The correct method of playing the euphonium

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by brassfanatic, Jun 14, 2009.

  1. brassfanatic

    brassfanatic Member

    Some of the finest euphonium players in the UK come on this site, so I thought make a post requesting some tips.

    Firstly, I'm 19, and play second euph in a 4th section band (yikes). I've been playing for about 7/8 years, around 6 on the euph.

    I practice approx. 3-4 times a week, including band rehearsal (once a week). I'd say my tone is the highlight of my euph playing, fairly sweet.

    I wonder if any of you fellow bandsmen could express your views on:

    1. how I can improve my technique, what I should be doing when I'm practicing at home etc.
    2. the use of vibrato, is it necessary, when should it should'nt it be applied?
    3. How can I learn to double/triple tongue, I can just about bluff double tonguing.
    4. And, finally most importantly, volume. I haven't got the puff to blow really loud and fill the instrument. How can I apply that technique of blowing from the stomach?
    5. One last thing (this proves I'm a real amateur), I end every rehearsal/practice session with a big mouthpiece stamp on my lip: this means I'm shoving my jaw too far down the mouthpiece, but I can't pitch those high notes without it etc??
    Euph solos I can play include:

    Blaydon Races
    Facilita (not the last variation)
    Grandfather's Clock (just about, again last variation wobbly)
    Horowitx Euph Concerto, mvmt. 1,2
    can think of any more of recent, but the usual "Softly As You Leave Me" style tone orientated ones.

    Thanks, if any of you can answer at least one of my questions and offer advise on what I should be doing to become a decent player, I would appreciate it grately.
  2. Independent Silver Band

    Independent Silver Band Active Member

    With all that you have asked, I would like to commend you as a serious student of the instrument, but the best advice I could give with the breadth of levels, is to find a good teacher, and begin private lessons.
  3. DMBabe

    DMBabe Supporting Member

    :clap: Like the man said, it is invaluable to invest in quality tuition. Even a few lessons will help. A good teacher will be able to point you in the right direction and tailor lessons to your needs as an individual, which is nigh on impossible to do via the medium of t'internet. Maybe worth giving consideration, given your age, to getting involved in a youth band if there is one near you because often these are staffed with good quality tutors who are there to educate and help young players develop, rather than relying on your local band who may be less tuition driven???
  4. MrsDoyle

    MrsDoyle Supporting Member

  5. Di B

    Di B Member

    If you want to help yourself until you get a teacher invest in a study book. The Arban is the bandsmans bible and I also like Wright and Rounds complete method.

    Both have technical exercises on scales and also on double/triple tonguing. Some of the writing will be on about breathing too. If you want to improve your lip slurs then invest in a most evil of books called 'how brass players do it' sounds like fun - it isn't - but it does produce the results.

    I would assume any teacher you did go to would ask if you had a study book anyway and if you didn't have one you would need to get one. Benefit of a teacher is that they can stop the bad habits forming from the start. Teach yourself and you may have to re-correct in future years.

    Finally a tip from one euph to another.... Some solos are about finger waggling and looking confident! Worry about the shapes of the phrases not the individual notes. Its making the phrases sound good that a lot of players do on the hardest of pieces as it can be nearly impossible to play all the notes spot on. I am thinking of open test pieces here, so if they do it so can you! :)

    Ps. Grandfathers becomes a lot easier if you get the 2nd euph to play up the melody in the last variation and you concentrate on waggling ;-)
  6. Mr_Euniverse

    Mr_Euniverse Member

    1. Scales are the most important thing. Any (tonal) piece of music you come across are based on them.
    2. Do what comes naturally. The worst thing I want to hear is a forced vibrato. Watch and listen to the best tenor/baritone singers.
    3. You can practice this all day long with out instrument. Concentrate on VERY clear diction. And then ultimately speed.
    4. Open out. Phil Harper always says fill your instrument with warm air. Try having a hot cup of tea (no sugar) before you play, you'll even notice a difference then.
    5. Don't be worried about the stamp, it's a sign you've been working hard.

    Hope that's helpful
  7. matty1986

    matty1986 Member

    Hi there, Like everyone has said a good tutor is the best way to go. But from one euph player to another here's my impressions on how to improve some of yours points.

    1. ARBAN, ARBAN, ARBAN, ARBAN, It's got everything you need to start to improve your technique, if you can't do something in there, keep doing it till you can, diligence is the key.
    2. As a euph player I feel that vibrato is a vital part of your arsenal. Practice by playing a long note and then making a WOW WOW WOW WOW motion with your jaw, start making a slow movment, then speed up and slow down. You'll get the hang of it and be able to gage what sounds good, and then change your vibrato as required by the piece/conductor.
    3. I'm going to be contriversial here, but on euph I double DG DG DG DG and triple DGD DGD DGD DGD as appose to the conventional way. One again diligence is the key, figure what's best for you, start slow and work you way faster, first on the same note, then changing notes as you play, There are some good excersises in the ARBAN again for this.
    4. If possible invest in a practice mute of some sort, if not, use a cushion etc. Shove it in the bell, concentrate on where your breathing from and pushing the air and force it, try blow the pillow out of the end of your bell. Will improve your stamina no end, you and even try play pieces with it in. When you take the pillow/mute out you'll notice the difference immediatly, keep doing it every couple of day's and you'll really see a big change in power/stamine and sound.
    5. I always end a practie with a slight ring, but you do want to try to use as little pressure as possible, pressure stops the blood flow to the lips, no blood and you start getting tired and an aching lip. Try some lip slurs but only hold your 2nd valve to keep the instrument in place, concentrate on using no pressure as all, as little as possible. Start with lower notes Low C to 2d line G, then just step up gradually. The more you do it the more easier it wil become. This will also help you last longer in practice and make it easier in the higher register.

    Hope some of this helps. If want any more advice please feel free to PM me.
  8. euphsrock

    euphsrock Member

    1. Scales and study books. Arban is always good. If you want something lighter Philip Sparke does a good series of books, the last out of three being "Super Studies for Euphonium". When you practice make sure you warm up and down well and you will get the most out of your practice. I have just finished a music degree on euphonium and spent the first two years on technique, mainly using scales and hardly anytime on repertoire.

    2. Make sure it is controlled. Hit the note straight and colour it with vibrato. I find it helps to listen and watch string players as you can visibly see what they are doing and that gives you a good guide.

    3. Take it slowly. Practice speaking it without mouthpiece or instrument as much as possible. In the shower, walking places, watching tv. (I learnt whilst on a tour with youth band and drove everyone crazy on the coach for about 20 hours) I also used the Arban studies when I was learning and use the T K method rather than D G.

    4. Breathing. Practice filling your lungs. Take in as much breath as possible and then try and inhale even more. Get used to the feeling of having your lungs full. Practice various breathing exercises such as A)breath in for 4, B)hold for 4, C) breath out for 4. Resume normal breathing. Then repeat. Gradually increase the time up from 4.

    5. This is a tricky one. I think it's fair to say that it's not a problem to have a mark as most people get it and as someone already mentioned it shows you've been working hard, but the problem comes if you rely on the pressure to produce the notes. Practice playing long tones in all ranges and see if you can gradually pull your mouth away from the mouthpiece without loosing the seal and still producing the note. If you can practice producing lower notes without pressure then as you work your way up the higher notes will become easier too. It is important to remember that it is the air flow and vibrations that create the sound. Don't push so hard that your lips struggle to vibrate and loose blood flow. You need the same amount of air flow for top notes as pedal notes.

    Wow, I've blabbed on loads, didn't think I knew that much.
    Hope it helps.

    p.s. Also, private tuition from a good teacher is the way forward as they can help you with all these things.
  9. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Steven Mead has a lot of sensible tips on playing improvement on his site here. Let's hope he recovers quickly from his operation yesterday!
  10. Mike Saville

    Mike Saville Member

    Oh dear, there's some misguided advice on this thread. Some of the other advice is valid but may not apply to your situation.

    Getting a good teacher (note - good, not cheap or local) is the first step. You can then highlight the areas that YOU need to improve. Whilst forums can be a good source of generic advice it's very difficult to tell you specifically what you need to do.
  11. pienbeans

    pienbeans New Member

    You have to admit though Mike, the one about a cup of tea for warm air is a cracker! :rolleyes:
  12. deave

    deave Member

    To be fair, the guy asked for advice from top euph players and martyn has been the only one to offer some advice!! I'm sure he's been british open solo champ before?!

    Anyhow, interesting advice about cup of tea! Is it cos it opens up the throat ? I once had a rather hot cup of tea before going on stage at Brass in Concert and burnt my mouth!! ooops

    Deave - Fodens
  13. agentorange

    agentorange Member

    Lots of good advice already on here.

    In addition to the above i'd also advise you to listen to the top players (Childs, Thornton, Williams, Dodd, Mead etc) and study their playing. Beg borrow and steal as many CD's as you can and listen to them playing all different kinds of music (i.e. not just solos but test pieces, hymns, marches - as many styles as you can find).

    Of course this won't improve your technique in any way, but it will give you lots of ideas on style and interpretation, which is (in my humble opinion) what sets these elite players apart from us mere mortals.

    Best of luck.
  14. pienbeans

    pienbeans New Member

    The cup of tea was mentioned in the context of filling the instrument with warm air ..... no mention of opening the throat ...... that's why I thought it was strange advice.

    I would like to think Mr Harper meant that the warm air came from the lungs as in breathing deeply.

    The way I explain the difference to my students is to ask them to blow air on to their hand as if they're whistling ..... result ..... cold air. Then breathe deeply and expel the air as if saying Ha/Huh ..... result warm air. :cool: sorry couldn't find a smilie for warm had to make do with cool! :wink:
  15. brassfanatic

    brassfanatic Member

    Guys, thank you for your advice.

    By the way, I play on a Sovereign, with a Wick/Steven Mead 4 mouthpiece (its the modern Wick 4AL). I do in fact have a mute and have had Arban's Cornet method for a couple of years now, so I'll be spending much more time at it (I rarely looked at it, seemed too mindboggingly difficult).
  16. Di B

    Di B Member

    If you have an arban flick through and pick a few exercises.

    Pick out what you want to improve about your playing and find an appropriate study. Using a teacher here will help you to set up your own practice routine - I don't think mine would help you - it is tailored to me

    Its always worth having a stab at the studies at the back too. They cover all the weaknesses and improve stamina while being a challenge - what more do you need? ;-)

    As someone above has commented about experience I will clarify I am not David Childs nor Steven Mead (I am female to start or I was the last time I checked) but I do currently play top section, have taught all ages and thought I could give basic and friendly advice.
    It is up to you if you choose to take it. If you want to take a foden players advice instead I don't mind at all. :)
  17. Mr_Euniverse

    Mr_Euniverse Member


    :guinessThis also might help too!
  18. Red Elvis

    Red Elvis Active Member

    Sound advice with regards to embouchure , breathing technique , Arban etc.

    However , don't forget the importance of right arm / elbow waggling , especially during expressive passages !! :)
  19. Alyn James

    Alyn James Member

    Does Lucozade make ew sound sweeter?
  20. MrsDoyle

    MrsDoyle Supporting Member

    @ the original poster...

    Are any of these tips any use?

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