FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Generalized questions about the euphonium and the music industry
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This is one of the most frequently asked questions for aspiring brass players. I wish there was a perfect mouthpiece that would solve everyone's playing problems, but unfortunately there's not. Here's my advice: try some different mouthpieces of varying cup and rim sizes and see what feels/sounds the best. Best way to do this is a blind test. Play behind a screen for someone you trust with the different mouthpieces and let them critique the differences in tone production. Ultimately, you want a mouthpiece that will allow you to have the same tone production no matter the range and one that produces clear articulations with minimal effort. Other than that, I don't worry too much about equipment. I've been playing on the same mouthpiece for about 6 years now and I don't intend on switching any time soon. Find something that works and stick with it.
Ah. One of the common misconceptions that baritones and euphoniums are one in the same. Although the construction is very similar, there are some main differences to note: The biggest difference is in the bore size. Euphoniums have larger bores than baritones - that is the interior chamber of the horn from which the air flows through. Both are conical in shape which gives them a similar timbre, however the size of bores distinguishes the two with the euphonium having a larger, fuller sound.
The other big difference is euphoniums generally have 4 valves making it a "compensating" instrument - it contains extra tubing to compensate for tuning issues with certain valve combinations. It also allows the euphonium to play much lower pedal notes. Although some baritones do have the 4th valve, most only have 3. Baritones are most widely seen in beginner band classes and also in brass bands where there are separate euphonium and baritone sections. The baritone is one of the instruments in the brass band that gives it the distinguishing conical sound brass bands are known for along with alto horns instead of french horns.
I don't like to complicate things too much, but sure, there's a little different approach for each. You're serving in a different role for each type of playing. In a wind ensemble, the euphonium is considered more a blending instrument. However, who you're blending with varies greatly. Sometimes we're just a 5th horn, sometimes we play with the trombones, and often times, we're doubling the tubas. Knowing the differences in sound and being able to blend with each is crucial. It's the key element to becoming a great ensemble player.
Brass bands bring on a totally different role for the euphonium. We're more of the cello of the brass band, much more soloistic with much more demanding melodic lines. Doesn't mean you can't blend, but the brass band certainly calls for a little more "out in front" playing. I usually think of a little more open sound. In wind ensemble, it's a little more closed off, narrow sound. However, I never compromise the quality of sound I'm producing, I just alter the core a little bit to match whatever role I'm in at the time. When I'm blending, I just try to fit into the sound of whatever I'm doubling at the time.
As for soloing, you obviously have a lot more leeway with artistic licenses for musicality and the type of sound you want to create. It's more of a change in the thought process that goes into playing solos as opposed to ensemble playing.
It really depends on what I'm preparing for. I know my face a lot more than I used to when I was younger so I can gauge how much I need to play each day to prepare for a recital vs. my normal schedule of playing in the band. Obviously when I'm preparing for a recital, I'm building up my chops to be able to play comfortably for an hour or more at a time without much pause.
When I'm not preparing for a recital, I certainly like to break things up a little bit to maximize my time. Unfortunately getting ready for a recital is similar to preparing for a marathon so a lot of the time is just spent on keeping the horn on the face to get used to it. Regardless I like to certainly play every day at least an hour or so. But, that obviously varies greatly depending on what's going on. It's taken me a while, but for the most part, I know how much I need to practice for whatever it is I'm preparing for. It just takes experience.
The best way to practice a steady air stream is to do a lot of mouthpiece buzzing. There is little to no back pressure while buzzing as opposed to playing the horn so a steady stream is even more crucial to produce a solid, even buzz. Not to mention, there are so many added benefits to buzzing on your mouthpiece on a consistent basis.
I get this question a lot and I wish every high school band director would help their students in answering this question truthfully. Obviously band in high school can be a great outlet to make friends and to better yourself as a person and musician. There are a lot of life lessons to be learned in band and the camaraderie is often times unmatched anywhere else in school. However, deciding to become a music major is a huge career decision. It should not be taken lightly.
Here are some things to keep in mind: There are generally 2 different types of music majors - Music Education and Music Performance. A few other newer concentrations in certain schools have expanded that to audio technology, music business, music therapy, composition, and several others. Look into each one of these to decide which one best represents your strengths and passion. Also look into what each major requires with regards to credit hours, practice time, student teaching, etc.
The biggest things to consider are the amount of time and effort it takes to be a successful college music student and also the subsequent job opportunities associated with that major once you graduate. One of the biggest shocks in a music student's first year is how much it becomes work as opposed to just a fun thing to do at school. However, if you love music enough, you have talent, and you're willing to put in the subsequent hours of work to make it happen, you can be successful.
Lastly, don't put yourself in a box of either being a teacher or a performer. There are so many oppurtunities out there for musicians, you just have to be inventive. The music world is ever changing. If you have enough passion and can accept failure from time to time, you can certainly make it in this crazy music world. Always surround yourself with people that push you and also ones that have already been successful and don't ever stop learning from them. Best of luck!
Well the best way to practice intonation is to play in an ensemble that really plays in tune all the time. It's like being thrown into the lions den. But, if you don't have that luxury, there are certainly some tips and tricks to improve it on your own.
Play duets with people and really focus on playing in tune with them. It's a lot easier to focus on pitch with one person as opposed to 40 who are all playing out of tune. Secondly, play in front of a tuner but only for the purpose of figuring out the tendencies of your horn. Next, play with a piano trying to match with certain intervals. Try thirds, open fourths/fifths, etc. also trying to figure out tendencies. Lastly, if you don't have a duet partner, record yourself playing one part of the duet and then play along with the other part. Always be actively listening to what is coming out of your horn. Most of the time bad intonation is really just a lack of listening.
Bonus tip: don't always think everyone else is out of tune. They're probably thinking the same thing. Try and fix it yourself.
Making sure your horn is working 100 % of the time is not really as hard as it may seem. You don't need to give it a bath every month like some people may recommend. There are a few things I focus on proactively to make sure my horn never fails me when I need it to work. I make sure my valves and slides are always oiled and lubed with stuff that's not going to gunk up my horn. Keeping them dry can actually damage them in the long run. That usually means once every 2 days or so depending on how often you play.
The biggest tip I can give you is to watch what you blow into your horn. I always wash my mouth out with mouthwash or brush my teeth right before I play. Sugars and other gunk from your lunch will cake onto the inside of your horn very quickly.
Lastly, instead of giving my horn a bath and potentially damaging it somehow by taking it apart improperly myself (and yes it happens no matter how many times you do it), I take it to a professional brass repairmen once a year for an ultrasonic cleaning. By following all of these rules of thumb, my horn stays clean and in proper working condition 100 % of the time.
I used to check my horn in the hard case and I never really had any problems. The TSA would open it up every now and then but I never really noticed any damages. It was always put back in properly. You can even watch them inspect it if you want, just make sure you get there early to give yourself enough time.
However, I recently started carrying on my horn in my gig bag and place it in the overhead bin. I started hearing so many horror stories about checking your horn I decided to give it a try. I've ridden on several different planes with the gig bag and haven't had any problems yet. They all had big enough overhead compartments for it to fit snuggly without forcing it in. Flight attendants have all been very helpful as well. Sometimes they'll even offer to put it in a crew compartment if they run out of overhead space.
Here's a couple of tips from experience: Southwest airlines seems to be the best option since you can choose when you board if you check in early. Obviously you can choose your seat as well so you can make sure you have plenty of overhead space to fit your horn in and still get an outside seat. On other airlines, depending on when you board they might run out of overhead space and you have to improvise a little. Also, don't try to fly with your gig bag on commuter planes. The overhead space is too small and they'll make you check the bag which could be a disaster.
For the most part, you can make it work as long as you plan ahead and act like you know what you're doing. Be nice to everyone around you including the flight attendant and you should be fine. Good luck!