Today we'll discuss websites, YouTube channels, and other online resources for euphonium and tuba.
There are lots of great tools online for aspiring tuba-euph players. Some of my favorites are:
The Brass Junkies
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eioday we'll discuss buzzing; when, why and how. Happy practicing!
A few years ago there was a huge (by classical music standards) argument online about the pros and cons of buzzing on the mouthpiece. There were people protesting outside of local music stores, riots were started, others named their newborn children in support of their favorite mouthpiece manufacturers. Just kidding, but people really did argue.
People said buzzing was different from playing the instrument (it is, but not because you create sound in a different way), or that the way you create a buzz differs from playing on the instrument (also true). Neither of which mean that buzzing is a bad thing; far from it! Buzzing is a useful tool to have in your box of practice methods.
Today, we'll talk about finding your way back to the instrument after a vacation or other break. Happy practicing!
After the New Year 2019 my wife and I went on a seven day cruise to Central America. It was amazing! We saw Mayan ruins, beautiful beaches, and floated down a river through a mountain. I also gained 12 pounds...but I digress. I took a CC tuba mouthpiece and had great intentions of working through the Buzzing Book by James Thompson.
I did this twice throughout the week. It just isn't the same as playing the instrument. Buzzing is much more taxing and (at least to me) much less gratifying, though still a useful tool. I'll talk more on that in a future edition.
Once we were safely back home, I found my way back to the tuba. I'm typically pretty consistent when it comes to practice and usually take a tuba (or two) with me when we travel. However, if you've ever been on a cruise ship you know that space is on a premium. Bringing an instrument was not an option.
After a long break from practicing I make sure to do things differently for a week or so before I move back to full-bore.
1) Have temporarily low expectations
I'm not saying you should accept bad sound or sloppy technique. You still need to strive to get better. Just keep in mind that during the time you took off from practice you did de-train a little bit. You won't be where you were before you left, so go in with the expectation that you won't be able to do as much as you could before.
2) Go SLOW
Everything needs to be slowed down...more than you initially think it does. If my gut says "play this lip-slur at quarter = 80" I slow it down to 70 or 60 or even slower. Make sure you set yourself up correctly to start making progress.
3) Don't worry about lessened abilities
You won't be able to play as high/low/fast/slow/loud/soft, etc. It's not a big deal, you'll get back to where you were before you left. Take your time!
4) Work through your routine every day
This should go without saying, but I'm saying it anyway. It's that important! You need a routine that you work on every day.
5) Stay away from the rep you were working on before the break
Before the break I'd been working on a recording project and was very familiar with the repertoire. I haven't touched any of it since my return and probably won't for a few more days. This is important to me because I tend to be very critical of myself, especially in situations where I'm not in top playing shape.
6) Play only things you enjoy for a while
I like to take an etude book and gradually read through it over the course of a day or two. My favorites are Bordogni Bel Canto Etudes, Snedecor Low Etudes for Tuba, or Fritz Twenty Characteristic Etudes. Other times I'll just work on Arban exercises like arpeggios or intervals.
The point is to stay in your comfort-zone for a while until you get your chops back.
Thank you for reading!
Today, we'll discuss the best way I've found to increase single-tongue speed. Happy practicing!Every year I follow a rough schedule that looks something like this: Winter - focus on learning new repertoire for the brass quintet; Spring - focus on brass quintet repertoire; Summer - focus on specific problems in my playing and learn new solo repertoire; Fall - focus on solo recital repertoire.
A few years ago I decided that the focus for the summer would be my single-tongue speed. I spent some time looking for exercises that would work. I made my own drills, asked colleagues what they did, and spent hours online perusing the various brass forums (yikes, those places can be scary). Ultimately, the exercise that works the best for me came from a blog by an oboist. At this point, I have no idea where it actually came from, otherwise I give the oboist credit.
Single-tongue is something I have to constantly maintain. My default state without maintenance is about quarter = 95 beats per minute. After a few weeks of working with this drill it had increased to about 109 beats per minute (BPM). Here's a link to the exercise. It can also be found at the end of Routine I for euphonium and tuba
Anyway, here's the basic exercise.
When 100 is easy and you can keep up at stay with the metronome without having trouble, make 101 BPM your new starting tempo. The new sequence should look like this:
Thank you for reading!
Performance Preparation Tips
It's recital week! Since I'm a little crunched for time, I'll keep this short and sweet.
Here are a few things that may or may not be obvious to do when you're getting ready for a recital, audition, or other performance. These are things above and beyond what most people consider "good practice habits." I didn’t describe some of the items on the list because there’s a lot of information available on the internet if you just search. Enjoy!
Thank you for reading!
Today, I'm posting about some of my thoughts on low and high range development.
So, every year the WTAMU faculty brass quintet plays holiday themed performances at local elementary schools. At the end of each performance we usually have time to let the kids ask questions. By far the most common thing to happen in this situation is for the student to forget what they were going to ask about. The second most common, at least for me, is to be asked, "How high can you play?" or, ‘How low can you play?’
My instinct is to reply with a snarky answer like, "Who cares?" After all, playing high on the tuba is about as impressive as being the world's largest teacup Chihuahua or smallest English mastiff. Just so you know, there were supposed to be hilarious pictures of the aforementioned animals, but I could find no record of such creatures on all the internet. This serves my purpose here nicely, though. I understand the lack of evidence of pictures to mean that no one cares who has the world's largest teacup Chihuahua or smallest English mastiff.
Outside of the tuba-euph community no one really cares about our ability to play high or low. It's slightly more impressive to be able to play high on the euphonium than it is the tuba, maybe more like being a very large Sheltie (still, no one really cares).
All snarkyness aside, my serious answer to that question would be, "It depends." Am I focused on producing extremely low/high notes currently? How fatigued are my chops? Am I in my best shape?
Playing high is just not all that important in the scheme of things. Still we must be able to do what the composer asks at any time, every time. Which is why I recommend at least an octave above the highest note in the piece you currently plan to perform. It's not as important to have an extra octave below, but you should shoot for reaching at least the bottom of the pedal register. In case you're wondering that's: euphonium - C-flat 1 (all four valves), CC tuba - D-flat 0 (all five vales if you've got them), and BBb-flat tuba - C-flat -1 (yes, that's negative 1!).
We'll talk about this in more detail later, but the long story made short is that your body will compensate for increased demands through adaptation…Do more so your body will be able to do more, repeat. This concept applies equally well to lifting heavy weights, running a marathon, and even learning to play the euphonium or tuba.
Here’s how you can do it. Play scales every day; major, natural minor, harmonic minor, melodic minor. It doesn't matter, any scale will do.
Moderate tempo is best for endurance purposes. Start on the lowest note you can play with a great sound. Perform each scale in ascending chromatic order so that you’re constantly working toward your peak high range. You'll notice that by starting on your lowest note every day you will make gradual progress and be able to play even lower ultimately. If your initial starting note was E-flat 1, eventually you'll be able to start on D 1, then D-flat, and so on. Just keep working at it.
Play each scale two octaves. If you can get through all of them great, continue to three octaves. If not, also great, room for improvement! If you can play all of them three octaves, continue to four octaves, and then five. The point is to keep adding octaves to scales until you fail/miss the highest note of two scales consecutively. This is enough to inspire adaptation in your body.
Make every effort to play with an awesome sound no matter which octave you're currently playing in. From your very lowest, to your very highest notes, always perform with your best sound. Be sure you know the scales well enough that you won't need to devote much mental resource deciding which buttons to push down (I know, it's hard sometimes). You want to dedicate all of your considerable intellectual faculties to figuring out ways to play lower and higher each time you play the exercise. This can be done using any type of scale or arpeggio if you follow the directions (fail on the top note of two scales/arpeggios/exercises consecutively). I recommend the scales in Routine I for euphonium and tuba (links) as a starting place.
Thank you again and happy practicing!
Today, I'm posting a list (in no particular order) of the artists who I've been listening to most recently. There are many great artists who I didn't include on the list. This is by no means definitive. Included are links to each player's website (if there is one) and their channels on Spotify and/or YouTube. Happy listening!
Gene Pokorny (Spotify and YouTube)
John Fletcher (Spotify)
Benjamin Pierce (Spotify and YouTube)
Chris Olka (YouTube)
Tim Buzbee (Spotify and YouTube)
Oystein Baadsvik (Spotify and YouTube)
Daniel Perantoni (Spotify and YouTube)
Velvet Brown (Spotify and YouTube)
Floyd Cooley (Spotify and YouTube)
Carol Jantsch (Spotify and YouTube)
Sergio Carolino (Spotify and YouTube)
Patrick Sheridan (Spotify and YouTube)
Michael Lind (Spotify and YouTube)
Benjamin Pierce (Spotify and YouTube)
Demondrae Thurman (Spotify and YouTube)
David Childs (Spotify and YouTube)
Adam Frey (Spotify and YouTube)
Steven Mead (Spotify and YouTube)
Five (Spotify and YouTube)
Sotto Voce Quartet (Spotify and YouTube)
Thank you for reading!