Principal/Solo Euphonium players...

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by B.Portas, Jun 2, 2013.

  1. B.Portas

    B.Portas Member

    how long did it take you to get so good?

    I've been playing euphonium for about 4 months now (after switching from baritone, that I played for just under a year), and I'm struggling a little, and feeling like I'm not really getting anywhere. I have been mostly teaching myself (with youtube videos and books), with guidance from my cornet playing fiancee, but I will be getting tuition in September, due to my university transfer.

    I know I won't be playing at such a high standard overnight (and probably not at all, because I'm 21 and past my peak learning time), but does anyone have any tips for improving/progressing, with the goal of becoming a well-respected principal euphonium player? Anything from warm-ups, to pieces and even mindsets/mental frames that you put yourselves in, when tackling difficult pieces would be welcome, as I need all the help I can get.

    Playing in a contesting band would be my ideal goal, but as yet, I have very little experience in playing with a band, and am hoping to join my new university brass ensemble later this year.

    If any euph players want to help a real beginner out, with confidence builders/tricks of the trade, it would be much appreciated. I don't want to give up, but at the same time, I don't feel that I am getting anywhere.

    Thanks for your time,

  2. my biggest bit of advice is to get regular lessons from a good teacher who has been there and done it all, worked for me! they should be able to help you work out a practice routine so you don't go round in circles and get nothing done like I used to! also, maybe play 2nd euph under someone who is actively interested in helping you improve.
  3. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    The banding world is full of people who want to be principal euphonium players, but rather less full of those who want to be 2nd euphonium players, or (heaven forfend) 1st or even 2nd baritone players... Each of those seats can be a great experience in the right band, with their own challenges, and every good principal euphonium player (even the most ego-driven show-off!) will have served a lengthy apprenticeship as a 2nd player.

    One has to follow one's dreams, but the best way to learn is to take up a supporting seat in a band that stretches you. It's hard to judge what your current level is - but if your description is accurate I would suggest that you get in touch with a local non-competing or fourth section band, to see if they would like to have you on a supporting seat (2nd euph or 2nd baritone). I see that there are three non-competing bands and one fourth section band within easy-ish reach of Scarborough. Drop them a line, see what opportunities are there now rather than waiting until a possibility in the autumn; it's hard to improve when you aren't sharing playing with other people.
  4. B.Portas

    B.Portas Member

    Thanks for the advice, the things I've done so far, is contact the university that I'm transferring to (York) and arrange brass lessons when I get there (I'm a guitarist of 11 years, so I won't really need lessons on that, having already taken a few) and speak to bands local to the area, so I can join an established section (just for practice). My fiancee has offered to adapt her practice routine, so that I have something to work towards - rather than just going up and down scales/arpeggios that I already know and attempting to learn solos well out of my capability - which I think will set me on a good path.

    I know I'll have to spend time actually in a band situation, on my new instrument. I played 1st baritone in a non contesting band, and in the training band of a 3rd section band, so I only have a tiny amount of banding experience, but hopefully moving to a new area will help me progress.
  5. pbirch

    pbirch Member

    in music, as well as other areas of life, it has taken as long as it has to get as good as you have got. that statement reflects many things, including the difficulty of the task, the application of the learner, opportunities, priorities and other things, and when you take such a broad look at yourself, you will see the things that you excel in, things that you will never achieve and things in which you can improve, for me, for example, no matter how I try, I will never be any good at football.
    But music,and playing a musical instrument is different. It is a life long project, and you can always improve but it takes time and effort. It has taken over 45 years for me to get as good as I have got (some may say that actually it is not that good), but I have also had to establish a career, get an education raise a family as well. You have taken 4 months.
    It is a bit harsh to say that you are past your "peak learning time" (2 things about that - you are about to transfer to an excellent university so you still have potential, and look around to see the number of older students there as well), but do remember to enjoy music, don't just pursue a concept of excellence for its own sake
  6. Scongie

    Scongie Member

    There's a chap called Malcolm Gladwell that advocates the theory that it takes 10,000 hours to become "great" at something so don't be worrying too much after only 4 months, just keep practising.
  7. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    There's another chap who's in the middle of running with that idea - he gave up his career to spend 10,000 hours training to become a golf professional from a position of zero previous experience. He's up to about 5,000 hours at the moment, and his golfing handicap is currently down to 5.5 - definitely not pro, but on the way to becoming seriously good. Definitely an interesting experiment! Though an expensive, tedious and probably frustrating one...

    If one practices 2 hours a day (a truly impressive level of dedication in my world!), 10,000 hours will take 13-14 years. But I think doing it more intensely gets you there in fewer hours (and of course 'natural talent', whatever that is, helps you on the way). I have heard it said that practising 6 hours a day for 6 months will get you into a state of playing bliss from which you can take a much more relaxed attitude to practise afterwards without losing the gains that you've made. But then I've never put in that much time to see for myself... I enjoy my playing too much to destroy that enjoyment with that level of practise fascism...
  8. Di B

    Di B Member

    Few things I learnt along the way...

    1. Go to youtube and check out seriously good players. Listen to 2 known players play the same piece. It's never to early to listen to different styles of playing and work out what you like/don't like. This will help you learn how to shape phrases/solos etc. You also learn this from listening to live performances and even from singing performances. Think of the style - would you play it the same way? Would you lengthen that note or play it normally?

    2. On Euph sound is better than technicality. I say this as a technical player! Concentrate on your sound, your breath control etc. Do hymns. Lots of them. Learn to not breathe during an 8 bar hymn tune. Then slow it down. Then make it louder. Then crescendo and diminuendo.
    All of this will help your breathing - the most important thing.

    3. Listen. Go to your local bands. Any. If you can, sit in and play. If not, just listen. Listen to the styles/balance etc. Being a soloist is just part of the job. Being aware of what is happening around a band is important (or if a soloist, you still need to know what your accompaniment is doing!). Balance, when to show off/blend/hide, you will even be able to learn how to correct passages from a good conductor.

    Basically, play as much as you can and start now. Use your ears to learn from others, and finally, get that sound! I really wish I had done this early on - better than any gimmicks out there.

    Finally, keep up the enthusiasm and good luck
  9. B.Portas

    B.Portas Member

    Thanks for all of your help, the sound/tone is one of the main things I'm trying to work on. I've heard that standing in the corner of a small-ish room, and listening to the sound bounce back at you is a good tip, what other good ways are there to develop your tone?
  10. simonium

    simonium Member

    Hot air! A lesson with Lyndon Baglin and a refusal to believe what you hear from the player's seat!
  11. Blades4Ever

    Blades4Ever Member

    When Trevor Groom (former Solo Euphonium with GUS) used to have lessons with Bert Sullivan (Trevor's predecessor at GUS), Trevor was made to play under a chandelier and make it ring continuously.

    The conductor at GUS during that era, Stanley Boddington, also had a great saying when he wanted more sound. He would say: "Scrape the insides of the instrument with SOUND!"
  12. Accidental

    Accidental Supporting Member

    There's already some great advice on here. I'm not sure about the standing in a corner thing though - I know if my sound bounces back at me too much its off-putting and I tend to back off, so it would be counter productive for me. Everyone's different though, maybe you should just try it and see what happens!

    If you want to build your sound, get some lessons and work on breathing and long notes/hymn tunes/slow melodies.
    Lessons are really important at the outset imho - with the best will in the world, practicing all day every day won't neccessarily achieve much (except building stamina and a strong lip!) if you're practicing the wrong things or just embedding mistakes.
    Don't worry about standard and principal seats. just focus on your sound and developing yourself as a player. Take some lessons, build contacts with a number of bands and the right seat will find you.
  13. cornetdom

    cornetdom Member

    Just don't worry practice makes perfect, theirs decent bands in york and i know some decent music teachers.Get the arban out and practice on long notes for at least 10mins listening to your tone, then challenge yourself with pieces that you find hard , if you never challenge yourself you will never reach your maximum standard!
  14. Blagger

    Blagger Member

    Invest in a decent practice mute - they really help build up your sound IMO.
    A decent Euph player should be like a good tenor voice. I have always been of the opinion that your sound is what makes you stand out as a player. Technique is very important of course but if you don't sound great it doesn't matter how many notes you can play in a bar..... oh and get some recordings of Lyndon Baglin plying anything :)

    ROBTHEDOG Member

    I would suggest a session with Steven Mead Well worth the outlay - We had him do a student Workshop last year and it was JUST BRILLIANT, you'll learn more and identify where the issues are - Age is not the point it's basics - You can get him on facebook or via his website --
  16. Aussie Tuba

    Aussie Tuba Member

    Agreed. But also Many hours of Practice. My Grandfather held a Principle Euphonium Position and he practiced every Night to keep up his standard.

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