Tubas on a Train

Tubas on a Train
(the prequel to Snakes on a Plane)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Long time, no chat

Well, my teaching job has trumped the euphonium playing for the fall semester.  I DID go out to D.C. and audition for the Marine Band, but alas, it was to no avail.  I fear that I did not put the time in during June that I should have.

On the plus side, my playing chops are up to the highest standard since college, so that is good.  I am interested in a couple of other upcoming gigs.  I sent in a CD for the West Point Band job: http://www.usma.edu/band/

And I've heard through the grapevine that both the United States Army Band
and the United States Air Force Band will have euphonium openings later this year.  WOOHOO!

Anyway, I'll try to keep the blog a bit more updated!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Hectic Week

Well folks, after monday, my practicing went down hill.  Not in terms of quality, but in terms of quantity.  This week has been so hectic that I have hardly had time to put the horn to my face.  I have played at school when I can, but my school duties have been intense enough that I haven't been able to get away to even get in a good warm-up.  So this week was kind of a wash.  Hopefully I can start fresh this weekend and get back on track.
Being a band director is not conducive to moonlighting as a performer...or at least preparing to be one.
I am reminded of a Bible verse.  I am pretty sure it was meant to be used as a synonym for choosing between wanting God and wanting material comfort, but it can just as easily be applied to my situation.
"No servant can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and like the other; or he will honor one and despise the other." Luke 16:13, Lamsa translation.

The moral and obvious thing to do is to follow through with my contract and perform my teaching duties.  Not just because I am legally obligated to do this, but because by not doing it, my students would not be able to have the best musical education that I can offer.  It would be difficult living with myself if I didn't try and give my kids a good musical experience.  But at the same time, the excerpts won't practice themselves.  So if I really want this job, I am going to have to work smarter AND harder to keep up with everything.

And probably stay off the internet (with the exception of my blog, of course).  What is it they say?  Oh yeah!!!!

Ain't it the truth, Ain't it the truth!

Oh well:-) Commencement is June 5th.  After that, it's smooth sailing.
YES!  Except it's not compensating...boo:-(

Monday, May 2, 2011

My own auditorium

One of the biggest benefits of being a band director at a small school is that the auditorium is only used occasionally and therefore is open whenever I would like to use it.  It was recently remodeled (2006-2007 school year) and has wonderful acoustics.  For such a small school, it is absolutely incredible.
If you look closer, you can see that the chairs don't have seats on them.  Don't worry, they do now.

But throughout the day, I spent a LOT of time on my flexibility and am loving how I sound.  It almost doesn't matter what I play simply because I enjoy playing so much.  And the auditorium just makes it that much better.  My sound bounces back to me and I can hear what other people would hear so I can fix mistakes that I don't like.

When I was at IU, I liked sneaking in to Auer Hall when no one was around and play in there.  I always got kicked out, but the time I spent in there was worth it.

Do you have a favorite place to play or practice?

Sunday, May 1, 2011


This past week has been very productive.  I feel like I have made a lot of progress in just my overall playing ability.  However, I had to take friday off.  For various reasons, life was just too hectic that day to play.  I did get to buzz on my mouthpiece for a bit.  But I always feel like I take a couple steps back when I don't play everyday.  But after my practice session yesterday, I feel like I made up some of my lost time and am on the right track again.  It felt really good to play yesterday.  I keep finding little gems in Dr. Brian Bowman's book "Practical Hints on Playing the Baritone (Euphonium).

There are exercises in the book that I play and think, "Why did I not know about this exercise until now?  This is great!"  I am having a GREAT time just getting better.  Even if I don't get the job, it's a great feeling living up to your potential.  I love taking my time on exercises and REALLY working through them so they sound perfect.  At the end of the practice session, if I can play an excerpt/exercise exactly the way I think it should sound, then I feel like I've made really decent progress.

On another note, I came across another side-project of Ryan McGeorge (one of the Euphonium players in the "President's Own").  It's called EUPHONASIA.  I like the name of the group:-)  It sounds like the physician assisted death to the modern euphonium. 
Anyway, they are a jazz/rock/fusion group with Euphonium being the lead voice...but if you listen to recordings of the group, you won't hear what is normally thought of as euphonium.  They have sent his acoustic sound through myriad effects and have achieved a strange yet highly intriguing sound.  They have a group on Facebook that will allow you to listen to some of their songs if you "Like" their group.  I recommend "Release the Crackin'" and the cover of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance."

Happy listening!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Articulation speed

Well, along with all of the goals I have posted below, I have also been spending a good amount of time each day dedicated to increasing my single tonguing speed.

Imagine the preceding rhythms being in one measure.  I play this rhythmic pattern starting on low Bb and work my way up the Bb concert scale, then go up a fifth to the F above the staff then descend back down to the Bb below middle C.  That is the articulation series that I have been using to try and increase my single tongue speed.  Today, after a couple weeks of practicing and building up strength in my tongue, I finally topped 132 bpm.  I actually was able to ALMOST get 136 bpm.  Which is awesome.  My goal at this time is 144 bpm.  When I first started, I was barely able to get 120 bpm.  So my tonguing is improving.  YAY!

I also have been dedicating a lot of time to my pedal range.  Ever since I REALLY started practicing again, I have noticed that my low range has been wimpy.  A few weeks ago, I couldn't even get a pedal F to come out.  Thankfully, my lips are starting to loosen up and and I can now hit a pedal E natural...but my notes below that are still elusive.  I need to be spending a lot more time with those notes as well as continue to establish the notes that I can already play.  They are not strong yet.

Triple tonguing is coming along.  So are scale patterns and Arban's Characteristic Study #1 is almost ready for me to record it so that I can fine tune some details.

My best excerpts are "Endearing Young Charms," "Molly on the Shore" (which is surprising considering I couldn't even get a high C consistently like I could in college until a couple of weeks ago), "Stars and Stripes," "Second Suite in F" and "First Suite in Eb."  "Benvenuto Cellini" still needs mega practice, as does the Schoenburg.  I need to spend some time with the dynamics and articulations of "Rocky Point Holiday," as well as work on my endurance for "Colonial Song."  I do pretty well until I get to the high half note Bb and half note B natural.  I run out of steam.  But it's not just tough  on endurance.  It is really demanding musically...but extremely satisfying to play.  It was one of excerpts that I had never heard until I started seriously working on them...but now that I know the piece, it is one of my favorites.  "Hungarian March" and "Roman Carnival" are really fun to play, but I need to practice my clarity and map out my breaths and basically find time to 'dig in' to those pieces.  The notes are easy enough, but the details are missing.
"Fiesta Del Pacifico" is intriguing to me because I am not quite sure what they are looking for with the excerpt.  It is easy enough to play, and I feel like I am playing it musically....buuuuuuut I can't help but have a nagging feeling that there must be something more.
"Jupiter" is okay.  Not great.  Just okay.
"Aegean Festival" is a pain in my side because I DON'T HAVE A HIGH D YET!  It's very exacerbating not being able to run the excerpt because I don't have the range to play it!  Ugh.  Hopefully that will change soon.  Lip flexibilities have been in the works now and should be bearing fruit any time.
"Toccata Marziale" is really fun to play but very demanding.  I need to slow it down from what I have been taking it so I can make sure I am getting all of the dynamic and style shifts.
Finally, the crazy loud excerpt from "Pines of Rome" has me a little worried as well.  Not because of the loudness (although that is something that I need to work on), but rather, the style.  In a recording I have of an orchestra playing the piece, the notes are played detached.  Yet when I try it on my euphonium, it doesn't sound so good...sooooooooo...that will be something I ask my teachers about.

Happy practicing to everyone out there!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Same Mouthpiece, Different Horn, New Sound

On Tuesday, I received my new mouthpiece from Quinlan and Fabish Music Company.  I ordered it a couple of weeks ago, but at first, they brought the wrong one (they ordered a small shank, and the Willson 2900 takes a european shank).  So they had to special order it from the Schilke Supplier and it took a couple weeks to come in.

So when it came in yesterday, I was REALLY excited because I had been playing on my Yamaha with a large shank 51D.
(Yamaha 642S)

(Willson 2900S)

It's crazy that just a small difference in the bore requires a totally different mouthpiece.

However...I LOVE IT!

I recorded myself for my wife on my Sony MiniDisc Player/Recorder (I bought it before digital recorders were on the market).  She said I sound fantastic...and I can't believe the sound that I hear on the recording.  The notes just POP out.  It makes my Yamaha sound dull and thick...even with the same style of mouthpiece.  I am VERY happy with this horn.  Now to just make sure I have a consistent sound in all parts of my range.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Setting Goals

I often have to spend time during the day away from my horn (I think I would get pretty sick of hearing my mistakes if I DIDN'T take time off from my horn).  But I find that I am always THINKING about playing even when I'm not with my horn, or am in a situation where I can't get up and go practice.  So I use Google to my advantage.  There are MANY great blogs out there on Euphonium playing specifically and music making in general.  So much so that I am using a couple of them to set some goals.  I understand that goal setting is important and have indeed set goals of my own, but decided to get serious with them today.
I point to Andrew Hitz's blog post about setting goals:

In the post, he stresses the importance of goal setting if you would like to accomplish ANYTHING in the music world (paraphrased of course).  He points to two examples.  One is Lance LaDuke's S.M.A.R.T. goal setting system.
"S.M.A.R.T. stands for SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE goals, with ACTIONS, RESOURCES and TIMELINES for making them possible."  I like this a lot.  It helps you be more specific.  While I have set goals in my playing, I was never THAT specific.  So it will be nice to be able to refine my goals and maybe be able to add some new ones.

Also in Andrew's post, he mentions Lauren Veronie's blog.  Lauren is one of the Euphonium players in the Army Field Band.  He mentions how she makes goals despite her already HAVING a job. 
Here is the link to Lauren's Goal Setting Page:

So with all of this talk of goals, here's how it goes.  Stephen Covey says to begin with the end in mind.  So here is my end: To win a job with "The President's Own" Marine Band on August 8th/9th of 2011.
What does that entail?  Playing 16 excerpts as well as I possibly can, One Solo prepared and memorized, and Sightreading (lots...and lots...of sightreading). 

That is my LONG term goal.  In order to accomplish this, I must figure out how to get there.  This will involve several medium and MANY short term goals.

So first, I will list my resources:
Dr. Beat Metronome
Recordable Cassette player
Recordable Mini-Disc player
Arban's Technique
Clarke Studies
Bai Lin Lip Flexibilities
Rubank studies
Many other technique books (I will list them separately once I make them part of my goals)
Lessons with Lynn Colwell (my private lesson teacher from high school)
Lessons with Jay Gephart (one of the directors of bands at Purdue University and student of Harvey Phillips).
Lessons with Dan Perantoni (Professor of Tuba and Euphonium at Indiana University, Bloomington)
Excerpts from the Band Department at Saint Joseph's College in Rensselaer (The band director agreed to have his music librarian photocopy many euphonium parts from their music library--both bass clef and treble clef)
Excerpts from the music library at South Newton High School (and while the excerpts will not be that difficult due to the level of music, it will be a great starting place for sightreading).

Medium length goals: Be able to play through all of my excerpts without stopping and with no missed notes but under tempo by the end of May and have my solo (Beautiful Colorado) proficient with the double tonguing worked out, as well as be able to sight read through any grade three euphonium literature flawlessly.  In order to accomplish this goal, I must continue to work on articulation exercises (Arban's, Rubank) and lip flexibility (Arban's, Clarke, Bai Lin), as well as loud and soft extended playing with a continuous good sound and intonation (Rochut/Bordogni).   For the sight reading, I will need to work on scales and chord patterns (Arban's Scale Studies and Arpeggios), as well as varying rhythmic patterns to get them "under the fingers." (Arban's Characteristic Studies will help with many of these things as well as well as W.M. Smith's "30 Top Tones for Trumpet." And Schlossberg's Daily Drills and Technical Studies for Trumpet).

Shorter term goals:
This week, play 8th and 16th exercises in Arban's with Flawless articulation while keeping a centered sound with good intonation.
Play the first two Clarke Studies as written at the minimum metronome marking on the page keeping the notes smooth and connected with each note speaking clearly
Play the first two groups of Bai Lin Studies eliminating the "bump" from note to note and being able to play the 8th note passages "as smooth as butta"
Arban's and Rubank's Scale Studies.  Playing the Bb major Scale studies as both Bb major and B major.  Flawless technique and intonation with a minimum of 120 bpm on all exercises.
Arban's Interval Exercises number 1: Smooth interval jumps while keeping a centered and smooth sound.
Arban's Characteristic Study Number 1.  All right notes and articulations keeping a solid centered sound throughout my whole register...keeping in mind dynamics and musicality.
Work out fingerings and rhythms on ALL excerpts EVERY day NO MATTER WHAT (I say this because I know that there are some excerpts which I like and some which I don't like.  So I MUST turn the ones I don't like into ones that I DO like so that I will end up liking ALL of the excerpts.
Solo: Master the Theme. Good sound, right notes, right intonation, correct dynamics, good phrasing, and playing musically.
Sight read through all the "A" and "B" files at South Newton.
Record myself doing ALL of these things.

Short term goals will be posted tomorrow, because it is bed time.