The trouble, if that is the correct word, with Trombones is that they look simple enough but are, in fact, fiendishly difficult to play really well - I’m very talented but still struggle :) . The uneducated (nearly everyone but Trombone players) just don’t understand that fact and hence we are not held in the deserved highest of esteem. Learn your music on a valued instrument first and then, if you have talent, see if you can manage a Trombone ....... :).
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2018
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  16. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

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    Yes . . . o_O :confused: :eek:

    Strewth, Dave - I thought playing trombone looked a bit tricky . . . but I had NO idea!! I'm glad I chose me baritone ;)

    Jack
     
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  17. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

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    Ah, it's not so hard. If it was, trombonists wouldn't be able to do it...
     
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  18. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

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    If you say so, guv . . . :)
     
  19. Queeg2000

    Queeg2000 Active Member

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    I think Dave might be trying to teach someone with no legs to climb Everest.

    The op states they are a complete beginner. Alternative slide positions and glissando are a bit further down the line yet.

    Typical trombone player trying to make his job look hard. Us hardworking players have to use triggers to alter our tuning because the valves can't cope with low notes, you trombone players don't know you're born!
     
  20. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

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    Just correcting misinformation given above :)
    Wouldn’t have touched that stuff otherwise in this thread, I know what you mean...
     
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