Issue: April - June 2008
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So You Want More Low Brass Players
Starting Low Brass Students

by Gail Wilson

For many years, I have thought that the way to get more low brass players at the pre-college level was to start a class of students on euphonium in the fourth, fifth or sixth grade.  After the first year or two a certain number of these students would be switched to trombone or tuba.

During the first year or two, these students would learn the many mechanical and musical aspects without being encumbered by the size of the tuba and the difficulties involved with the weight and length of the slide. Many poor habits can be developed with younger students dealing with the trombone and tuba. Too many just give up trying to deal with the weight, large size and transportation problems.

In order to accomplish this idea, I would have schools buy a set of 8 – 10 smaller euphonium instruments and require the students to rent a similar instrument from their local music store. This will make it easier for the student to negotiate the difficulties associated with transporting their instruments. With knowing that this concept would be utilized, local music stores can stock an appropriate number and quality of euphonium instruments.

My semi-rote method of starting trombone students by using the 1 –3 – 5 song can be used with the beginning valve players and expanded to the 2 – 4- 6 and the 3 –5 – 7 songs. When students have control of tone, articulation and slide positions or valve combinations, then note and rhythm reading can be introduced. The 1 –3 – 5 song is a three-note version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Different articulations and tempos can be utilized. The 2 – 4 – 6 and the 3 –5 –7 songs are exactly the same.

The 1 - 3 - 5 Song and the corresponding valve combinations.

This idea works with starting on any open or first position partial. Tuba notes will sound an octave lower. Student may no need to know the note names or rhythmic considerations until many of the mechanical aspects are in place.

If the trombone students are fortunate to have f-attachment instruments, the sixth position notes an be played with valve 1 and the seventh position notes with valve 2.

Many of the past and present outstanding trombonists started on euphonium and in some cases trumpet.

Happy low brass teaching,

Gail Wilson

 

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