(It’s not strictly Tuba-Euphonium, as this is trombone stuff as well.)
OK, it’s been a few weeks, the horn works great…I believe it’s time to organize my practicing better. I haven’t been able to do as much as I’d like, but once we clear the Minnesota Music Educators’ Association midwinter conference this week (and this will coincide with what I hope is the beginning of the end of winter and my 40th….gawd, my 40th…birthday), I want to force myself to get at least an hour a day on the horn(s).
So I was thinking of redoing how I practice. How does this sound?
15% of practice time: warm-up. I use long tones, the Remington warm-ups, then scales. Right now it’s majors 2 octaves (I try to do 3 on F and E), octatonics (ST) 2 octaves, and chromatic 3 octaves (C2-C5). This may expand as I include the minors and other scales.
15%: Lyrical warmup. 2 or 3 Rochuts, with one of them read in tenor clef as well. One of these days, I’m gonna work up to alto clef.
15%: Technical warmup. An Arban characteristic study or two, and some other stuff from Arban’s and possibly a Blazhevich. I’m willing to consider other things as well.
30%: Solo literature. I’d like to get a couple of concertos and about 2 hours of solo rep under my fingers within the next year. I would probably include any chamber ensemble literature as well (and good news on that front – it looks like I’m going to be in a brass quintet!).
15%: Excerpts. In case I decide to do a major ensemble. I have the Bowman/Werden euph excerpts and vol. 1 of the Brown trombone excerpts.
10%: Cool-down. Long tones, some lip slurs, some pedals.
So I’ve got this euphonium now, and want to start a quartet. What’s some good recent (1990-later) quartet literature? I have found this, which is all the Grade 1 (highest) Texas State tuba-euphonium quartets, I get the feeling there are many, many more.
Also: If any euphoniumists are within, say, 60-90 minutes of Morris, MN, CONTACT ME. I believe I have a tubist or two, but I need another euphoniumist for the quartet.
Gonna try a little something. I have a piece for solo euphonium that isn’t really…publishable (most places don’t particularly care for multiphonics). So, I’m going to make it available for download here! A couple of players have expressed interest in performing it, which is nice, but I want it to go far and wide. So, here you go – Euphemera for solo euphonium. It’s a .pdf.
So I was down in Cincinnati yesterday, visiting with old friends and former professors/colleagues, and I had the chance to stop in to the CCM Library. For those of you that haven’t been to CCM in a while, the library is now on the 6th floor of Blegen. It’s quiet, well-lit with lots of natural lighting, and all the stacks are right there – no more dungeon!
Yesterday was also Dr. Earle Louder’s 80th birthday. (Happy birthday, Doc!) So it seemed appropriate that I found this in the CCM stacks:
Some time ago, I had a list of ten pieces which every euphoniumist should try. Does anyone have anything they’d like to add to that list?
As regular visitors to this little popsicle stand know, I’ll be teaching at the University of Minnesota Morris starting this fall. I’m quite excited about it, and have already been planning my first semester there. I’m about to completely overhaul how and what I teach; it feels good and right.
In addition, I am told by future colleagues that there may be a few performance opportunities. Put simply, I think I may be on the verge of forming a new tuba-euphonium quartet. This makes me very happy, for as Berio (after Beckett) put it in the third movement of the Sinfonia for 8 voices and orchestra (a piece that I can finally start listening to again, only a year after finishing my dissertation), there’s “nothing more restful than chamber music.” I played in a quartet all through my undergraduate years as well as one year of my MM.
So here’s a question for any quartet players out there – what literature do you like? It has been over 15 years since I’ve regularly played, and I’m not up on the current rep.
This is arguably the hardest and most personal question of all. There are some generic, catch-all answers (warm, round, focused sound), but when it comes to varying degrees of brightness/darkness of sound, well, put two euphoniumists in a room and you’ll get three answers.
I play with a darker sound, one more suited for ensemble playing. The challenge that those of us with a darker sound face is keeping the sound focused. When you darken the sound, there’s a certain amount of fuzz that is created in the sound. A nice dark sound still keeps a strong, easily-definable center to the sound. To contrast, my college teacher (the legendary and still amazing Earle Louder) had a comparatively bright sound, better for solo work.* Both viewpoints are valid, to be sure, but I have found that I personally control a darker sound better and have an easier time with intonation and articulation.
Whatever you do in creating your own personal tone, it’s important to develop a good base for the tone. Keep a nice open oral cavity so that you can pump tons of air into the horn. Keep those corners firm but never tense. Get good warm air from the bottom of your lungs. Stay relaxed.
How do you handle issues of tone?
*which is not to say that Doc Louder doesn’t sound good in an ensemble. He does. Oh man, does he ever.
Continuing with the theme established from last week, I’ve decided to list ten absolutely on the audition excerpts. Some are from band music, some are from orchestral music.
In no particular order:
1. Holst, Second Suite, first movement, euphonium solo at reh. 5
2. Holst, The Planets, “Mars,” euphonium solo (this is the famous 5/4 excerpt) at reh. 4
3. Mussorgsky (orch. Ravel), Pictures at an Exhibition, “Bydlo” (originally played on tuba, lies very well on euphonium)
4. R. Strauss, Don Quixote (originally for Wagner tuba; according to David Werden, Strauss himself recommended euphonium after hearing the Sousa band)
5. Gould, Symphony for Band “West Point”, first movement, solo at reh. 11
6. Grainger, Irish Tune from County Derry (great for showing off good sound)
7. Sullivan (arr. Mackerras), Pineapple Poll, first movement, beginning to reh. 1
8. Shostakovich (arr. Hunsberger), Festive Overture, reh. 8
9. Barber, Commando March, reh. B
10. King (arr. Bainum), Barnum and Bailey’s Favorite
There are many others that could have made this list (it was a tough call leaving out Grainger’s Children’s March: “Over the Hills and Far Away” because I love that solo so much; ditto the Safranek transcription of Tchaikovsky’s 4th), but these ten mark a good cross-section of the standard rep.
A friend of mine is giving a faculty euphonium recital tonight over in western North Carolina (it started about 34 minutes ago; a bit too far to drive, unfortunately). I don’t know what the line-up is, but it’s a joint recital with a tubist.
This got me to thinking: What pieces should be on junior/senior recitals? What about graduate-level recitals?
I’ve been out of the loop for a while, but I think every euphoniumist should have a crack at the following ten pieces at some point during their undergrad career. (I can’t say that I have, to be honest, but I’ve tried to get as many as I can.) These are in no particular order. There are original works and there are transcriptions.
1. W. A. Mozart, Concerto, K. 191 (originally for bassoon)
2. Simone Mantia, All Those Endearing Young Charms
3. Donald White, Lyric Suite
4. Jim Curnow, Concerto
5. G. P. Telemann, Sonata in F minor (originally for bassoon)
6. J. Ed. Barat, Andante et Allegro (originally for trombone)
7. R. Schumann (arr. Paul Droste), Five Pieces in Folk Style (originally for cello)
8. Ponchielli, Concerto per Flicorno Basso
9. Fred Clinard, Suite for Unaccompanied Euphonium
10. J. S. Bach, Six Suites (originally for cello)
What do you think? It’s by no means exhaustive, and I’d like to get some other opinions.
To compensate or not to compensate? That is the question.
Like all brass instruments, the tuba and euphonium have an issue with their lowest notes. Any three-valve B-flat non-transposing instrument will hit its lowest non-pedal note on E (all three valves pushed down). Players and composers wanted extra range, so a fourth valve was added. This valve opens a length of tubing equal to the first and third valve tubes combined. Trombonists have something similar – the F attachment, which is equivalent to putting the slide in sixth position. It’s almost an octave-down key, thanks to the vagaries of the overtone system. For example, E-flat 3 is first valve, and E-flat 2 (one octave lower) is valves 1 and 4.
The problem is that the lower the pitch, the longer the tubing needs to be. At a certain point, notes on the tuba and euphonium are so low that the tubing isn’t long enough. At about D2, you have to finger the note one half-step down from the corresponding fingering up an octave to compensate for the tubing issues. For example, B2 on a euphonium is valves 1, 2 and 3, but pushing 1, 2, 3 and 4 down on a euphonium will generate C2 instead of B1. This means that, in its lowest octaves, the instrument isn’t fully chromatic.
The solution was to create what’s called a compensating system for the horn. In this, whenever the fourth valve is pushed, the airflow is not only redirected through the fourth valve tubing but also through smaller bits of tubing that add the required length to compensate for the half-step issue. This makes the horn fully chromatic over the entire range – but it also adds weight to the horn. Not a lot of weight, but noticeable. The extra metal can also affect the sound somewhat, though a good player can adapt.
Not everyone likes compensating horns, especially if they rarely use the lower register in their playing. Players out there – what is your opinion?
In an update, I worked up the music I mentioned in the last Tuba-Euphonium Tuesday post, and it went pretty well. Haven’t had much of a chance to pick up the horn since then, though, so we’re kind of back in stasis. (Things are happening right now which I am not at liberty to discuss yet. Good things, to be sure, but I must remain a little cryptic.)
So, for today’s installment I shall throw it open to the peanut gallery: What method books do you recommend for advanced high school/college students?
I don’t know if this is going to take or not, but recent events have inspired me to pick up my horn again. I’m currently working up the following pieces:
Telemann, Sonata (F minor, originally for bassoon and piano)
Raybuck, Amazing Grace (based on the hymn tune NEW BRITAIN)
Clinard, Sonata (for unaccompanied euphonium)
I’ve played the Raybuck and Clinard before, but not the Telemann. I’m enjoying the challenges of revisiting old favorites and learning a new piece. This is about 20 minutes of music, and I might add a few more works (maybe one of the few euphonium concerti out there and some more occasional pieces) to see if I can’t get a full 50 – 75 minute recital out of the bargain. Any suggestions/requests?
(Tuba-Euphonium Tuesday will allegedly feature pieces on which I am currently working, thoughts on the literature – solo, chamber, ensemble and standard rep – for those instruments, links to recordings of great players and conversations with great players.)